By Boluwaji Obahopo
PREAMBLE: Kogi inherited all her four technical colleges from Kwara and Benue in 1999 when she was created. Unfortunately, twenty nine years after, those colleges have become moribound. Rather than producing the technical manpower required, it was left to the mercy of tall grasses, rodents and other dangerous reptiles as a place of abode. At a stage, it became a haven and hideout for criminals as parents lost interest in that line of education.
The four technical colleges located in Mopa, Ankpa, Oboroke and Idah has become deplorable because of lack of maintenance and abandonment, and vandalized workshops. These technical colleges are currently in dilapidated form with very low enrollment. It is now perceived as a place for those who cannot do well in conventional secondary schools. Aside the dilapidated state of these colleges, they are way behind the rest of the world in terms of new technology.
For example, the Oboroke technical college boasted of having the highest enrolment in time past has dwindled. Even the state Commissioner for Education, Wemi Jones attested to this fact penultimate week when he said just between 2018 and 2019 academic session, the school has reduced from 450 to 100 in enrolment.
Over the years, there have been noticeable diminishing value of technical education in the state. The government abandoned the colleges, rather, spending huge sums of money to organize skills and technical acquisition initiatives for graduates from conventional tertiary institutions who are finding it difficult to get white collar jobs.
Aside the desperation of government to lure university graduates to embrace technical skills, government also ‘import’ and maintain technicians from outside who are hired to handle jobs that well trained graduates of those technical colleges could have handled. These has affected almost all the facet of her economy.
GOVERNMENT LIP SERVICEKogi Government To Resuscitate State’s Technical Colleges… Education Commissioner
On Wednesday, November 25, 2020, the state government through the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Wemi Jones, during an inspection tour of the infrastructural facilities at Government Technical College Oboroke (GTCO), Okehi LGA reinstated ‘state commitment to rehabilitate, revamp and reposition the government technical colleges in the state…as part of her effort to make Kogi state the technological hub of Nigeria.”.. a move many has termed lip service bearing in mind, that past government statements yielded no positive result, “Just one of many government failed promises,” Ibrahim Jimoh, an educationist stated.
Back to 2018, precisely on Wednesday September 5, the state governor, Yahaya Bello said his administration has concluded plans to establish more technical colleges across the 21 LGAs, which, according to him was aimed at bringing technical and vocational skills acquisition closer to grassroots.
However, till date, the number of technical colleges in the state remains four. No addition has been made and the existing are still neglected.
Despite that the education ministry are allocated an average of N7 billion yearly; there is no positive reflection in the technical colleges.
The Nigeria-Korea Friendship Institute of Vocational and Advanced Technology (NKFI) in Lokoja, the state capital, is trying to bridge the gap. All courses offered by the institute had been accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).These courses are: Electrical/Electronic Technology, Welding/ Fabrication, Networking and System Security, Computer Software Engineering, and Automotive Mechatronics.
However, the institute which commenced academic activities in 2015 does not have the capacity to train as many as the existing technical colleges would have trained. In 2018, 58 grandaunts, comprising 56 males and 2 females, were successfully trained on short term courses for three and six months, depending on the choice of courses. Same year, 75 students were matriculated into various two-year courses and programmes. There students carried out their SIWES at Korea companies in the country; opening them to jobs opportunities.
But there is still need to expand and upgrade the existing four technical colleges in the state to cater for the needs of the society.
LESSON FROM OTHER STATES
Some Governors are already reviving technical colleges in their states. Edo and Lagos states have made concerted efforts to revive this all-important line of education.
Today, the Benin Technical College now renamed Government Science Technical College (GSTC) is wearing a new look and attractive to parents and students. During the September 2019 academic Session, large crowd of prospective students were seen at the gate of the school struggling to check if they were among those shortlisted for admission.
The old Benin Technical College now accommodates about 800 students. Edo state has rebuilt the electrical, mechanical and carpentry workshops, and introduced plumbing and other trades. Old capital equipments that have been out of action for decades have been brought back to life, components with operational life in them were reinfused.The new face of Edo-owned Government Science and Technical College (GSTC) Benin City, the Edo State capital, was made possible through the intervention of the World Bank assisted State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR).
Before the intervention, the college, established in 1973, had its nine existing steel frame buildings in a state of great disrepair. Completed in 2019, the school’s new workshop was installed with the state-of-the-art equipment. The institution is fully networked with a site-wide fibre optic system, backup power from generators, off-grid renewable energy (solar power), rainwater harvesting and an integrated site-wide potable water system..
Former Governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Fashola kick-started the current revolution in technical and vocational training in the state with the establishment of Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB) on 3rd May, 2010. The bill was signed into Law on 13th, July 2009.
The Lagos State Government unique initiative is a vehicle for providing technical and Vocational training to the larger number of School leavers and Graduates towards producing self-reliant, competent and skilled Lagos youths, knowledgeable and passionate about skills trades and dedicated to becoming self-employed and successful entrepreneurs.
There are five technical colleges in Lagos state: Agidingbi, Ikotun, Epe, Ado-Soba and Ikorodu. In 2015, the Agidingbi college got another academy, the Festo Authorised and Certified Training Centre. The centre provides practical training in automation and mechatronics.
As with the case of the colleges at Agidingbi and Ikotun, the Lagos state government through LASTVEB partnered with Julius Berger Nigeria PLC to establish a building and construction centre at the technical college located in Epe. The centre provides hands-on training in block-laying/concreting, electrical installation and plumbing & pipe fixing. Similarly, the Ado-Soba college reportedly houses a mechatronics centre while that of Ikorodu is a beneficiary of the MTN Foundation Project.
Globally, vocational and technical education is deemed to be the answer to youth unemployment, and critical to nation – building. With the increasing rate of unemployment in Kogi state, quality technical education holds the key to the creation of more jobs.
According to Nigeria Bureau of Statistic, NBS, close to two million out of the 4.5 million population of the state are youths. And the fact that about 20 percent are unemployed while 25 percent are underemployed, there is no better way to bridge the gap of the stark reality of unemployment in the state than harnessing the numerous opportunities available in technical jobs.
Seeing how technical and vocational education empowers youths and encourages entrepreneurship, Nigerians have become more open to technical training. Graduates of technical colleges are no longer viewed as low-achievers. Due to the skills they acquire, they are well-adjusted in the university compared to their counterparts who attended traditional secondary schools.
Problems bedeviling technical education in Kogi state must be tackled. Problems such as dilapidated infrastructure, obsolete equipments and work tools, inadequate qualified teachers and instructors to meet with current industry skills, lack of proper funding, lack of sensitization, inadequate number of Technical Colleges and poor motivation of teachers.
CONCLUSION: There is need for introduction of modern technical and vocational courses ranging from Motor Vehicle Mechanics, Electrical Installation & Maintenance Practice, Computercraft, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning (R&A), to Graphics Arts, Ladies Garment Making, Blocklaying and Concreting works, Catering Craft Practice, among others.
Fortunately, the presence of the Obajana Cement factory, West Africa Ceramic company and the projected revamping of Ajaokuta Steel company, all in the state, along other smaller companies has provided a ready- made market opportunities for graduate of technical colleges from the state.
Kogi must take a clue from other states that has reactivated their technical colleges if truly she desires development.End.