“It is unheard of that most of what we do as technical colleges is now theoretical. What are we doing if we do not have working machines? Ours is the soul of Nigeria’s economy but it seems our leaders have simply forgotten that,” – Mrs. Grace Oloruntoba, the Principal of Government Technical College, Owo, Ondo State.
Importance of Technical Colleges
Technical colleges in Nigeria are secondary schools that provide mostly employment-preparation skills for trained labour. They provide specific vocational and technical training required in commerce and industry, such as carpentry, auto-mechanical work, welding, programming and lot more.
Technical college graduates are equipped with hand-on class room experience of specific skills needed in construction and manufacturing industries. These skills also enable technical college graduates to be self-employable and self-reliant. This greatly reduces unemployment and encourages entrepreneurship.
Too Few Technical Colleges
According to Punch Newspaper of Saturday, 5 July 2014, there are 187 technical colleges in Nigeria; However, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Nigeria’s technical education regulatory body, on their website published that there are only 155 approved technical colleges in the country.
The state with the highest number of approved technical colleges is Osun state with 10 colleges. Ogun state has 8 colleges. Edo, Benue, Taraba and Niger states each have 7 colleges. Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa states and the Federal Capital Territory have just 2 each. Jigawa, Plateau and Gombe state each have just 1. There is not a single technical college in Zamfara State.
These colleges are in fact too few. I was shocked when I asked five adults of different exposures and backgrounds to tell me about the technical colleges they know. Only two of them have ever seen a technical college. Technical college is that uncommon in Nigeria.
In a country of over 170 million people, 774 Local Government Areas, and a government claiming to have made economic and industrial development a priority, 187 technical colleges are not enough to train the required work force for a sustainable development. Each of the 774 local governments in the country is supposed to have at least one technical college.
Decay and Neglect of Technical Colleges
Technical and vocational education was incorporated into the Nigerian education sector as a national development strategy. However, Nigeria continues to suffer deteriorating scarcity in skilled workers and an increasing dearth of competent technicians in different fields in the light of the advancement in technology. This is because the government gave little or no attention to technical and vocational education for many years. The few technical colleges already established were neglected.
Most of these once-special schools have lost everything that made them real technical college. Workshops have become stores of obsolete equipment most of which were bought in the 60s when most of the colleges where established. The principal of the Ekiti State-owned government Technical College in Ado-Ekiti described the obsolete facilities in his institution as “Mungo Park” equipment, emphasizing the obsoleteness of the equipment, which were supplied in 1964 when the school was established. “Of course, they no longer work but we simply describe how they work and hope our students would know how to operate them when they see the real ones,” said a teacher in the school to a journalist from Punch Newspaper.
We teach in abstract – Teachers
In some schools there are departments with no single equipment. Teachers use diagrams and explanation to perform the magic of practical.
“If any one of us is interested in becoming a real furniture maker or mechanic, what we do is we go to workshops in town to learn the practical work after we graduate. I want to be a mechanic when I graduate and I already know the (roadside) mechanic I will go and learn from,” a student, Isola Adeoye, told Punch.
“Parents even look down on other parents who send their children here. It makes me sad that after training, our students still go to roadside workshops to learn the practical aspect of what they have learnt in class simply because government does not fund technical schools.’
In few cases where some of the obsolete equipment work there is no electricity to power the equipment.
“Sometimes, we don’t even have electricity supply for months. Even if we have equipment, how do we operate them in that kind of situation? I am a product of a technical school. When I was in school and when I just became a teacher, we did more of practical teaching. Now most of what we do is theoretical.” A senior teacher at Government Technical College, Owo in Ondo State, lamented.
“We do 90 per cent theoretical teaching and 10 per cent practicals now,” Mr. Adeoti Aderotimi, a teacher in the same school add.
Poor Government Funding
All talk but no funding. No doubt funds going into this capital intensive subsector is poor, still the bureaucrats keep the bulk of the money to themselves. In the 2014 Budget, development of business and technical education was allocated the sum of N1.25bn. But the National Board for Technical Education alone gets N1.4bn.
At the state level, things have gone beyond worse. Administrators of the technical colleges lament that government continues to clamour for entrepreneurship but looks away when it is time to adequately fund technical education.
MTN Foundation has over the years been known to promote science and technology. They provided the start-up fund for the establishment of the only science centre in South Africa. In Nigeria they have come in to rescue our dying technical colleges. Four technical colleges across the country have benefited from supply of machines from the company. Machines supplied by the telecommunication company are sophisticated but the students rarely have opportunity to see them work. Some of the new shearing and modern folding machines supplied to the workshops are electrically powered. MTN also gave the schools generators to power the machines. But the generators can only be operated once in a while when the schools can afford to buy fuel.