BY CHIKA ABANOBI
The posting, on February 1, 2007, by, obviously, a concerned student, to Nairaland, one of Nigeria’s most-visited blog sites, read: “Please, I will like to know what is going on about Yabatech case. Is it now a university? If yes, I will like to know their mode of admission: is it going to be (over-the-counter) sale of forms or through POLYJAMB?” Five years down the line, nobody has been able to answer that enquirer’s questions.
And, five years from now, there is no assurance that anybody can answer them, with any degree of certainty. Not the Nairaland global readership to which they were originally addressed, nor the authorities at Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) and Federal Ministry of Education, headed by Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, the Minister of Education. Not even the Senate Committee on Education that once visited the institute on a fact-finding tour and expressed immense satisfaction with its findings, nor its counterpart, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education, nor the Federal Executive Council, headed by President Goodluck Jonathan, can say, with certainty when Yabatech will transform into a university.
But is Yabatech now a university? Prof. Rufa’i said something along that line while receiving the report of the Implementation Committee on Guidelines for Degree-Awarding for Colleges of Education and Polytechnics, on Tuesday, July 20, 2010.
She announced that four federal colleges of education and two polytechnics had been converted into universities, among which is Yaba College of Technology, billed to be known as “City University of Technology, Yaba”, although its stakeholders are rooting for “The University of Technology, Yaba.” She promised that Federal Executive Council would give necessary approvals for the affected institutions to commence full activities with their new status, although she was to say about a month later that the matter was being sent to the highest executive decision making body only as a proposal or recommendation, as against what was initially widely reported in the papers. Prof. Julius Okojie, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) and head of the committee, had, while presenting the report to the minister, noted that the selected institutions (including Yabatech) met “stipulated guidelines, in line with an earlier recommendation of a report for their conversion.”
But of all the selected institutions, Yabatech is the oldest. Established in 1947 as Yaba Technical Institute, before it was renamed Yaba College of Technology in 1963, by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the then Governor General of Nigeria, it has the enviable distinction of being the first institution of higher education in Nigeria, even before the establishment of University College of Ibadan, in 1948.
REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
“The earlier recommendation of a report” Okojie was referring to was the one presented by Dr. Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Minister of Education, but now, World Bank Vice President for Africa, to the Federal Executive Council, headed by President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Head of State. Titled “Consolidation of Tertiary Institutions” the document, a copy of which is now in the custody of Education Review, noted, among the other things, that “Yaba College of Technology and the Kaduna Polytechnic have the requisite staff as well as infrastructural and instructional facilities to commence undergraduate studies in select programmes.
In addition, they have produced their Academic Briefs and by doing so have satisfied the requirement for licensing as a University.” Making a special case for its take-off, which it noted, may be hampered by space constraint, it pleaded for the transfer of the Federal Science and Technical College (FSTC), at Yaba.
“They are geographically located within the same premises and the FSTC can be integrated with the College’s staff school while availing itself of the site and extant facilities to smoothen its transition to a university in the short-term and for expansion in the long-run,” Ezekwesili recommended in the document. In reference to The Presidential Technical Committee which did the groundwork earlier, Ezekwesili noted that “the conversion of Yaba College of Technology and the Kaduna Polytechnic universities have been well-received by stakeholders within the system and the community.”
Similar reaction had trailed the public presentation of the report of the Implementation Committee on Guidelines for Degree-Awarding for Colleges of Education and Polytechnics, on July 20, 2010 and the announcement by Prof. Rufa’i, the Minister of Education, that two polytechnics, namely Yaba College of Education (Yabatech), and Kaduna Polytechnic (Kadpoly), had been converted into universities, which she noted, will not only help to improve access to university education in the country “where less than 15 per cent of candidates seeking university education were successful” but also take care of the perceived discrepancy between HND and B.Sc/B.A degree, through their award of Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) degree to their graduates
. A statement issued by Yaba College of Technology noted that “the entire College community received with great pleasure, the news of the transformation of the college into a full-fledged university, a status it has yearned for over a very long time. As the premier higher institution of learning in Nigeria, the college community strongly believes the time is quite ripe for the attainment of a university status, and the management, staff and students of the college are extremely grateful to the Federal Government for this kind and magnanimous gesture.”
“We welcome the upgrading of the two polytechnics and four colleges of education,” Saturday Sun added, in its editorial of July 24, 2010. “The selection of institutions for the upgrading is okay. The Yaba College of Technology and others on the list are credible institutions which have been in existence, and have been delivering quality education to students, long before the establishment of the universities in the country today. They have produced competent graduates in the fields of education and technology over the decades and there is no doubt that they can rise to the challenge of their transformation into universities.”
But it noted, however, that “the upgrading of the institutions, has thrown up new challenges which they must address to justify their new status.
The transformation calls for improvement in the standards of excellence with which the institutions have been associated over the years. The new status of the institutions calls for upgrading of infrastructures, faculty and management. Both the government and the management of the schools cannot afford to go to sleep after the laudable transmutation. They have a responsibility to ensure that the institutions truly live up their new status as universities.”
REFORMS AND REGRETS
Investigation by Education Review reveals that the management of Yaba College of Technology has never really slept before, during and after the submission of reports by various committees that looked into their case and gave them a clean bill – The Presidential Technical Committee of President Olusegun Obasanjo/Ezekwesili tenure, the Senate Committee on Education, the Implementation Committee on Guidelines for Degree-Awarding for Colleges of Education and Polytechnics and the Ministerial Committee that was appointed to oversee the smooth conversion of the College to degree awarding institution. It was headed by former vice chancellor of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Prof. A.M. Salau.
The committees, Prof. Rufa’i noted, were to propose a workable document that will guide the ministry in ensuring the implementation of the approval. The working document, according to her, would contain issues like staffing, facilities, equipment, students’ admission/transition, funding and accreditation/resource inspection, among others.
The management of the college worked hard to give the various committees the documents and information they needed to assist them in the discharge of their onerous duties. Like Ezekwesili noted in the document she presented to the Federal Executive Council, during her tenure, “they have produced their Academic Briefs and by doing so have satisfied the requirement for licensing as a university.” In one of the documents titled “Education Sector Reforms: A Presentation on the Transformation of Yaba College of Technology to City University of Technology, Yaba,” the management noted that it, currently, has 37 academic departments grouped into nine schools or faculties running National Diploma (ND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) programmes, a Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (established in 2003), a Technical Teacher’s Training Unit (now Faculty of Technical Education (1992), in affiliation with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, for the award of a Bachelors’ degree in technical education.
The college also runs post-graduate diploma in engineering discipline in affiliation with Federal University of Technology, Abeokuta (FUTA). On the entry requirements into the proposed Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech), Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng), etc, certificates to be issued by the university when it becomes fully operational, the management recommended the retention of the two-year National Diploma (ND) as a terminal programme, as well as a feeder to the proposed B.Tech degree (“in relevant programme with minimum CGPA of 3.00 or Lower Credit for a 3-year B.Sc programe including a six-month supervised industrial attachment”).
It also recommended that the entry requirements for the ND be based on the current NUC minimum standards for admission into first degree programmes. On the staff profile, it noted that although it has, for now, a total of 414 academic staff comprising 17 PhD holders, with 50 on the queue, 205 M.Sc/M.Tech, 69 B.Sc/B.Ed, 73 HND holders, and, 254 non-teaching staff, comprising 2 PhD holders with 2 in view, 27 M.Sc/M.A/M.Ed, 61 B.Sc and 162 HND holders, a minimum of 20-25% of academic staff in each faculty should undertake relevant postgraduate studies, in 2-year phases and “over a six-year period, the percentage of PhD holders should increase from 1.63 to over 60% (comprising 40% from existing staff, and 20% from fresh recruitments).”
The management, comprising the 12-member Governing Council, the Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff, is not sleeping. It has even gone as far as drawing up an organogram for the proposed City University of Technology and new academic programmes from the existing ones, programmes which the Prof. Okojie-led Implementation Committee on Guidelines for Degree-Awarding for Colleges of Education and Polytechnics, insist, should focus on technological education because a lot of other institutions established for the same purpose had failed in their mandates.
But as things stand now, the fear is that, of the two partners (the government and management of the schools) taxed by the Saturday Sun editorial of July 24, 2010, not “to go to sleep after the laudable transmutation”, but “to ensure that the institutions truly live up their new status as universities,” the Federal government which approved the upgrading in the first is the one which now appears to be sleeping.
A financial document released by the college shows that a total of N11, 614,077,998.57 is needed to actualize the dream of turning the college into a full-fledged university. While N5,190,759,750 will be spent on special capital expenditure like college library, Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, expansion of college medical centre, Epe Campus, utility vehicles, resurfacing of university and staff quarters road, construction of two main gates at Abule-Ijesha end, diversion of main road from Abule Ijesha end to Atan/UNILAG road, construction of lecture theatre for 750 students, expansion of college store, etc, N6,423, 318, 248.57 will be needed for additional recurrent expenditure like personnel, overhead, expected personnel and expected overhead. “Unfortunately, after the work done by the Federal government constituted implementation panel, both in 2006 and 2010 respectively, nothing has been heard about this laudable decision of the government,” a source from the college who does not want his name in print, lamented.
“We must put it on record that since 2010 and after the second pronouncement of Yaba College of Technology as a university, 13 new universities have been established by the Federal government of Nigeria and they have taken off.”
Asked to comment on the issue, Mr. Adekunle Adams, the Public Relations Officer of the college, admitted in a chat with Education Review, that although like every average human being, they are anxious to see the university take off, he is hopeful and confident that “the government will do something about it, after it has finished dotting its t’s and dotting its i’s.” Alhaji Aliyu Othman, the Senior Special Assistant (Media), to the Minister of Education said as much when he told Education Review that there are some legislative processes involved.
“The process is on and will soon get to the Federal Executive Council from where it will be sent to the National Assembly as a bill to be passed into law,” he assured. “From the little I know about legislative process, it may take some time. We need to exercise some patience. But I can assure you that Yabatech and Kaduna Poly will soon become full-fledged universities.”