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A CHAT WITH THE PROVOST, FCE(T) AKOKA

DR S.O. OLUSANYA

DSC_549045Sir, How has it been since you assumed office as a provost? What are your experiences and challenges?

Well, since I was a member of the previous Management, that gave me the opportunity and insight of knowing what to do, and how to steer the affairs of the College. I give glory to God. We tried to keep the records of the College in good forms both at the Ministry and NCCE. We have kept up to date records of our activities, especially in the issuing of certificates to our graduands. Our convocation ceremonies have also been addressed as we are not owing any back log.

In the area of accreditation, we have done equally well within the short space of time of the current Management as all our courses and programmes have been adjudged satisfactory by our supervisory body, the NCCE.

The federal Government’s Visitation Panel to the College also came for assessment, and they were generally impressed.

During this short tenure too, what we have been longing for over the years came to fruition. The much anticipated affiliation degree programme with the Federal University of Technology, Minna for the award of Bachelor of Technology degree has taken off. We are now in the second session and our expectation is that with the steady progress being made on the programme and the encouragement, and commendations from the NCCE and FUT, Minna accreditation teams, our hope to award B. Technology degree on our own will soon materialize. At the moment, we are offering 10 courses. Agric Education and Food and Nutrition will soon be added to the exitsing Degree Programmes. Infrastructural development has also remarkably improved under this Management. We recently completed and commissioned an Ultral-Modern Library through the financial support from TETFUND. We are also planning to build a new classroom block soon,

Which of these achievements reeled out are you very passionate of and what are we to expect from your Management in the immediate future?

I’m very passionate about the degree affiliation programme with FUT, Minna because of our desire to help contribute in reducing unemployment among our youths. You know that many of our graduates with NCE certificate are unemployed. I also believe that many are shying away from Technical Education because of NCE Certificate. With our degree programme, many of our NCE graduands, will enroll and engage themselves. This will check unemployment as well as help graduants improve themselves on Technology Education.

Sir, You seem to place so much emphasis on human capital development

Human capacity building is very important. Nothing can be achieved without qualified teachers and staff. We cannot create impact on our students without it. Poorly trained teachers can’t help much. About 30 of our Lecturers have been sponsored by TETfund to local and international Conferences abroad: South Africa, U.S, UK, and Spain while many others are undergoing postgraduate studies, courtesy of TETfund. The College Management team has also benefitted from this oversea training made possible by Federal Government. We are looking in the area of Entrepreneurship Education training for our teachers.

Entrepreneurship Education should be in every area and the aim is to make us learn to do things from the ordinary ways of doing things to doing things in more effective ways. We are planning to bring Entrepreneurship Education trainers and resource persons from abroad and within to train our teachers. We can do and achieve more when we are better trained. I recently attended a training workshop in the United Kingdom. They train their graduates to become self employed and self reliant. One doesn’t need large room to start a business. In fact, when the resource persons come, staff would benefit a lot.

You are so concerned about technological development in the nation and the College. How do you intend to promote and achieve this?

I have been discussing with the media on this issue. The media is about doing a documentary to create awareness on what we are doing in the College and how to promote technology education in Nigeria. The idea is to emphasise that technology education is not for drop-outs and to sensitize parents to convince them and their wards of the importance of Technical Education. We have also engaged the services of a consultant to assess what we have as a school (Equipment in Workshops and Laboratories) and how we can maximize its benefits in our drive at technological transformation.

Already, we have also contacted some foreign technical partners such as Ford Foundations, UNESCO, MDG, World Bank and other NGOs, for support and assistance. Many of these bodies have actually been supportive in the promotion of Technology Education. My experience tells me that if we put our money in Technology Education, we can get results. Recently, TETfund officials visited some institutions, they came to the College and saw what we have done with their money and they were pleased. This will enable us produce graduates that are of world standards. I also discussed recently with some officials of the Spanish Government on the possibility of assistance to the College in the same area of Technology Education. Their response has been very encouraging.

How do you manage the issue of subvention in the face of competing demands. Specifically, how do you intend to generate and source funds?

We have an ultra modern multi purpose hall which we intend to use to generate funds whenever we let it out. We are putting in place such basic needs as toilets; uninterrupted light etc. the hall will also be managed by an outfit/firm to keep it clean and functional at all times. The Guest House is nearing completion. We intend to make it a five star hotel to attract high profile clients. Form external means, we are working with international groups-by way of writing proposals. For example, our proposal to STEP-B was approved and we got funds which we used for our internet facilities. We have been lucky in this regard as some of our projects have been funded from grants given by NGOs as a result of successful proposals. TETfund has also been very supportive in the area of provision of funds. Apart from normal intervention, TETfund has also granted us ‘special’ intervention as well as ‘high impact’ funding. We intend to use these funds to address the issue of classroom constraints. We are planning to build a ten-storey classroom block on the old site of the College Library with the ‘High impact’ fund. The College is grateful to TETfund for their generous support. On our part as a College, we have been very judicious with their funds and I’m sure that they are pleased with us.

The College is constrained by physical space. What is the latest development in our bid to acquire some parcels of land across the canal which Unilag is also contending?

Unilag indeed took us to the FME in Abuja on the issue. We both tried to resolve it with the intervention of Director, Tertiary Education, and some representatives of our supervisory bodies with promises to grant some concessions to us. But unfortunately the modest progress has been stalled because Unilag’s Governming Council was reported to have objected to any form of concession and therefore, we are back to status quo. The most unfortunate thing, is that there is no existing document to support out ownership. We trust that a solution will soon be found to the impasse as our appeal has been forwarded through the FME to the presidency for consideration.

We see donations and endowments in other institutions from Corporate individuals and bodies. Is there any possibility of attracting such into our College?

It is not that we cannot attract. Take Unilag for instance, she is attracting such endowments because of her brand name. In Nigeria, people are not too enthusiastic about NCE Programmes and institutions. But now that we have commenced out B. Tech. Degree Programme, such perception will change. In fact, we are very hopeful that sooner than later, the College will be known for unique brand as Entrepreneur haven. This will attract huge support from NGOs, individuals and corporate bodies, who will want to identify with the College because of the quality of our students.

In the past during convocation ceremonies, productivity awards were given to staff. We haven’t seen much of that in recent time. Do you intend to look at this issue?

It is in our plan. If you reward people, it will indeed motivate them. We planned it last year during our convocation but had to shelve it because of complaints of quality and the fact that it was a very busy year for us. You recall that we had accreditation, visitation panel and then, convocation. In a way, we were constrained by funds. We want to give meaningful award this year. We need the cooperation of staff. Different criteria are also used to determine who deserves an award. If teachers are asked to be evaluated by their students, people are likely to react. But this is not out of place. When we go out, we see this but here its complaints. It is a requirement from Quality Assurance, (QA). I’m yet to see or receive report from the (QA) unit on this issue. We should not give award by merely looking at your face. Awards should be based on sound criteria.

Are you satisfied and pleased with the performance of the staff school who recently graduated their first set. Are their interest also accommodated in the Vision and Mission Statement of your administration?

We are very pleased with the first set. Their performance is very good. That set was used as guinea pig, being pioneers. They started from two classrooms in the Science Complex and went through that rigour to their present site, with all the teething challenges, we should commend them. The Management formally commended the principal, staff and students of the staff school for the good job. We also have a vision for them: to produce students of high quality and standard. We are keen on quality. To keep pace with our vision for the staff school, we have equipped and improved the standard of the laboratories, Introductory Technology rooms and classrooms general. We hope to change the ceiling fans in the classrooms to A/C very soon. Our dream is to make the school a model secondary school, comparable with what we have anywhere in Lekki areas. The standard must be good and the school should not lack anything, especially as we are a teacher training institution.

We have observed your open-door policy and the level of bonding with your management team. Do we expect this bonding to trickle down to all groups and staff in the College?

The Open door policy and the love and bonding exhibited by this management should be a model and a challenge to other departments and units, from Deans, HODs and Staff in the College. This is why we are now moving and visiting schools to reach and promote better bonding among ourselves.

The issue of ICT and networking of units is still a challenge in the College. What is still a challenge in the College. What is your Management doing in this direction?

This is where we are going. We are committed to ICT development. Check your pay slips and you will see a few ICT changes. We shall get there and this affects virtually all areas where we expect that lecturers can easily post their results to the Academic Office, Registry etc. We are striving to reduce much of paper work.

You talked glowingly about the recent Entrepreneurial Workshop you attended in the UK. Can we replicate the benefits in our College and do we also expect a formal linkage with oversea academic institutions?

Yes, I discussed with the VC of the UK University where the training took place and we are looking at the possibility of sending some of our staff to do M.Sc and Ph.D degree programmes in Entrepreneurial Education. We can use the TETfund to sponsor such academic staff. This will create some forms of linkage because we seem to share the same vision with the UK University.

The issue of epileptic power supply is still a problem. Is there any plan to find some home grown solution to our energy problem?

I still believe that Entrepreneurial Education holds the key. This is because it creates the opportunity to think out of the box and find solutions to our challenges. Take for instance the wind mill technology we watch often on TV. In many of the communities in the U.S and around California, Wind Mill technology is used to generate power. It can be done and replicated here if we are determined and can borrow or ‘steal’ the technology.

Solar power technology is already in the College. We hope to expand its coverage in the community. We will be commencing with the classroom block, so that it can meet the needs of our part-time students with uninterrupted power always. Therefore, we extend to other areas until such a time when the entire College is covered and powered.

Sir, you cut an image of a result oriented person. How can you influence your staff to produce results as least to maintain some basic equipment?

The proposed workshop on Entrepreneurial Education is to help expand and develop the skills of our staff. It will make them think out of the box. Recently, the College entered a partnership agreement with in local auto firm to train out staff in the use of modern auto equipment. This is the kind of collaboration and exposure we expect our staff to appreciate. It will also help hone their skills to do something for themselves. Our staff will become more functional and be able to match theory with practice. The people we will get to train our staff (either local and international facilitators) will task them to bring up new ideas and solve basic challenges, without necessarily going to the moon.

Given your multi role as an administrator, pastor and an active lecturer, do you find time to relax?

I try to find time to relax especially when I travel. I also regularly engage in gym – every Tuesday and Thursday morning. My Fridays are also light.

Do you recommend this relaxation regime to your staff?

Physical fitness is important to all staff. Interestingly, we have a physical fitness outfit in the College and many staff are deeply involved in it. Outsiders also come to use it to keep fit. It is helping a lot of them.

Those benefiting from it are perhaps keeping it to themselves. We are also trying to encourage our staff to rest well by keeping faith with the College calendar so that we can complete our task on schedule and take out annual vocation. You also recall that in December, we gave every staff some time to go and rest and rejuvenate themselves. We want to sustain this, so that everyone can keep fit and be healthy.

Is simple terms, how would you describe a typical FCE Staff. Are they disciplined, productive and well motivated?

On the average, an FCE Staff is hardworking, productive and motivated. A few however are bad destroying the good work of others. We see how we can shape and correct those bad, ones. We can’t condone any of such bad attitudes of the few ones among us because they can smear our good staff. We can’t condone them at all. If they fail to change their ways, we may be forced to flush them out so that they don’t smear our image as a college.

What would you like to be remembered for?

As a Provost with a commitment to empower young people with technological skills, produce NCE and degree holders that are self reliant and help reduce unemployment.

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