Dr. Patrick J. Uko is the Provost of Akwa Ibom State College of Education, Afaha Nsit. The educationist spoke with FRANCIS OGAR on the challenges confronting Nigeria’s education and the way forward
What can you say about the growth of the college since its inception?
How else could one explain the synergy that currently exist between the state government and the college or to what can we attribute the successful graduation of over 12,000 students in one fell swoop, and the several other milestones we have achieved so far. We have indeed come a long way.
How prepared is your college to receive members of the Needs visitation committee?
I think we are ready. You know there is infrastructural decay everywhere. Thank God that in our state the state government is intervening very seriously. It is beyond the college. It is a national issue. We are ready to receive it. We have catalogued our problems. I think the best thing is to visit the colleges, have first hand information of what is happening there in the colleges; from there they would know the reality.
I will suggest they should adopt a model where they will use to visit each of the colleges of education and look at what is happening and from there they will have a broad based assessment of what is on ground rather than staying down and explore the situation.
They should move from one college to the other and explore the situation in the colleges, so that they see how the problem look like and get back to discuss it, having in mind what they saw during their visits.
Is your college okay on infrastructure?
No, you cannot just say that the college is 100% okay, in spite of the intervention, by our Governor.
Our internal road network is bad. The Engineer from the Ministry of Work has been here because of the internal road network challenges that we have. They have come to intervene on the internal road network, because it is an important requirement for accreditation.
So if we don’t have internal road network and drainages, they will deny us accreditation. So these are some of the problems.
Again, the presence of that market interferes with what we do here. The market is a big institution by itself and the college is a big institution. These two cannot be twins at a point. We have discussed this with the Paramount Ruler. But I believe that by the time they are through with the dualization of the road, the market will find its way. The government has also awarded the contract for the construction of a perimeter fence, and it is ongoing.
Would you expect a quality job from the NEEDS assessment Committee for colleges of education?
It depends on the extent of seriousness with which they go about their assignment. Nigeria is vast but they will not tour all the institutions one day. They should structure themselves in order to assess everywhere the colleges are located.
They should come out with working documents that will help in future if not necessarily now. The first thing is to identify problem through careful observation through interaction.
You talk of poor reading culture, what are the causes?
Many students are not prepared to live in the hostels. If they live in the hostels they will be regulated. There are certain things other students can do and it can affect them and they may follow suit. If in the evening after lectures they meet some of their colleagues going to the library, they will join them, but the situation where some schools don’t even have a library and the students live in the villages, the situation is worse off. The students can choose to read, sleep or indulge in other distractions.
Cultism is damaging the system. It is a serious damaging factor that has destroyed the academic environment and the entire Nigerian society. There are many students that do not attend lectures; they are mostly involved in cult activities.
Lectures could be going on and they are involved in cult’s activities. Most of them contribute money to do all sort of things.
They don’t read, they don’t have time to read and when exams come they will sort.
The school itself is a microcosm of the society. It is a self set of the society. If the society is generally bad, all the bad things in the society will go back into the school.
Until we are able to keep the society in order, the challenges currently facing Nigerian education cannot possibly be addressed. And again, our value system is not okay, we believe in wealth, we are in a hurry to acquire wealth. Money is so much emphasized. Everything is monetized.
Here, we control cultism to the barest minimum. We have peace initiative on campus. You can eliminate cultism because some of the activities take place outside the college. I don’t want to disclose some of our strategies because it’s all about security.
As Funding remains a serious problem in the institutions of higher learning in the country, what do you suggest as the way forward?
Well, it is the application of common sense in administration. You look at the environment; you apply your common sense. What you can do to survive. You talk about the survival of the institution. You can’t survive without funds.
For example you spend huge amount for the college to be clean. So much have been put in place for security and to run electricity. We need money for the vehicles. Government has recently given this school 10 new vehicles.
Colleges must be maintained, and you cannot depend on government for everything. You have to think of generating money internally. So in this respect we have built a shopping Mall to generate money. Besides, we have gone into MOU with institute of Quality Assurance. If you go to the carpentry workshop you see what the products are and what they are doing.
This year we are going to run a commercial farm. A very serious commercial farm. We have gotten a site, set up a committee to advise us on how to run the business and very soon we will soon sweep into action. Besides, we are going to have a printing press to print answer booklets and other materials.
We are going to have a fish ponds, poultry, birds, layers, eggs, pineapples and including dry cleaning services, in the proposed commercial farm.
What is the way forward for Education in Nigeria?
Well education generally is an expensive venture where we cannot leave it in the hands of government alone. All of us should be stakeholders in the business of education. That is why anytime anybody wants to go on strike, they are damaging the system, because if you go on strike, so much time will be lost and there is no way you can recover. The damage is already much so by the time you go on strike you are creating more damage on the system.
For education to be administered in a way that will yield the desire result or dividends there should be tripartite arrangement whereby Government, individual and organizations should be there. It can’t be a one man’s show. In Nigeria people believe that running a school should be the responsibility of Government. it should not be so. The best model to run Education in Nigeria is the tripartite systems.