Prof. Abdulmumin Sa’ad had been a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri when he was appointed as the Provost, Federal College of Education (FCE) Yola, in 2012, by former President Goodluck Jonathan. In this interview with Muazu Abari, he speaks on the ongoing degree programmes of the college, the falling standard of education, the transformation the institution undergoing, among other issues.
Can you give us an insight into the degree programmes your school is running?
Of course, we are running degree programmes in this institution. We are in affiliation with the University of Maiduguri for quite some time now. We have even graduated the first set and the second set are in the process of being graduated at the moment. We even have a first class graduate among the first set. Currently, they are collecting their results and will soon be mobilised for NYSC.
What led us to establish this degree programmes was a dream dated back to many years. The college had been yearning to start degree programmes. In fact, it started but somehow, the programmes could not be sustained and the whole thing was aborted.
So when I assumed office as provost in 2012, we started struggling to restart the degree programmes and we succeeded in 2013 when got the approval of both the University of Maiduguri and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
We were able to get approvals for nine programmes. At the moment we are trying to see how we can increase the programmes. The nine programmes had been accredited in December 2017, out of which seven got full accreditation. This means we can operate for the next five years without any accreditation. Two got interim accreditation, which means within the next two years, they will come for re- accreditation.
Why running degree programmes when there are many universities in the country to do so?
The main reason actually is to bring degree programmes close to our community with emphasis on those who graduated with NCE from this college and other colleges in the environment. Most of our students are well established family people and they find it difficult to move to ABU, Unimaid and other distant universities in the country.
What are the challenges you have been facing in running these programmes?
One of the challenges is the issue of funding. Our degree programmes are self-sustaining. This means that we have to run it based on the fees we charge the students because the core mandate of colleges of education is NCE, which the federal government is directly funding. So for the degree programmes, we have to fund them by ourselves.
You will find that our fees are relatively higher than the normal degree awarding universities.
There is this difficulties in balancing access and quality.
Access and quality in the sense that when you charge too much fees you are making the degree programme inaccessible to a large number of people, but if you charge low, the quality again will be affected because you need resources to keep the programme going. So each year we review the situation to see what is an optimum fees that we are going to charge the students.
How have you been coping with the situation?
We are coping because we try to cut cost as much as we can. Apart from the effective utilisation of resources, we try to also involved lecturers within the college. We let them know that their services in teaching and participation in the degree programme should be seen as part of their community service to the college. Therefore, they should not just focus on how much they should be paid, but focus more on community service.
For instance, if we want to do matriculation, we rely on volunteers and other good Samaritans who can provide free .
In fact, we are running the degree programmes partly as a non-governmental organisation because we rely on sacrifices of people.
But with the expansion of the student population the tuition fees are going to be sufficient to run the programmes. You know this is the law of the economics; few goods high prices, more goods lower prices. Therefore, we are moving towards stabilisation in our degree programmes.
Has your school received any subvention from the federal government?
You see, one requirement for even the degree programmes is to do resource visit and the essence of the visit is to access the staffing you have, the infrastructure you have in place and also the kind of administration you are running as well as to see how these programmes you are running are beneficial to your immediate community and the country. One good thing about tetfund is that once a programme is within the college, they will fund it. So we have approached tetfund to fund our directorate of undergraduate studies which they did and that boosted our morale.
Secondly, the degree programmes share facilities with NCE programmes, so as we expand facilities within the college the degree programmes also benefited from them. Thus the issue of complementary infrastructure due to degree and other external programmes does not necessarily arise.
How true are the complaints of underpayment of staff salaries in your school?
We began to experience this problem from January 2018. What actually happened was that in January, there was shortfall where some staff were underpaid and in February, we complained and it was made up and in March. After that there was shortfall again, so set up a high power committee to look into the problem. At the end of the day, we realised that the reason for the shortfall was that the new template did not captured certain aspects that we were using in paying the old template. Since then, the issue has been resolved. But you know once something has to do with salary, people will always complain.
Do you think reintroducing teacher training colleges will save the country’s falling education standard?
You see, I always have a different point of view on this issue of falling standard of education in the country. When you look at our curriculum and the minimum standard of qualification for colleges for example, you will find out that a lot of improvements have been made. Also there have been a lot of quality assurance mechanism that have been put in place in the teaching/learning experience. The difference is what we used to learn in the past and what we are now learning. To bring back teacher training colleges is certainly going to be very problematic and retrogressive to our educational system because the curriculum have changed long time ago. The requirement now is that if you are going to be trained as a teacher, the minimum qualification you need is NCE. Now if you bring back teachers’ colleges, you are saying the minimum qualification should be grade 2. Which one is better, to be trained by an NCE holder or grade 2 teachers? I think this calls is not in the best interest of our educational system. We should strive to move forward not backward.
What measures are you taking to address challenges of electricity failures in your school?
The problem of electricity in this institution was much more serious before I came. In 2012, what we did was to quickly resuscitate some of our old generators and bought more ones in order to supplement electricity shortage from public grid. We also connected the academic section to 33 kva line which improved the situation in the college but we still continue to used generators whenever the need arises.
There was the problem of bill payment which we had resolved by shedding our consumption loads. So sometimes we use generators, sometimes we used electricity and sometimes we stayed in darkness. We do that in consultation with our students.
What step are you taking to address the perennial water shortage in the college?
When I came here as provost, students used to go outside the school campus across the road to fetch water. The present management quickly took step towards drilling more boreholes. At present, we have 13 boreholes, out of which 11 are functional. The problem of distribution of water was also addressed. When we pump the boreholes, the water is collected near the hostels, lecture halls and so on. Yola North local government also helped us to drill a borehole. So at the moment, there is no water shortage.
Still we bought a standby water tanker so that whenever there is problem, the tanker will supply water on the campus.
Even Malamri community is coming into the college to fetch water. This is a direct opposite of what happened before our coming.
We have improved the situation and we will continue to do our best to move this institution to an attractive centre of learning within our optimal capacity.