By Palmer Nathaniel
It was Idowu Koyenika, an accomplished author, scholar and motivational speaker who in his award-winning book, ‘Wealth For All Africans: How every African Can Live the Life of Their Dreams’ posited that; “Show me the heroes that the youths of your country look up to, and I will tell you the future of your country. Great people stand out from others by their visions and not much by their intelligence.
For many years to come, students of contemporary Nigerian politics and governance would continue to embrace the Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa’s brand as an infallible specimen in administrative forthrightness, leadership and pacesetting. This is because of the giant feats this administration has achieved in a period of less than four years. Perhaps, this is the first time in the history of Delta State that a government came to be with a well-structured roadmap on all-round development of the state; encircling infrastructure, human capital development through voracious vocational education and a proactive step to rebrand the image of the state in its spot-on exemplariness before the wider world.
Until the advent of this era, vocational education was synonymous with deteriorated infrastructures, obsolete equipments, shortage and in many cases complete unavailability of skilled personnels, ineffectual administration and supervision, poor accreditation status for its programmes, and many more sad and utterly discouraging tales. The collateral effect of this malaise over the years is the lack of patronage and total apathy towards these institutions by the people in the state. Simply put, vocational and technical education in pre-Okowa era in Delta State was as good as inexistent.
Upon assumption of duties as the executive governor of Delta State, Governor Okowa hit the ground running with the blast of the whistle. Top on his SMART agenda to revolutionize the state economically, was an aggressive resuscitation, rebranding and face-lifting of vocational and technical education in the three senatorial districts of the state.
To achieve this noble objective, an Executive Bill was in 2015, sent to the State House of Assembly for the establishment of The Technical and Vocational Education Board, a body of seasoned professionals and administrators whose mandate was to oversee the activities of the Vocational Centres and Technical Colleges and ensure the revitalization of technical education both in operational physical infrastructures and academic curriculum from its old decrepitude and ineffectiveness to a globally acceptable standard. The Bill was speedily passed by the legislative arm, ushering in this pragmatic era we are in today.
After four years of operation, the Board can today boast of having successfully executed its mandate to the admiration of all. In Nigeria today, Delta is the first state to have all of the courses rendered by its technical colleges accredited by the National Board For Technical Education (NBTE). Sequel to this breakthrough, the National Business And Technical Education Board (NABTEB) have begun issuance of modular Certificates and NABTEB Certificates to graduants while Trade Test Certificates for practical proficiency are issued by the Ministry of Labour & Productivity to its graduants. This innovation is expedient in view of providing a unified standard of certification for graduate trainees.
Another area the Board and government have performed creditably well was the review and enrichment of the academic curriculum of the institutions. At the inception of the Board, the team realized that no matter the architectural flamboyance of its institutions, if the inherited curriculum is maintained, the knowledge would remain as obsolete as the renovated buildings as students would still be taught knowledge that has long stopped to exist and alien to modern day realities. The use of old typewriters and the non-adherence to modern day technology was a typical example. The Board swiftly moved to enrich the curriculum in line with global standard.
The need to also update the knowledge of the teachers in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) or what is simply referred to as “training the trainer’, was also prioritized. In March, 2016, 33 Teachers were trained in various practical skills (Electrical, Welding and Fabrication, Building, etc) with Metallurgical Training Institute, Onitsha. In April, 2017, Fourty-Two (42) staff from the six Technical Colleges and eight Vocational Centres were trained in Sapele Technical College for Five(5) days in different capacities such as Welding and Fabrication, Fashion and design, Solar and Inverter Power Solutions, ICT, Catering, Building Construction, etc. Between April and May, 2018, 29 staff and Assessors were Trained on Quality Assurance as Assessors with National Board for Technical Education, NBTE at Digital Bridge Institute, Lagos. In September, 2018, 60 Teachers were trained on teaching methodology with Delta State University Investment Limited.
All these were made possible by the painstaking and humongous investment of billions of naira by the State government and the excellent management team of the Board led by its astute Executive Secretary, Comrade (Engr.) Mike Akpobire. At the last count, Delta State has Six functional and well-equipped Technical Colleges and eight Vocational Centres. The technical colleges are situated in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku while the Vocational Education Centres are in; Asaba, Sapele, Ozoro, Agbarho, Bulu-Angiama and Otor-Owhe, Mbiri, Ubulu-Uku and Orerokpe while that of Owa-Alero have been graciously approved by the State government awaiting take-off.
From the day of the inauguration of the board till date, the State Government through the Board has built over 120 Classrooms in 25 blocks with Offices, Stores, etc in the Six Technical Colleges. Another 16 Workshop structures with 48 Learning/Practical Classrooms has been built across the Six Technical Colleges. A total of 5 modern Libraries have been completed while that of Sapele Technical College, Sapele is in progress. Another Six Administrative Blocks have been completed across the six Technical Colleges of the State. Three of the Colleges have been provided with 45KVA Sound Proof Perkins Generator each and have also been hooked to National Grid
The Board during this period brought to the table several multinationals and investors to build work stations as well as produce units in the Technical Colleges and Vocational Educational Centres. To help establish graduants in pursuit of their careers after training, the Board and its institutions sometime ago collaborated with SEEFOR for the distribution of starter packs to graduants of the six Technical Colleges and eight Vocational education Centres. Between May and July, 2018, a total of 690 trainees were registered and graduated in Batch ‘A’, while another 620 are currently undergoing similar training at the Central Bank Entrepreneurship Development Centre at Agbor Technical College, Agbor. Again, the Board and its institutions have reached an agreement with the State’s Chief Job Creation Officer to equally empower its graduants and trainees with starter packs after passing through the refining fires of the institution.
In advancement of its drive for digital education, the Board has established partnership with M-Tutor India to deploy Digital Integrated Learning System in all of its centers. Students and Trainees can now smoothly carry out mobile teaching and learning as well as E-Learning. This no doubt has added a whole lot of value to the institution’s pedagogy.
In ensuring that both students and teachers live in facilities that can conveniently rival the conventional universities, the Board has within this period of operation built nine First Class Hostels (Male & Female), thirty Staff quarters, four Dining Halls/Kitchen, three Generator Houses across the Technical Colleges and another making it the fourth built at the Delta State Vocational Centre, Asaba.
Over 2,000 Students’ Dual Desks has been procured across the Six Technical Colleges, while more are in the process. Internal access road of about 3km has been completed for both Agbor and Sapele Technical Colleges, while that of Ofagbe Technical College is about to take off.
Water supply was not left out. Reticulation has been completed for Sapele, Agbor and Ofagbe Technical Colleges in the first phase, while the remaining three Colleges of Utagba-Ogbe,Ogor and Issele-Uku, await the second phase,
Perimeter Fencing of about 10.5km has been completed for Agbor, Ofagbe and Utagba-Ogbe Technical Colleges, while that of Sapele Technical College is 95% completed. Blocks of Six modern Science Laboratories with each hosting Laboratories of Physics, Chemistry and Biology have also been completed for the Six Colleges, while first phase of equipping have been completed,
Well equipped ICT Laboratories have also been provided for the Six Technical Colleges.
In all of these, it can be safely asserted that the Comrade (Engr.) Mike Akpobire-led Board has performed creditable well beyond the prognostication of many. In line with its establishing mandate, the Board has in no small measure brought facelift to technical and vocational education in the state in coherence with Gov. Okowa’s agenda of building specialized manpower that will thrive not just in the State labour market but also the Country and wider world. When the story of the towering feats of this SMART administration will be told, the strides of the Technical and Vocational Education Board will dot the notes.
Palmer, an investigative journalist and a publicist writes from Asaba.