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Funding of engineering education, training for reliance

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Funding of engineering education, training for reliance

For a proper understanding of the subject matter, it is of critical importance to appreciate from the start that quality education, whether in Engineering, Law, Medicine, the Sciences or Humanities is a very expensive enterprise which government alone cannot fund having regard to several competing areas of need.

When education is not properly funded, institutions of learning will be ill-equipped in terms of teaching facilities and staff while the products of such poorly funded institutions are bound to be poor materials that will find it difficult to meet the need for self-reliance and national development.

The beauty of engineering lays in its capacity and ability to open up avenues in diverse domains with good remuneration because it deals with the various degrees of comfort that technology brings the way of man through the house he lives in, the various means of transportation, electricity, water etc.

I cannot imagine what life would be without electricity, bicycles, motorcycles, motor vehicles, aircraft, boats, ships, farm and building equipment of all shapes, radio, television, telephone as well as the various forms of cooling system. It would have been close to the life of the early man in the virgin forest! Needless, for me to assert the obvious that even developed economies such as the European and American economies have recognized the study of engineering as an indispensable resource and bedrock and bulwark of its virile economies.

This is so because of its connection to all aspects of human activity. I know for certain having been involved as an educationist, entrepreneur, farmer, lawyer, Pro Chancellor, Chancellor and President of Nigeria Institute of Arbitrators, that no sector is of greater importance than quality and functional education, especially when it is well funded. It could take a backwater country to the moon within a decade. What made the difference between the United States of America and the defunct Soviet Union was, in my observation, the application of education.

For me, education is life. I have devoted my entire being to the search for the fruit of education and today, that fruit is perceivable in the establishment of Afe Babalola University (ABUAD) which is acknowledged by NUC as ‘the pride of education in Nigeria’. It is on record that Yaba College of Engineering was established as the first Higher Engineering Education Institute in Nigeria. This was followed with many federal and state-owned Polytechnics until 1977 when two Monotechnics, the Nautical College of Engineering, now Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State and the College of Aviation, Kaduna, Nigeria, were established by the Federal Government.

Nigeria was, however, without a Federal University of Technology until 1980s when four Federal Universities of Technology: the Federal University of Technology, Minna; the Federal University of Technology, Akure; the Federal University of Technology, Yola, as well as the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, were established by the Federal Government.

But in recent past, engineering education, like any other form of education, has experienced a major setback in Nigeria due to what the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, described as poor funding, lack of functional policy framework, lack of adequate attention to research findings in engineering, inadequate functional workshop facilities, unstable engineering road maps, poor curriculum and decay in educational infrastructure as well as nonimplementation of educational budgets. Despite the fact that Nigeria has embarked on engineering education as far back as 1932 when Yaba College of Technology was established, it can be said without any fear of contradiction that Nigeria still has a long way to go in terms of its engineering education.

This is largely because Nigerian tertiary institutions are faced with enormous challenges in terms of general conduct of engineering education programmes which have failed to equip students with the necessary skills that will adequately prepare them to cope with the challenges of the modern day society, a phenomenon that will generally lead to a setback in the engineering education of such a country.

The challenges facing our engineering education in Nigeria today include, but are not limited to, obsolete curricula, lack of students exposure to industrial practice, quality of teaching staff and paucity of requisite experience, lack of coordination between research institutes and production enterprise, poor funding of education, poorly equipped laboratories and infrastructural challenges as well as discontinuance of technical education among several others. Because of the centrality of these points to the matter in issue, I will now proceed to address these issues one after the other. Poor funding of education:

I have spoken at length on funding of education in Nigeria at different fora. Suffice it to say that African governments, Nigeria inclusive, have not been paying the deserved and required attention to education, including engineering education. It remains incontrovertible that apart from the late Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who devoted 57% of the resources of Western Region to funding education, no government in this country, federal or state, has come anything close to that feat. As a matter of verifiable fact, every successive government in Nigeria since 1966, has been devoting about 6-7% of its annual budget to education against the 26% recommended by UNESCO.

In 2018/2019 budget, the amount earmarked for education is only 7% of the total budget. As I have said repeatedly, education is too important an enterprise to be left in the hands of politicians and governments who cannot adequately finance it in the face of many competing areas of need and that is why it has become incumbent on well-to-do COREN and NSE members and indeed members of the public to rise up to rescue our engineering education from the abyss of failure. Obsolete curricular: All of us, without any exception, do appreciate that the society is dynamic while we are in an ever changing world. But it is doubtful whether we are changing with times.

Today, the whole engineering curriculum in Nigeria remains what was bequeathed to us at independence without any effort to modify the colonial curriculum. I am in a position to know this from my experience as a former Pro Chancellor and Chairman of Council of University of Lagos between 2000 and 2007 and particularly because of my position as the Founder of the leading private university in Nigeria today. This condition is both tragic and a call to duty. A tragedy because what is the worth of an education that cannot meet contemporary challenge or why should one be trained with obsolete knowledge that makes a mockery of learning.

Because of these frightful realities, in ABUAD, we deliberately meet these challenges by introducing five new programmes since 2010 – namely Mechatronics, Social Justice, Human Biology, Intelligence and Security Studies as well as Tourism & Events Management. Our curriculum in engineering is obsolete and as such cannot birth our expectation for greatness of our country. We cannot continue to deny this fact. The constant retraining of graduates of engineering by the private sector reaffirms this lacuna.

If we claim that engineering is truly an indispensable tool or avenue for economic greatness as witnessed in the West, then for it to support our quest for economic revival then, there should be made ready provisions for the change of tools that is used in solving the problem as the problem is equally changing periodically.

This implies that engineering education curriculum should be flexible in nature, examined frequently and modified in order to accommodate certain societal needs. Students of engineering cannot be shortchanged for no fault of theirs.

The time to remedy the situation is now. The Federal Government should declare an emergence in this area of knowledge and use models such as Student’s Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) as an avenue to start a deliberate correction of this malady by exposing the students to present day machines. Adequate and modern infrastructure: Equally distressing for comfort is the dilapidation of laboratories and the obsolete and lack of equipment for training and retraining in Nigeria.

 

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