From BAMIGBOLA GBOLAGUNTE, Akure
Dr. Jacob Agboola, the Rector, Osun State Polytechnic, Iree is the first Nigerian to be appointed the West African representative of the Commonwealth Association of Technical
Universities and Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA). His appointment which was announced by the Secretary General of the association, Dr. Olubunmi Owoso, followed his election on April 26 in Cape Town by the General Conference of Heads of member institutions. Agboola, an administrator, prolific writer, educationist and astute manager, by the appointment is now the Coordinator and Regional Representative for member countries in CAPA’s Western Region, comprising Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia and Sierra Leone.
In an interview with The Education Report, he chronicled the benefits to Nigeria as a result of his new appointment, even as he spoke extensively on the nation’s educational system, technical education and other issues relating to education. What are the responsibility demands of your office as the new western region representative on the board of CAPA? The Commonwealth Association of Technical Universities and Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA) is the umbrella body of all universities of technology, technical universities, polytechnics and colleges of technology in Africa. That is the body that oversees everything that is related to all technical and vocational training in Africa. This association was born out of the African Union leaders meeting held in 1977. The African Leaders at a meeting in Ethiopia came up with a charter to have a special recognition for technical education.
In 1977, the African Union in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia gave birth to what is referred to as CAPA today. Since that period, all Commonwealth countries in Africa have been contributing to foster the development of technical and also vocational education in Africa because it is their belief that this is the only way the needed entrepreneurial and vocational skills can be involved. The founding fathers wanted a common focus as far as Africa education is concerned, probably this one was done for the educational history of countries like Germany, Canada even United States of America and since that time, CAPA has been given utmost respect more importantly in those countries.
By my appointment, I am to oversee the activities of the association in all the member countries in West Africa, and this involves moving from one country to another to ensure that the association’s core values are respected and the visions are realized. What are the benefits of your appointment to Nigeria? Like I have always said, you can draw out the benefits yourself. If as a continent, a body is set up by African leaders, I mean the presidents in Africa, to look into how we can evolve technical and vocational education to provide skills to our society, to provide entrepreneurial skills that will enable the graduates of these technical universities and polytechnics to become job creators, not job seekers, you will agree with me that more than any other thing, if that one is achieved within nations and within the reach of these countries like I said, that would have solved the problem of unemployment in Africa. Today, we all make reference to Korea, we make reference to China and Germany, it is because they take seriously, training in respect of vocational education to higher level. It is the society that has enabled them to determine the industrial technology of those nations. Without advancement in technology in Nigeria, we can never get anywhere, and if we all embrace technology and vocational trainings, we will enjoy the development and the philosophy behind it. The association is also beneficial because it is a means of fostering the unity of Africa. We had the OAU that we refer to as AU now that is looking into political stability in Africa. This agency is particularly for educational stability in Africa, so as the AU leaders, presidents all over Africa are fostering unity and economic development, this is structured to face the education development in Africa. That means all the Commonwealth countries in Africa get the same thing. Whatever must have been fashioned out for the development of vocational education will be on the same page. Then back in Nigeria, it means Nigeria has been recognized as key player in the education development of Africa. In the same language or thinking, coming to Osun, it means the state in the comity of institutions in Nigeria, has been recognized as representative and a board member in CAPA, which means in world now, when you talk about education, Osun State Polytechnic, Iree has been fully recognized. The other several advantages of CAPA include organizing annual international conferences. The meaning of this is that, henceforth, conferences sponsored by CAPA will now be organized by a Nigerian and this is a great recognition for our country. As regional administrative representative, it means apart from the Secretary General of CAPA, the administrative aspect of CAPA, in terms of international journal publication, in terms of all conferences, workshops and seminars will have to be manned by my office, and apart from that, CAPA secretariat at the regional level will be here. This will provide a very strong link with other regional representatives. We are already providing expertise and administrative back up for implementation of capacity development and other activities of the West African region which means anything related to education technical and technological education in West Africa has the head and coordinating office here. What new innovation do you plan to bring into CAPA? We have been mapping out strategies to uplift CAPA. I have been trying to put some things on the desk. One, Nigeria as a country is at the back seat of vocational and technical education. As far as Africa is concerned we are yet to get there in terms of vocational and technical education. If you assess and evaluate what other countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana even Gambia have, Nigeria is behind. If you see what they have to contribute to technical education, in terms of paper presentation by the academia and even the students in identifying skills, in organizing conferences and the number of contributions in international journals, you will see that we are behind. We have a CAPA journal, you will discover in it that Nigerian members in spite of the fact that Nigeria has the largest number of members in CAPA because all the polytechnics in Nigeria which is 106 are members, yet Kenya is far ahead of us, Ghana that has 12 polytechnics is far ahead of us as well. So there is a need to come back home and redress some things. Also, the National Board for Technical Education should be met and dialogued with. We should discuss with the co-heads of technical and technology based institutions in Nigeria and come up with reasons why we have got it wrong so as to know the ways forward for us. We should know why we have not been playing our leadership roles? At what point did we find ourselves at the back seat and other salient issues.