Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Prof. Austin Nweze is the Rector, Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Enugu. In this interview, he explained the secret behind the achievements recorded and peace on the campus.
What is your assessment of Nigeria’s technical education?
Technical and vocational education is the way forward. We are not where we ought to be in that regard but we have not done badly. The idea of technical education was to impact practical life-transforming knowledge and skills on the future generations of Nigerians, thus making them relevant in a highly global competitive market. Technical education focuses on the ability to do a practical thing, unlike the theory aspect. The concept of IMT was taken from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and it has been a success story. Our graduates are entrepreneurs and self-employed.
What are some of the things produced by your students?
Like I said earlier, our students are taught hands-on skills. Not only that, they are encouraged to be creative minded and entrepreneurs, and that could be seen in lots of things made by the students. Our school is flooded with the creative works of our students. From technology, building construction, ICT, entrepreneurship and several others, they have been doing amazingly well. The students are encouraged to explore creative abilities because that is what rules the world and no more paper qualifications as it was a few years ago.
Regrettably, most of these productions are not commercialised.
We are seriously concerned about it but there is nothing I can do than to appeal to government and corporate organisations to support creativity in Nigeria, use their global contacts to mobilise support and foreign interests for support and patronage. However, I must commend the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in this regard. They have been of tremendous help to research and innovations in Nigerian institutions. Just recently, they approved N5 billion for research. It’s left for researchers to approach TETFund with their proposals to access the research grant. However, most of these students lack the manpower required to commercialise the inventions and that is the problem we have now.
Talking about TETFund, they recently commenced an impact assessment of its 20 years of establishment. Are you happy with that?
Undoubtedly, TETFund has been the best thing that happened to Nigerian public universities. It is the messiah that rescued the integrity of public universities. If not for TETFund, many of them would have collapsed. TETFund is the sponsor of major infrastructural projects in public universities, in addition to manpower training, research and innovations, teaching and learning materials and several other interventions in public institutions. The impact assessment exercise is commendable. It’s unwise to be dishing out billions of Naira annually to public institutions for the past 20 years without looking back to see the effects of the intervention.
21st-century world is driven by technology. How is IMT keying into this global ICT “revolution”?
You are right, and I want to tell you that we have long keyed into the 21st-century world of technology. When I was appointed IMT Rector in 2016, I made sure that every staff is ICT compliant. Those that were a little bit behind were subjected to an intensive ICT class that was facilitated by Digital Bridge Institute (DBI). In addition to that, we infused ICT in our programmes to enable students to gain mastery of ICT even before they leave school. Undoubtedly, ICT has redefined global businesses, health care services, security, social life among several others. To this end, we ensure that our students are exposed to basic ICT knowledge at the National Diploma programmes and advanced ICT knowledge at the Higher National Diploma programmes.
How did you achieve the technological transformation in IMT, even when you majored in accounting?
IMT is an institute that focuses on management and technology. Yes, I majored in Accounting and that is under the Faculty of Management. But Accounting is the bedrock of management. Of all professions in management science and even outside, Accounting is number one. It is only Accountants that would still be relevant even after death. According to the Holy Book (Bible), on the last day, everybody will account for his or her life on the earth. It means that at the gate of heaven if you can’t account for your life on earth, your request the services of an accountant to do that for you.
IMT was known for cultism, radicalism and other social vices. What’s the secret of peace, sanity, discipline being enjoyed in the school?
The peace, sanity, and discipline being enjoyed in IMT now were achieved through wisdom and divine insight. Since I became IMT Rector in 2016, there has not been any incident of cultism, major crime or social vices that are synonymous to public institutions. When I arrived at IMT on June 10, 2016, I met with the management and staff of the institute. I shared my agenda with them and solicited their support and collaboration to succeed. They received me and were never hostile unlike the experiences of past rectors especially those that came from outside the polytechnic system. Secondly, I met with students union officials. I assured them that their welfare is my priority because there won’t be IMT without the students. I reminded them that their primary aim of being in school is to get quality education and certification, and other things are secondary. I appealed to them to help me serve them better, and I was happy that they gave me their support. In addition to that, I allowed for increased spiritual activities in the school. I instituted a monthly Holy Mass in the school. Every first day of the month, the chaplain and other priests from outside the institute would come to the school to celebrate Holy Mass for us. It helped to increase God’s presence in the campus. So, we have no worry about crime on the campus. In our last examination, the issue of sexual harassment came up, but I intervened and arrested the situation. The accused lecturer was investigated and it was established that he was guilty. He was immediately asked to go to serve as a deterrent to other lecturers that might nurse such ideas.
What should staff and students expect from you before the end of your tenure?
Very simple. My plan is to raise the bar of academic excellence and innovations higher than I met it. My successor must be high jumpers to cross the bar of academic excellence and creativity that I will leave behind. We recently commenced degree programmes. 15 past rectors could not achieve that. It’s a big plus for me. Also, our academic records have also improved significantly to the point that foreign institutions are seeking partnership with us.