• Inside story of how Anambra is leading others in drive for practical, self-reliant education
From Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Annually, various institutions of higher learning churn out thousands of graduates many of who queue behind their predecessors waiting for jobs. In the views of many concerned observers, these higher institutions do not adequately equip their students before graduation to be self-reliant. Many of them still ask for pocket money for daily upkeeps from their parents/guardians.
But in Anambra State, graduates from many of the state’s technical secondary schools looking for jobs or seeking for sponsorship to further their education in institutions of higher learning, is totally out of the question. Reason: they are armed with various money-spinning skills to fend for themselves and to possibly create jobs for others. Currently, there are nine of them. Out of them, our correspondent selected three and did an x-ray on what they do.
St. John’s Science and Technical College, Alor
Founded in 1958 with the name, Boys Secondary School, Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area, the school was, in 2012, converted to a technical school by Peter Obi’s administration.
Stepping into the school’s premises, one is greeted by an expansive but tranquil compound beautifully decorated with flowers and economic trees. The roads and walkways are well-paved. The school has many buildings serving various purposes. Four storey buildings and six bungalows serve as classrooms and administrative block.
Across the fence, the hostel accommodation has eleven buildings. The students live in seven bungalows and one storey block while the rest serve as kitchen, refectory and teachers’ quarters. These are in addition to other structures springing up in the school which The Sun Education gathered, is being constructed by students of the school’s Department of Building Technology.
The Principal, Mr. Otubah Samuel, was not in when our correspondent visited. But the Vice-Principal (Administration), Mr. Offiah Alphonsus Nnanyelu, held brief for him. The soft-spoken educationist, after exchanging pleasantries, took him round to proudly show him the handworks of his students, while declaring that, “we train them to be self-reliant and possibly create jobs for others.”
He pointed to the crafts produced by the students. They were soon joined by the Head, electrical department, Mr. Anoruka Godson Obi and Mr. Victor Effiong, Head, bakery department. At the kitchen premises, they met some students of Building Technology Department raising a new bakery house. The young builders were being supervised by their teacher, Mr. Arum Izuchukwu who explained to The Sun Education that the Down Proof Course (DPC) of the Bakery House was done by NTC II students (SS2 in grammar school) while the block work was being done by the NTC 1 students.
He added that the one-storey security house behind the hostel blocks was constructed by the students, from the start to finish. Some of the students, Ifedilichukwu Okoye in NTC11, Ejike Ugochukwu in NTC1 and others told The Sun Education that they had learnt the building skill in the college.
At the electrical department, Godson Obi showcased the electrical works of the students. He told our correspondent that they, apart from maintaining and repairing the electrical appliances in the school, also embark on electrification of buildings both in and outside the college and production of industrial sockets and other electrical appliances. “We get contracts outside the school and remit whatever money we make to the college,” he said. “Once we get contract, I lead my students to the house to do the job.”
Aside electrical works, he disclosed that they also construct and maintain woodworks in the school including desks and staff tables. He however lamented that they don’t have adequate tools and other needed equipment which he said the kind of money they make from contract jobs, cannot buy, given their exorbitant costs. “During practical sessions, students participate in batches because of inadequate tools,” he informed.
At the Welding and Fabrication Department, neither the Head of the Department nor the students were there. But their works were neatly arranged. The Vice-Principal explained that they were in charge of all iron works in the school. In all, he added, they only hire external labourers in extreme cases as their students were fully in charge.
The Sun Education gathered that the school also produces paints, air fresheners, body spray, soaps, shoe polish, detergents, household materials, bread and other bakery products. Head of Bakery Department, Mr Victor Effiong, told our reporter that they generate revenue for the school through their products consumed in the school. All the structures in the school wear brilliant colours done with St. John’s Paints, produced by the students. Without doubts, St. John’s Science and Technical College, Alor is a community of its own.
In a brief interview, Mr. Nnanyelu explained that they were trying to replicate what they learnt in Singapore in Anambra. It will be recalled that the Chief Executive Officer of Kiara College, Mr. Endi Ezengwa and the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha, led some teachers of technical schools to Singapore in 2015 to learn their mode of technical education.
“What we saw in Singapore is exactly what we are trying to transfer to our students here in Anambra State,” he told The Sun Education. “So far, our ex-students who applied for work in some industrial establishments and were taken are doing very well, from our monitoring. We also recruit some of them on graduation so that they could help in training others. One of them just brought his application just before you walked in here.”
He however lamented that lack of teachers and equipment are posing serious challenge to their academic success. “We can’t effectively run these departments without teachers,” he said. “We don’t have all the required equipment but we have the basic ones. For now, only one of the courses is accredited. For their practical sessions, we used to have a lot of problems in that area. But later on, their parents, in their free volition, decided to contribute N1000 each for that purpose. We have more than 600 students in the boarding house and the general population is 985 students.”
Our correspondent learnt that it was due to lack of manpower that the automobile department was closed down. Their empty classroom is being used by the building technology department for practical sessions.
Government Technical College, Enugwu-Agidi
When our correspondent visited GTC, Enugwu-Agidi in Njikoka Local Government Area, the Principal of the school, Mr. Chukwu Benneth was not in his office but the Vice Principal, Mrs. Iruka Ogbobe, ably filled in the gap by speaking on his behalf. From one department to the other, the VP explained in details what makes her school stand out from the crowd.
The college has about 10 bungalows. Some of them, it was gathered, were newly built while some others were renovated by the previous administration. It also has a sizeable generator which serves the power need of the school.
Founded in 1979, GTC, Enugwu-Agidi prides itself as one of the best technical schools in Anambra State. For the teachers and students of the school, best brains in the field of technical industry always come from them.
One of their teachers, Mr. Donatus Modozie, Head, electrical department, told our correspondent that he was doing everything within his powers to ensure that his students were properly equipped. “In this department, we take our time to ensure that our students learn both theory and practical” he explained.
Modozie is not a lone voice. Mrs. Rufina Ofolete and Mrs. Nkiru Emelife, Heads, departments of automobile and buildings, respectively, pointed out that given the efforts being made by the teachers and the management of the college, they are confident that their graduates can compete favourably with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
Although the college is doing significantly well, the teachers however lamented that the dearth of basic tools is posing serious challenge to teaching and learning in the college. Modozie lamented that they lacked the needed equipment in the electrical department. He listed AC, DC machines, DC generator, winding wire of all sizes, screw drivers, fishing tapes and others as the tools needed in the department. He further lamented that during practical sessions, “we liaise with builders and electricians in the field because we have no other means.”
He disclosed that owners of Winding Workshops charge them huge amount of money in order to allow his students do practical session in their workshop. He pleaded with the government to do the needful in that regard. Mrs. Ofolete added that, “we base more on theory because we don’t have live vehicle for real practical sessions. There is no toolbox and other needed facility”. Mrs. Emelife also lamented that due to lack of mechanized equipment, her students only make use of the few building equipment available.
Nigerian Science and Technical College, Nnewi
Founded in 1959 by the First Republic Senate President, Rt. Hon. Nwafor Orizu, the college, at the moment, offers Automobile, General Wood, General Metal, Fabrication and Welding, Building, Catering and Electrical Departments. Others are: English Language, Mathematics, Biology, Civic Education, Physics and few other school subjects. When our correspondent visited the college, its Principal, Mrs. Chibor Nkiru, like others, was not in her office, but some of the teachers he met said that the school is doing its best to stand out from the crowd.
On this wise, it has recorded some positive achievements as our correspondent gathered that officials of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) had in the past recruited about twelve graduates from the electrical department of the school to work in some of their offices in Nnewi and environs.
But critical inspection of their various classrooms indicates that the technical college lack basic tools needed for effective teaching and learning. Some of the teachers lamented that lack of relevant tools and atmosphere impeded their productivity.
Due to lack of teaching materials, they depend on internet materials even as they borrow some tools and machineries during practical sessions. For the teachers, the non-existence of the office of National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) in Anambra State is the major cause of the many woes of the college.
The teachers revealed that during the last accreditation exercise held in the school sometime last year, they had borrowed teachers and tools from other schools in order to pass the accreditation. “After that, they were returned to their various schools,” they disclosed.
But when it comes to practical sessions, the students, The Sun Education gathered, most times go to private workshops where they sometimes foot the bills before they can learn. “We have a lot of challenges,” the teachers lamented. “Technical programmes are capital intensive. We need tools, machines and finance to carry on. Another challenge is the perception of the society. Many people view students in technical schools as never-do-wells who cannot compete academically with those in grammar schools,” one of the teachers said. “They see them as people who are not intelligent that have no option than to learn technical work.”
He added that when certain tools are needed, some government officials who know nothing about the needed tools would take up the contract and end up supplying them with inferior materials which don’t last.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Education in the state, Prof. Kate Omenugha, said that the government is working its hands to the bone to ensure that technical schools in the state remain atop when compared with others.
On the lack of relevant tools at NSTC, Nnewi, she said that government provided them with the needed tools and equipment. “I think that the problem with the teachers is that they have refused to use the tools and equipment we’ve given to them,” she said. “So they cannot accuse the government of not providing them with equipment. And we are organizing training for them to learn how to use those equipment. Their claims cannot be true. If you go to Umunze, Umuchu, Umueri and Nkpor technical colleges, you will see what we’ve done there. This year, we intend to upgrade the one in Alor. We are revamping technical colleges in Anambra and organizing trainings for them.”