By Yinka Oludayisi Fabowale
There was palpable excitement and high expectation within the academic community of Yaba College of Technology, following announcement of a new governing council for the cradle of tertiary education in the country, with Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), as the chairman, a few weeks ago. Stakeholders said it is a departure from the past where headship of governing councils came from political class, often inexperienced and with lackluster performance, unlike the universities that get astute corporate managers, intellectuals, or accomplished administrators.
Stakeholders regretted that YABATECH has always had the “misfortune” of being saddled with politicians, who, rather saw their appointments as an opportunity to “chop” from contract awards and find jobs for their relations and cronies that tended to compound the woes of the institution, rather than help in bailing it out.
“But, the emergence of Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, has disabused our minds over the perception that only the dregs are meant for the polytechnics, while the universities are blessed with technocrats and corporate business managers,” said the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Mr. Adeyemi Aromolaran. His view was echoed by his Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) counterpart, Mr. Olorunbe Omopariola.
Of course, anxiously waiting on the campus for the new council inaugurated last Thursday, May 11, is a plethora of problems.
Although the college, established in 1947, a year before the Premier University College (University of Ibadan) was founded, and currently run by Dr. (Mrs.) M. K. Ladipo, the Rector, can boast of a beautiful, scenic, compact and functional campus environment, its network of roads and frontages of departments/faculties are in bad shape, save, perhaps, for the major circular road in the campus main bowl. Also, departmental offices, including those of the HODs are nothing to write home about, squalid, with piles of books, journals and files falling off dilapidated shelves, while staff idle away due to irregular power supply to power computers and other equipment.
The college has seven halls of residence to accommodate a paltry percentage of the 15,000 students. But, most of these hostels- Hollywood, Akata, Bakasi, New Hall, Male Complex and New PGD hall, are overcrowded and in bad conditions.
Staff emolument/welfare/human capital development
Although, no staff is owed salary, there are complaints about lateness in payment and shortfall in the pay packets owing to inability to pay arrears of some allowances peculiar to the workers’ job descriptions approved by the government since 2010, due to dwindling finances. Default in payment of this consolidated allowances has led to strikes disrupting academic calendar particularly in the last three years.
Although, many lecturers benefitted from study leave to acquire higher qualifications, staff stressed the need to reactivate sponsorship of attendance of professional conferences, training and workshops, necessary for enhancing skills and knowledge fund, which dwindled drastically in the last few years.
There is no student union executive in place at the moment. The last one was disbanded last semester of the previous academic session, due to violent disturbance during the SUG elections.
But, many of the students want it back for a number of reasons. Apart from denying them the necessary leadership training in participatory democracy, enjoyed by their counterparts in other tertiary institutions, they argue that they needed a credible platform to represent and fight for them on sundry challenges that face them individually and collectively.
Among these, they said, is a recent arbitrary hike in school fees. There are also the issues of alleged extortions, or sexual harassment of female students, overcrowding, poor maintenance of facilities including halls of residence, poor municipal services such as epileptic water and electricity supplies, absenteeism or lateness of lecturers to classes, poor computation of examination results, said to be rife, as well as possible negligence on students’ welfare.
The new governing council will find a big partner in a vibrant and active alumni association. The association’s president is Pastor Oluwafemi Martins, while Mr. Yemi Osinbajo is the general secretary. Apart from building the N200million alumni complex, the association sponsors students on scholarships and work hand in hand with the college management on staff welfare and how to move the institution forward.
However, the old students are not happy with their non representation on the governing council, noting that the council stood a greater chance to succeed and take the college to greater heights, with one of them on its membership, due to their overarching concern and interest to plough back to the school which made them what they have all become.
The governing council may wish to explore the possibility of establishing international linkage programmes with world class institutions known for their excellence in technological education, whereby both students and lecturers can gain knowledge and skills on current trends in the various disciplines to relaunch the institution back to its old glory of being a centre of innovations and inventions.
Martins said a time there was when “we had one of the best foundries in the world, such that the Nigeria Railways Corporation (NRC) came to us for their metallurgical needs and processes. I can tell you also, that a colleague built a helicopter that flew over this campus in 1973.”
Perhaps, the most critical challenge before the governing council is the need to exploit the college’s strategic location of being in Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre, to diversify the revenue base of the college, to rescue it from the dependence on school fees raised from the part-time programmes.
To this end, the college’s cash cow, Yabatech Consult, needs to be reenergized and made to think out of the box for other new business ideas that can shore up the institution’s revenue profile.
One of the labour leaders said: “We expect to see a difference in management. Will the new chairman be like the politicians, or is he coming to write his name in gold?”