The Chairman, Transcorp Nigeria Plc, Mr Tony Elumelu, on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to empower Nigerian Polytechnics to commence the award of Bachelor of Technology degrees.
Elumelu, represented by Mr Ayoku Liadi, Executive Director, UBA Plc, said this at a public lecture to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), in Ikorodu.
The topic of the lecture was: “Repositioning Technical Education For Technological Development And Food Security’’.
He said that the initiative would not only attract more qualified students to vocational education but would also encourage the exchange of qualified lecturers and instructors between the two systems.
Elumelu, who is also Chairman of UBA Plc, noted that the neglect of technological education had become socially and economically injurious because it was robbing the nation of the contributions such graduates could make to national development.
“Technical and vocational education has continued to thrive in the East Asian nations and the industrialised countries because they have successfully introduced a future-oriented and technology-focused developments.
“Nigeria and a significant number of African countries have, however, not been able to do so well for themselves in developing and harnessing this aspect of education,’’ he said.
Elumelu decried that in Nigeria, too much emphasis was placed on University qualifications, not minding whether the holder possessed the required knowledge and skills, while in the advanced societies, those with technical degrees were highly regarded.
He said this had resulted in a dearth of skilled technicians such as auto-mechanics, carpenters, bricklayers, laboratory and pharmacy technicians, electrical technicians, forensic, laboratory, and fingerprint technicians, among others.
Elumelu said the worsening rate of unemployment and the shift in employment patterns in the country had necessitated a shift in focus from the traditional education system and the re-awakening of the importance of vocational education in manpower development and nation building.
He listed the challenges confronting technical education in Nigeria to include: inadequate funding, use of obsolete equipment, inadequate and deteriorating facilities, poor library and research facilities, poor job opportunities, staff training and retention, and a poor curriculum for technical education, among others.
The UBA chairman, however, urged the government to urgently remove the dichotomy that existed between the universities and the technological institutions for manpower development and nation building.
He advised that elaborate programmes should be mounted to ensure the general awareness for technological education in the citizenry and the allocation of adequate funds for the development of technical and vocational education.
“Nigerian politicians and policy makers will do the nation a great favour if the foundation for a sound technological education is entrenched in the electioneering campaigns and it is consequently adjudged as one of the dividends of democracy,’’ he said.
In his welcome address, Mr Samuel Sogunro, Rector, LASPOTECH, said the choice of the topic of the lecture was very apt as deteriorating situations in many parts of Africa, was becoming worrisome.
“Evidence suggests that 80 per cent of Africans live on a daily income of less than two dollars, with half of this percentage struggling to survive on one dollar a day or even less,’’ he said.
Sogunro noted that against the backdrop, all hands should be on deck to reposition education for technological development and food security in the country.
In his remarks, Mr Obafela Bank-Olemoh, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Education, represented by Mr Samsudeen Allison, said the state government was responsive to the challenge of vocational and technological development.
Bank-Olemoh said the government was doing this to provide adequate food and security for its over-increasing population, hence the partnership with Kebbi State for the production of Lake Rice.
He said the government was also making efforts to acquire more land in other states, such as Ogun and the FCT, to give its farmers access to arable lands for more production of agricultural produce.
The Special Adviser, however, congratulated the Polytechnic for its achievement in the past 40 years, as the celebration was a time for reflection into the past and to focus on a great future.