Months after a successful convocation, the Rector of Federal Polytechnic Nasarawa, Dr. Pius Otaru Salami, has brought to the front burner the vexed issue of neglect of Polytechnic education in Nigeria. In an interview he granted to some journalists in his office on Wednesday 8, 2013, in Nasarawa, he spoke extensively on Polytechnic education and problems confronting it. He particularly lauded President GoodLuck Jonathan’s move at repositioning polytechnic education through his recent appointments into Federal Polytechnic Boards in Nigeria.
Dr. Pius Otaru described the caliber of people President Jonathan appointed into the board of Federal Polytechnic Nasarawa, as deserving of their positions, and single out the chairman of the board as seasoned and experienced hand capable of making profound impact in the system. He said, “Mr. President has done the best thing with the caliber of people he appointed as board members for Polytechnics. They are not politicians who come to look for just any appointment or what to eat”
On the issue of funding of the school, Dr. Salami praised the effort of Educational Trust Fund [ETF] in coming to their aid in terms of funding. Dr. Salami has this to say on ETF: In fact, without the ETF, I don’t think we can survive. Polytechnics are now seen as senior secondary school compared to Universalities, because the Universities are well funded than the Polytechnics. They refuse to understand that the basic foundation of any country is from its technological development. It is the bed rock of development that provides manpower for growth of the economy. He further said that the bane of polytechnic education in Nigeria has been inadequate funding of the institutions. He insisted that the subvention they get from the Federal Government has not been adequate in powering polytechnic institutions to meet the industrial and technological manpower need of Nigeria.
Dr. Otaru said that the developmental challenge Nigeria is facing today has some of its roots in the neglect of the polytechnic education in Nigeria. In driving home his point, Dr. Salami made reference to Japan as country that faced technological and industrial challenges after the world war. He said they were able to surmount the problem through manpower development in the direction of their challenges [Industrial and Technological]. He also that the Polytechnic are been taken and treated will have dire economic implication in the near future if steps are not taken to address it. The Polytechnics are meant to give skill, to acquire skill and field academic work. The University on the other hand, is meant for only academic work and theory, but the Polytechnic is meant for vocational acquisition.
Further, in the area of technological strides Federal Polytechnic Nasarawa has made under his rector-ship, Dr. Otaru Salami, said that the school has recorded milestones, but frowns at the attitude of Nigeria entrepreneur as they will not put money in what they are fabricating. He said for instance that the school came first in Machine design exhibition among schools in Kaduna in 2004 and 2005. The school manufactured salt processing machine, and Essential Oil Product Plant as well as Soap Making Machines. Though, he attributed the not too encouraging behavior of entrepreneurs towards their product to the fact that comparable imported products are cheaper and more refined. In this regard, he maintained that government should provide some level of protection and patronage for their products. For instance he said that Dangote showed interest in the salt processing machine, but along the way he discovered that if he deploys the machine, he will not make huge profit, so he backed out of the deal. He, the rector, informed that only two state governments were able to purchase the machine. The Nasarawa State government purchased two at the rate of eighteen million naira [N18, 000,000:00]. We used about N7m naira to construct each one, he said. And then the Imo State government came calling for the product, we constructed two for them, it was not even the state government that paid, UNIDO sponsored it on their behalf.
According to Dr. Otaru, there are so many things we have invented and nobody is coming for it. The major reason is that they cannot get the profit they except in that area. So it is left to the government to come into the industry and assist. We have been looking for partnership but nobody is ready. On current year funding, he said it is up to one billion naira, which he full of praise for the administration Goodluck Jonathan. On how the school copes with the increased number of students into the school, Dr. Salami said that their appreciation goes to God. He also thanked Educational Trust Fund [ETF] for the assistance it has been given to the school. According to him, all the equipment that we have, are mainly from the ETF and they always give us assistance whenever we make or sent our proposals. Every year we get up to one hundred million naira from them, [ETF].
On what the institution is doing to promote invention and innovation, the rector said that the students have done their best, but since Nigerians don’t buy or invest in these innovations, how can they be encouraged, he asked? For instance, he said that the student that designed a machine is now in Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State. He is automatically lost because by the time he gets there he will not talk of any designing again. He designed the machine for essential oil. Though we have patent for it, so he cannot design similar thing over there again, it is our own product here. On entrepreneurial activity in the school, Dr. Otaru Salami itemized their work to include the production of essential oil for Soap making, tie and dye, car wash, Adire, catering services barbing salon and all kinds of handiwork.
On the issue of cultism in school, Dr. Salami said that with the corporation of staff and students they have been able to curtail their activities. On exam malpractices, he said it cannot be completely ruled out, once anybody is caught, it is straight expulsion for the school. With respect to academic activities in the school, the rector informed his interviewers that as matter of policy, handouts are not allowed in the school. In essences, lectures are not allowed sell handout to students. He said that the policy is designed among other things to check truancy by students and make the students to take their study seriously.
With respect to the relationship between the school and the host community, the rector has this to say: Ah! The relationship is cordial and wonderful. In-fact, the Emir of Nasarawa is like a father, he sometimes comes down to the school to see how lectures are going on. And other indigenes are cooperating fine with members of the school. As you can see, everything is peaceful here.
Finally, on how he wants to be remembered, he acknowledged that the question was a difficult one, but insisted that as a teacher one only produces people into the society. He gave example of one of his students, now a Professor in FUT Minner, came to greet him in the office. He said he was happy when he told him he was once his student. Above all, he said all he has achieved in the school is a joint effort and suggestions from Management staff and others. I welcome positive suggestions and ideas. The staff from top to bottom is the ones doing the job, mine is just to lead and give directives. Once your staffs have confidence in you, everything falls in place. So I don’t want to be remembered for anything except for what my students are going to achieve, he concluded.
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