THE National Policy on Education recommends the National Certificate in Education, NCE, as the minimum qualification to teach in Nigeria. The NCE is awarded after a three-year course at a College of Education, COE. Polytechnics are established to produce professionals in technical/technological and vocational education intended to address national manpower needs in such a direction.
However, with the trend of converting COEs and polytechnics to universities of various forms, the schools may soon become irrelevant and non-existing. As the last count, no fewer than 20 of such schools have been converted by federal and state governments to universities across the country. For instance, in Lagos State, the government has converted the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education to Lagos State University of Education and the Lagos State Polytechnic to Lagos State University of Science and Technology. Also, the Oyo State Government converted the Emmanuel Alayande College of Education to a university of education and ditto for the Osun State government that changed the COE in Ilesha to a university.
Recently, the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, received approval from the National Universities Commission to upgrade the state-owned Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, to a university. The Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, announced the conversion of the College of Education, Agbor, to the Delta State University of Education, and the Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, to the Delta State University of Science and Technology. The list is endless.
The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, Dr. Anderson Ezeibe, said it boils down to the lack of vision on the part of government officials to embark on such gesture. He wondered if the state officials were saying that the polytechnics and the colleges had no mandates that led to their set up. “The pertinent question is whether the need for such manpower has been satisfied. They are doing this because most admission seekers are not applying to the polytechnics and colleges because of the discrimination against graduates of these schools. Our proposal of allowing polytechnics to attain degree-awarding status will resolve all these issues: satisfy the quest for degree-level certification, deepen technical/technological education through curricula enhancement, retain the expanding pool of qualified manpower in the polytechnics, attract funding and stop the HND/degree dichotomy. Out proposal is that the National Diploma certification be rated as the middle-level manpower and used to feed the bachelor of technology certification to be awarded by polytechnics in their names as polytechnics,” he said.
During a recent event organised in Lagos by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, the Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, Prof. Idris Bugaje, noted that in some nations, universities are being converted to polytechnics, and not vice versa.
“In Germany and China, many universities have been converted to polytechnics because of the importance of technical and vocational education and the pride of place accorded the sector. It is like we are not in tune with the way things are done in other places.” Similarly, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education, NCCE, Prof. Paulinus Okwelle, said the best way to handle the lack of interest of admission seekers in COEs is better addressed by making it easier for NCE holders with good grades to go for degree programmes.
Though the Executive Secretary, NUC, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, said the reason for the upgrade of the institutions to universities is to increase access to university education, what we eventually become of the polytechnics and COEs in the future is now a matter of concern.