Who will speak for the polytechnics?

Adventures of Dan Fulani

Email: fulbeadventure@gmail.com Twitter: @dan_pullo

Dan FulaniFor about 12 months now, polytechnic lecturers, under the auspices of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), have been on strike demanding, among other things, improved pay and provision of better learning facilities in schools. The downing of tools, coming few weeks after a similarly long strike action by university lecturers, will go down in history as the longest strike embarked upon by polytechnic lecturers in the country.

Incidentally, this course of action by the lecturers was a complete departure from the norm, considering the fact that in the not too distant past, strike action was almost alien to polytechnics. This is not to say it doesn’t happen, but when it does, it hardly lasts a few weeks and things are sorted quickly for the students to return to classrooms.

I should know because I am a product of polytechnic education. I often tell my friends how I opted to go to Kaduna Polytechnic even when Bayero University, Kano offered me admission to read mass communication in 1999. My main reason for rejecting the university at that time was that with polytechnic I was guaranteed graduation on schedule, unlike in the university where a four-year programme stretches to at least seven years due to delays brought about by strike actions.

By its nature, technical education provides technological manpower needed for rapid development of the society. No meaningful national development can be achieved by any nation without sound and qualitative technical education. The bedrock of technical emancipation of countries is centred on technical and vocational education.

While vocational education deals with the training or retraining designed to prepare individuals to enter into a paid employment in any recognised occupation, technical education deals with the training of personnel for the purposes of initiating, facilitating and implementing the technological development of a nation and create the basic awareness of technological literacy.

Due to its emphasis on practical above theory in tutorials, polytechnic education drills into students survival techniques that make them stand on their own after graduation. As students, we always tease our university colleagues by saying they are theory-dependent students. The joke, as we said back then, was on universities.

The reality of the situation however, was never lost on us. I have to admit that unlike me, many students who studied in polytechnics did so because they could not find space in the universities. Despite monumental challenges, universities have not lost their allure and millions of youths line up annually to seek admission.

In addition, with the dichotomy and disparity between HND and BSc holders, the polytechnic applicant is already inferior to the university student in the making even before he starts the polytechnic programme.

At the national level, the problems of poor funding, inadequate facilities, brain drain, poor staff training and defective curricular all serve to inhibit effective utilisation of the benefits of technical education in the country.

This strike action by polytechnic lecturers must be brought to an end without further delay. There is no reason whatsoever that will warrant our youths waste any more of their time out of school. The government has everything within its power to make this happen. What is needed is the political will and sincerity of purpose.

As this is done, government should review and upgrade the curriculum of polytechnics which, from all intents and purposes, is obsolete and outdated. Also, government should tackle the issue of dichotomy and disparity between the HND holders and BSc holders in career progression and job placement.

A lot will depend on what the new minister of education will do. If, as expected, Malam Ibrahim Ibrahim Shekarau emerges as the new minister, parents and other stakeholders will be looking up to him to spearhead matured dialogue with ASUP on the matter.

As a former teacher, the former Kano governor will have the requisite experience and professional know-how to handle the issue. Let us hope the required result will be attained as quickly as possible.

We may be sitting on a time bomb if we do not act now.