Professor Reuben Okechukwu is the Provost of the newly approved Federal College of Education (Technical), Isu, Ebonyi State. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he speaks on the October planned takeoff of the college and challenges facing the budding institution, among other salient issues
As one of the newly approved Federal College of Education, when is the college going to commence academic activities and what are the facilities put in place for its take-off?
We have a mandate from the Federal Government to commence full academic activities in October, this year. We have written to the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
We have done our documentations with the JAMB and other appropriate and relevant Federal Government authorities to enhance that commencement.
Again, here in the state, we have met with the Ebonyi State Government and the Governor is quite magnanimous and has graciously approved and released the land documents for the permanent site of the college.
He has also directed that the students be relocated from the temporary site to enable us take-over the temporary site as a commencement centre for the college. Besides, the governor has been very supportive.
That indeed is a good beginning. It is a very big support, in the first instance, since we do not have land or a space and the college will not operate in the air.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has also directed that the take-off grants should be released in such a way that it will be used for infrastructural development on the permanent site. I would like to thank the Isu community and the Chairman of Onicha Local Government Council.
The host community has done a great job; they have done some renovations from the Provost office to the Administrative Block at the temporary site. They have raised money locally to do this renovation to demonstrate their delight over the college project, especially their acceptance of the location of the institution in their community.
They have all been very cooperative and supportive. The determination within them is quite huge and I think it is a wonderful thing. They are always there ensuring us that we are going to be comfortable.
The local government council on its own fenced the entire temporary site. It is a large expanse of land. The council has also expressed its determination to construct the gate house and other structures.
They are making arrangements to get a residence for the Provost at Isu and other principal staff to ensure that they are comfortable, as well as other staff members. So, I want to thank all these people and the entire Ebonyi State.
I thank President Muhammadu Buhari for giving us the Federal College of Education. Ebonyi State is indeed very lucky. More importantly, we also thank the Minister of Science and Technology, who also was very instrumental in bringing the college to our dear state.
What are those things in terms of required facilities for the take-off of the institution?
What we require to take-off mostly are the students. We are going to hold meetings, seminars with JAMB authorities to discuss the modalities. On the part of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), they have also given us clear guidelines. Out of the six newly established Federal Colleges of Education, two are Technical, and we are one of them.
The other one is the Federal College of Education (Technical), Ekiadalo, Edo State, while the rest are conventional Colleges of Education. So, we have more responsibilities in training resourceful and self-reliant individuals, who will after graduation decide because of their competence and skill they would have acquired here be on their own as employers of labour or work for themselves.
They will also be well-trained teachers because our duty is to train quality, qualified, competent and needed teachers for the system. Our duty also is to make the college the best as an excellent centre of technical and teacher’s education in Nigeria that can compete globally anywhere in the world.
As a technical college of education, what impact do you think it will have on the development of the state?
The state had already been categorised as being educationally disadvantaged and that is why we are working very hard to change this. But, you can see that the people of Ebonyi State all over the place are experts and are good students wherever they are. Wherever they go, they excel and it is because of the snag of that disadvantaged aspect that makes them work very hard to change that narrative.
Well, there can be nothing better nowadays than being technology inclined. The world is all taking or embracing technology, science, innovation. We have a Minister from Ebonyi State in charge of Science and Technology, but Innovation has recently been added to his portfolio.
So, technology is very important and critical. Hence, for us to train our products that will be well-equipped technologically, that will obviously go a long way to add flesh to the manpower development, need and the self-reliant drive of the present world.
Of course, like I always tell them, it is technology and letters, meaning that you have the skills. So, technical education will help us a lot, as we will be talking about Technical and Vocational Education (TVE) where you can grow agriculture and of course Ebonyi State is known for agriculture. And, agriculture being the mainstay of our economy, the college will add a lot of value to the state’s economy.
How many students is the college planning to take-off with?
Well, presently we don’t have students in terms of enrollment. The only limitation we have is the number of Schools we are taking-off with.
Of course, we will have four schools – School of Education and General Studies (Foundation), School of Education Science, School of Education Vocational and the School of Secondary Education Technical, which are further broken down to departments.
For the School of Science Education, we have the Departments of Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, and Integrated Science; for School of Education, we have General Education, Education and General Studies basically to equip our students to be professionals, qualified and certified teachers.
In the School of Vocational Education, we have Agriculture, Home Economics, and while in the School of Technology, we will be talking about Electrical and Electronics, Wood Work, Automobile, among others.
As a new college, what are the challenges?
For every new institution like human beings, there must be challenges, and it is the challenge that will make one work hard. We have challenges, such as accommodation as students will come from far and wide.
We need new buildings, as well as renovation and upgrading of some of the facilities; we need regular water and electricity supply. There are so many challenges, but God on our side and with the support of the state and the federal governments, we will overcome the challenges.
How about recruitment of academic and non-academic staff?
Well, we have not started recruitment of staff. So, if you hear anyone telling you that we have commenced recruitment or they said we are collecting money, or anybody asking you to bring an application, do not listen or give them.
As a federal institution there are procedures for engagement. My attention has been drawn to rumour making its rounds that the college has commenced recruitment of staff.
Ordinarily, the gossip should be ignored as street talk and a product of ignorance because there is no way the college would commence recruitment of staff without due approval from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
It is, therefore, imperative to state explicitly that the buzz was a complete falsehood, unfounded, fallacious which exists only in the imagination of mischief makers and the marauders laying siege to hoodwink unsuspecting job seekers and leak their purse.
While we warn purveyors of this antic to desist from the act before the eyes of the law beams on them, it is also urgent to forewarn that anyone paying to such persons to secure jobs in the college is doing so at personal risk.
Therefore, we call on the public to disregard it, while we also enjoin prospective applicants to remain calm and vigilant waiting for such a time when the college would carry out its recruitment exercise according to the process recognised by law.