By Aic Akwarandu

The rate of unemployment in Nigeria is not only alarming but on the increase everyday. With the numerous tertiary institutions in the country churning out graduates in their thousands, if not millions, every year, coupled with people losing their jobs on daily basis and joining the league of the unemployed and with little or no hope of employment opportunity, unemployment will always be on the rise in Nigeria. It won’t be out of place to heap larger portions of the blame on the shoulders of the government for its failure to set up mechanism to absorb the teeming graduates. Painful it is, the neglect of institutions that would have made young graduates not only self employed but also employers of labour. Most graduates complete the four or five required years in the university without learning any skill. This is even when some of them displayed natural skills in one craft or the other, but were not harnessed in their formative years in the secondary school. Hence those natural instincts were lost!

At a time when white collar jobs are not forthcoming and when it comes, it does with ridiculous demands, entrepreneurship and exploring one’s skills in any vocation becomes an escape route to poverty and the crimes associated with it. Unfortunately, the technical colleges, responsible for helping one discover and sharpen his or her craft have been starved of attention and maintainance over the years.

Everyone is aware of the importance of technical education. It helps students to develop theoretical and practical knowledge. It improves the quality of living standard by producing trained and experienced manpower. Technical education gives all the knowledge and skills people require to compete in this cut throat competition. Science & technology has influenced almost every section of the society that people can’t imagine their life without its existence. To fulfil the need of the modern era, the education system should focus on technical and practical knowledge.

Technical education contributes a major share to the overall education system and plays a vital role in the social and economic development of any nation. Technical knowledge is becoming an indispensable part of our living. Today the advancements made in the field of science and engineering has made life sophisticated and moreover, has improved the quality of life.

Apparently, it is this knowledge and other factors militating against the financial independence of the youths in Imo State and in keeping to his campaign promise, that the governor of Imo State, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha has decided to give full attention to the revival of the technical colleges in Imo State. This, the governor believes, is one of the surest ways of tackling unemployment from the foundation. The program: “Transforming to a 21st Century Education:, Repositioning Technical and Vocational Education in Imo State”, is a brain child of Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha aimed at transforming Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) to be a major contributor and catalyst to employment creation, industrialization and social economic development. His excellency, by this program, wants Imo State to be the hub for the development of worldclass technical and vocational human capital.

What’s more, this program will seek to develop and implement a sustainable model suitable for a 21st century institution in the four technical colleges in Imo State: Ahiara Science and Technical College, Ahiara, Government Technical College, Owerri, Government Technical College, Okohia Osu, Government Technical College, Okporo, Orlu.

All the above mentioned technical colleges are in comatose. The buildings are weak and the laboratories, weak and outdated. Heart warming it is that the state government, knowledgeable about the pitiable state of the colleges, will as part of the strategies mapped out to ensure a smooth overhaul of the colleges, conduct site inspections to determine the state of the facilities in the four existing technical colleges. A technical plan will be developed with estimates for upgrading and constructing infrastructure in line with the academic brief.

Students in Government Technical College, Okohia, some years ago, used to take pride in what they could produce and manufacture with the little resources available to them. Fast forward till now, the school is a shadow of its former self. It is as if the school had never produced anything good as it is gradually going into extinction. Part of the causes in the downgrade of technical colleges in the state is the static curriculum, which has not been upgraded to meet the demands of advanced technology and 21st century creativity and innovations.

One of the objectives of this program is ensuring the upgrade of the TVET curriculum to align with industry requirements and global best practice. To achieve this, the paraphernalia of technology required in the technical colleges will be provided by the state government and ensure that it is only used for the benefit of the prime targets – the students. Furthermore, this move will also ensure jobs for the young unemployed graduates, especially those with the knowledge of ICT and teaching skills, as they would be employed to help unleash the technical skills of the students as classroom teachers. With an upgrade in the curriculum of the technical colleges, students after the secondary education would have acquired the requisite knowledge which of utilized, will place food on their tables for a life time. Those who are willing to proceed to tertiary institutions, upon graduation, would not roam the streets looking for white collar jobs, as the knowledge acquired from the secondary school will surely distinguish them from their equals. Interestingly, with the upgrade of the curriculum to global standard, it would only be a matter of time before Nigeria, courtesy of Imo State, rubs shoulders with China, Taiwan, Germany, USA etc in manufacturing of products that will sought for by other countries of the world.

Time has proven that Nigeria as a country lacks maintainance culture. This accounts to why there are so many dilapidated and abandoned projects in Nigeria and particularly Imo State. To ensure that any kobo spent on the revitalization of the technical colleges in the Imo state is not only properly utilised but sustained, His Excellency, Gov Ihedioha has extablished a performance monitoring system. This body will review the governance and operational model for accessing performance against the National Vocational Quality Framework (NVQF). Equally, this body will conduct periodic monitoring and evaluation, with reports made available to the stakeholders in TVET.

Creating a positive image for technical and vocational education as an alternative pathway to job and wealth creation is another agendum captured in this program. Owing to the unproductiveness of technical colleges over the years, many have lost interest in technical colleges, hence enough media sensitization activities have been lined up to drum the consciousness of this landmark initiative into the minds of community leaders, parents and other stakeholders. It is believed that with the well thought out mission and vision statements of this program, it won’t be long before the private sector shows interest and support for the establishment of more TVET institutions.

TVET, as in all education delivery, is dependent on the ecosystem that needs development, strengthening and continuous support. The state government will establish Imo State Technical and Vocational Education Board as a governance structure. Also, the government of Imo State will appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee Technical and Vocational Education for efficient implementation of TVET policy and accountability. To further strengthen TVET, the state government will implement an Executive Order directing all contracts awarded by Imo State Government to have a minimum of 70% local content in human capital requirements from middle to lower staff levels. A school Management Board for each institution, with two members of the host community who must be serving/retired professionals with experience relevant to TVET, to ensure sustainability.

The TVET program, which will be flagged off on July 23, 2019, will no doubt usher in a paradigm shift to the endless wait for white collar jobs. Education is by this initiative given a practical definition by the Imo State Government.

The Governor of Imo State, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha understands that Technical education should be given top most priority because it encourages the aspirants to come out with their potential. It builds a level of confidence and sense of self-respect in every individual. If a country has enough of its skilled manpower, it will not depend on other nations or believe in collaborating with developed countries.

Technology is impacting every phase of human life. The usage of technology in education will focus towards learner centric education and highlight creative thinking. Keeping in mind the obvious advantage of application of technology in education, the higher educational institutes are now keen on integrating technology and education. Technical education has become the buzz word of today.

The Governor should be commended for this idea that will help the younger generations discover their talent and potential and maximise it for theit development and that of the state at large. Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha believes that Technical Education can meet the escalating demands of growing society. With the conventional methods and stereo-typed general education, people acquire nothing to contribute to the progress and prosperity of the human society. This is an idea every progressive Imolite should buy into for the overall interest and development of the state.

Aic Akwarandu is the Special Assistant (New Media) to the Imo State Governor.

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