As Nigeria grapples frantically with its current economic challenges due to a slump in the global oil price, professional groups and experts in the country have reiterated the need for the Nigerian government to urgently revive its technical and vocational education scheme, which has been in limbo over the years.
The technical and vocational sub-sector of the economy is a very strategic and critical one with the potential to help build a virile middle-level manpower need of the country. However, it has continued to suffer from negative attitudes and neglect, particularly on the part of government.
Regrettably, the sector has been undermined and relegated to the background to the extent that it is reportedly starved of adequate budgetary allocation. There is also the absence of political will by the authorities to reposition it for better output. In addition, the sector is also receiving hard knocks from society’s preference for university qualification. In other words, the acquisition of technical skills is no longer attractive to most Nigerians aspiring to choose a career.
Nigeria is the biggest loser as a result of the ugly state of affairs in the sector. Against this backdrop, a recent Editorial published in one of the national daily newspapers in Nigeria, New Telegragh, said:
“What Nigeria needs presently, if it wants to remain on the path of 21st Century economic realities, is to grow its technical and vocational education sector through huge investment and capital outlay.”
Taking such a step, according to the editorial, will go a long way in making it attractive to the young ones in the society. It may be recalled in the past that countries like the Philippines, China, India, Indonesia and South Korea, among others, were able to dramatically transform the fate of their respective economies through deliberate and well-planned technical and vocational training schemes. Experts say nothing can stop Nigeria from accomplishing a similar feet with all its superfluous human and natural resources.
Lending credence to the potency of the sector in helping countries rewrite their economic history, a consummate Automotive Engineering consultant and President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Engineer Otis Anyaeji, said the resuscitation of the moribund technical and vocational education system in the country, which used to be very vibrant, has the potential of putting Nigeria on the path of accelerated growth and development once again.
The NSE president noted that overhauling such a system of education may not be too demanding on the federal government because, according to him, the trend can be reversed if the right policies are put in place under the present dispensation since it was done before in Nigeria.
“So the dispensationalism happened here before and we just have to continue what we have done right before. I don’t want to go into the blame game here over what happened. Let us do what we have done before”, he said.
Speaking further, he explained that government took such training programmes very seriously immediately after Nigeria’s independence in 1960 by establishing technical and vocational training centres in virtually all urban towns.
According to him, there were a number of government trade centres and technical institutes which trained people to the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) level and such trainees with their OND qualification can run a machine shop. He added that government also built workshop for metal works in various urban centres and primary schools used to take their pupils to such places to expose them to the facilities.
“We had at that time some schools like the Bishop Shanaham College Orlu, the Government Comprehensive School Port Harcourt, they had metal and working facilities. Students were taught technical drawing in preparatory to either going to the government technical institutes or going the universities to train in these areas.
“We also saw laboratories in secondary schools. Frankly, there were laboratories that could meet the standard in the United Kingdom (UK). Of course, that was the standard of our education,” he further disclosed.
Speaking in a similar vein, Engineer Paul Oyameda observed that any nation that fails to develop and nurture its technical and vocational sector, will never make progress economically and industrially.
“It is a sad commentary that a country like Nigeria which once aspired to be among the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020, treats it technical and vocational education with such gross levity and apathy,” he lamented.