Transition of Lagos Polytechnic to a University of Technology
Lagos State government ongoing transformation of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) and two colleges of education, namely, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED) and Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED), to universities, will without doubt bring the number of universities owned by the Lagos State government to three. Given the huge population of the state, and the corresponding need to develop its human resources, it is certainly a positive development.
LASPOTECH was established in 1977 through a retroactive Lagos State Edict No. 1 of 1978 as a College of Science and Technology with the mission thrust that is vocational. However, it was immediately merged with the Lagos State School of Agriculture in Ikorodu in August of 1978. A decade after, which is in 1988, its nomenclature was changed to Lagos State Polytechnic.
To some extent, the polytechnic had undergone some transition in its development. At the beginning, with about five departments, namely, Accountancy and Finance, Management and Business Studies, Insurance, Secretarial Studies and Basic Studies and offer of GCE ‘A’ Level courses in the Arts and Sciences, it has now over 56 programmes which include Accountancy, Agricultural Engineering/Technology, Agricultural Technology, Architectural Technology, Arts And Design, Banking And Finance, Building Technology, Business Administration & Management, Chemical Engineering Technology, Civil Engineering Technology, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical/Electronic Engineering Technology, Estate Management and Valuation, Fisheries Technology, Food Technology, Horticultural Technology, Hospitality Management, Insurance, Leisure and Tourism Management, Marketing, Mass Communication, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechatronics Engineering Technology, Office Technology And Management, Quantity Surveying, Science Laboratory Technology, Statistics, and Urban And Regional Planning among others. What is coming is a major transition. Hence the pertinent question: what will the proposed transition to a university status mean for Lagos Polytechnic? To answer this question, let us focus on the importance of science and technology to society.
The importance of science and technology
The importance of science and technology to any given society cannot be overemphasized. Unarguably, development, irrespective of the phase has always been linked to technology, a by-product of scientific advancement. Thus, science, technology and development are inextricably connected. Development simply connotes moving from where we are to where we want to be based on advancement of the productive forces. It should be noted, however, that technology and human beings make up the productive forces emanating from the application of science and knowledge. The former implies the systematic study of knowledge and its application results in technology, an essential component of the productive forces. The end is always to improve the wellbeing of the individual members of the society and the society at large.
The twenty-first century is one that is being driven by knowledge economy and science and technology does play an important role. This perhaps, explains the decision taken by the Governor to transform LASPOTECH to a university status. Nations that pay scant attention to science and technology do so at the expense of their development. No doubt, science and technology is the motor force of modernity and the means to development. In this respect, Frank Anaeto and colleagues have argued in their 2016 paper titled, “The roles of science and technology in national development” that:
Science and Technology hold the key to the progress and development of any nation. Technology plays fundamental role in wealth creation, improvement of the quality of life and real economic growth and transformation in any society. The gap between rich and poor countries can largely be attributed to the differences in technology and the difficulty in their application.
Modernization in every sense of the word is a product of science and technology. Education, especially science and technology, has been touted overtime as the core element of the Asian model of development. It transformed countries like Singapore, China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia among others from poor countries rating to some development tigers. Science and technology has become the magic wand and the engine of growth. Science and technology holds the key to Nigeria’s development and the earlier we realize this, the better for us as a nation. As Anaeto, et al (2018) have further noted, science and technology is:
…the key and fundamental requirement for value addition to raw materials and people. It provides the key to unlocking any country’s potential in terms of decreasing over-head costs associated with out-sourcing and creating employment opportunities. Science and technology education will not only prepare the Nigerian youths for fulfilling career prospects but also train their minds to address social problems with scientific minds.
Challenges and prospects
Moving into a new phase in the life of man is fraught with challenges and opportunities. Whereas in human relations we tend to learn from experience and apply pragmatism, in the case of public and private institutions, feasibility studies are often carried out. The coming transition of LASPOTECH to a university status certainly has its challenges.
As is well known, one major challenge in the educational sector is the perennial issue of underfunding. Nigeria has never met the UNESCO threshold of 26 percent in terms of the funding of the educational sector. State-academic relation is replete with incessant disagreement and persistent industrial actions. The Lagos state promises to address this problem by a two percent contribution of the local government formations in the state. Given the bleak financial future of the country, one can only hope that the state government is able to live up to its responsibility in this regard.
A second related issue is understaffing. By the standard of the National University Commission, all the tertiary institutions in the country are understaffed weighted on the staff-student ratio. Transitioning from a polytechnic to a degree awarding university of science and technology will require staff upgrade. I have no information of how many of the academic staff in the institution have doctoral degrees which are required to lecture in the university system. But, to be sure, it does have implication for the current staff of the polytechnic.
Also, adequate staffing has financial implication for the state government. Again, one hopes that the two percent will go a long way to address the foreseeable financial burden that will come. Facility upgrade is in the kitten. Physical infrastructure and the library stock will have to be transformed as well. The syllabus will necessary be transformed and its related course load component. All these processes require huge financial outlay.
We can possibly go to sleep with assurances from, Tokunbo Wahab, the Special Adviser on Education (SAE) to the Lagos state government to the effect that section 44 of the bill to establish two new universities provides that all local governments in the state gives two percent of their allocations to fund the universities.
Nevertheless, the other side of the coin offers some hope. The very act of creating two new universities will deal with problem of the limited carrying capacity of Lagos State University. In the words of the SAE, “As the only university the state has with a population of 22 million people, LASU is not enough.” Thus, a university of science and technology will offer opportunities for the students to pursue degree education without the encumbrances of conversion courses. As the SAE on education again noted, “We inherited the polytechnic education from our colonial masters, the United Kingdom, but they have abolished polytechnic education in their country for over 30 years now. Even with the HND, if you want to convert it to a degree, you will still have to spend two years of four semesters in the university to achieve that. So, why not give them that access from the beginning? So, for us, it is about moving in sync with the time and future.”
The science and technology university as an applied institution, if the transition is carefully managed, will unleash a boom in the production of engineers, senior technicians and other highly skilled workers who will be useful in the “production frontline” and reduce financial hemorrhage from the demand for expatriate skilled workers. It will boost STEM education anchored on the belief that the country’s future would be driven by capacity for innovation and invention in overcoming development obstacles. Let me end this brief address with words of Mandy Hale: “Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.”
Professor Boyo, the deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Lagos State University, delivered this speech at Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu, recently.