‘If Nigeria is put in order, there’ll be no incentive for brain drain’
Provost, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo State, Dr Samuel Akintunde is the second alumnus to be appointed as provost of the college. In this interview, he speaks on some challenges confronting tertiary education and how the education system could be better managed. As he winds down on his time in the saddle, he also highlights some challenges and achievements in office, among other issues.
What kind of legacies do you envision to leave behind after leaving office?
I EXPECT that some of the traditions we have tried to entrench would be continued. I expect that administration would continue to be very open here and we would focus more on resources for the training of our students so that the quality of our products would continue to be at par with their counterparts elsewhere in the world when it comes to quality.
I also expect that the tradition of skills acquisition for students would also continue because a large percentage of graduates today do not have the privilege of getting ready job opportunities. So it is better to have skills. Specifically, some of them that have graduated from here and also equipped themselves with some entrepreneurial skills have gone out from here to become employers of labour.
I expect that the peaceful atmosphere that has been created and entrenched here for some years now would be sustained.
What goals did you set on assumption of office, how much of your goals have been achieved and how well have you surmounted some of the challenges in office?
Some of the goals set were to improve on the ICT facility in the College. I wanted to start entrepreneurship skills acquisition for students. I also believe that our teaching laboratories and lecture theatres should be better equipped for large classes. Our roads were also a concern; I wanted a College that would be more beautiful in terms of aesthetics. This is in addition to staff development and boosting the curriculum. By the grace of God, we have been able to touch virtually all these goals.
We have a new ICT auditorium now, in addition to the ones we had before, done by using two Build-Operate-and-Transfer (BOT) initiatives. We have tarred some reasonable kilometres of road in the college. We have a number of projects ongoing while some have been completed. Some of them were achieved through TETFUND intervention, some were through capital projects done through our internally generated revenue (IGR).
Aside these, we have given trainings to academic staff through TETFUND sponsorship, as well as non-teaching staff. Today, the college can boast of more than 200 PhD holders, 50 of whom recorded the attainment within the last four years of my administration. Some staff members were sponsored to get certified in some programmes overseas.
The trainings have not left out student leaders, who were sent for leadership trainings outside the country. Today, we also have a centre for Skills Development and Entrepreneurship where we training our students in various endeavours. We also train them in media communication through our online radio and television; some of them have graduated and have been absorbed by media houses. We are also working on infrastructure to ensure we have adequate security on campus.
Some of our outsourced members of staff were receiving what I termed meager stipends. Management under my watch reviewed that to improve their welfare. This is because in spite of the fact that they are not regular staff, we consider their services very important.
In addition, two new programmes have been added since I resumed. We now have Political Science, and Theatre and Creative Arts Departments to expand our academic programmes.
Talking about challenges, the federal government is finding it difficult to fund the College very well, so we heavily rely on our IGR to run the College. Apart from finance, other challenge includes being able to stem the tide of demands from staff but we are managing the situation. Security has also been a challenge in that the personnel are not well motivated. It would be good if the FG can ensure that the security personnel of the College are brought back into mainstream of staff so that their salaries are paid by FG as done with universities.
Other challenges revolve round facilities that we have to update but we are doing that progressively. Inability to recruit staff because of embargo on employment is another. To get around this, we have employed adhoc staff that we pay from our IGR. What we pay them is inadequate but we have to manage the situation like this at the moment. So, by and large, we have done a bit in the past four years of my administration.
How did it feel contesting with a number of distinguished academics in 2018 and emerging as the provost?
I was the deputy provost at the time. I deputised Professor Olukoya Ogen. You go into such a competition with high spirits, believing that you will make it. At that time, the school had a number of highly qualified senior colleagues that were fit to be in that position, who also did well in the interview but it took God’s grace to become the choice of the council.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in December 2021, assented to the bill that proposed the upgrade of your college to a university, as against President Jonathan’s May 2018 declaration, which was put on hold. What is delaying the take-off of the running of the institution as a university?
The process towards making Adeyemi College of Education a university has been on for years. I met it on the ground as a student and as a staff member. The Ondo community, staff, students and the alumni have been involved in the process. My predecessor’s effort and that of some people brought about the landmark decision of President Jonathan’s pronouncement, which was unfortunately not backed by law. That is perhaps why President Buhari put the upgrade on hold.
This led to the introduction of the bill to upgrade the institution by Hon. Abiola Makinde in the House of Representatives, which was passed and assented to by the president in December 2021. We had expected an implementation committee to be set up but we discovered that the gazette for the law has not been forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Education from the presidency, a situation, which Hon. Makinde has started working on. I believe that very soon, the university status will be brought to fruition.
How do you feel about the college being pronounced a university in your time as the administrator?
Whatever has been divinely situated will surely manifest at the right time. When I was a student in the college, I couldn’t have believed that there would come a time that I would come there to work, and become the provost and that it would be during my time that there would be a pronouncement upgrading the college to a university. But that is divinely done.
Nigerians have witnessed unhealthy relationships between heads of tertiary institutions and some staff associations. How have you been able to manage COEASU and NASU in the past four years?
We have four unions in the college, namely, COEASU, SSUCOEN, NACEATON and NASU. My belief is that when dealing with unions, dialogue and openness are very important. Sometimes you have to call their attention to the budget. There are demands they will think there is a provision for in the budget. You make them look through it and be clear. You need to do certain things like seeing to their welfare to make them happy. You have to do that so that you can put a human face to your administration.
There is an alarming rate of brain drain in all sectors of the country. What would you say is the implication of this?
People leave for many reasons. They leave because they are not happy with the country and so they seek better opportunities elsewhere. I would say people are free to leave the country because there will always be people to fill the vacuums. More importantly, Nigeria needs to be put in order. People are leaving because of insecurity and unemployment. Regarding insecurity, I encourage the government to do more to put the situation under control. On unemployment, when people don’t get jobs and they naturally go outside; there is also the possibility that they are going to be repatriating some foreign exchange into the nation later. We need to look into our education and give it priority attention, even our in budget. When it comes to proper education, we should train students to be self-employed upon graduation and that leads us to having skills for entrepreneurship. These will deal with so many problems such that many people will have no need to leave the country.
What do you make of claims in some quarters that the upgrading of colleges of education into universities by governments aims at jettisoning NCE programmes that are expected to cater for elementary and junior school education in Nigeria?
We don’t have any federal university of education in the country. The government can upgrade one or two colleges in each geopolitical zone and just change the structure. I would advise the Federal Government to merge the NUC, NCCE and NBTE. One of the problems of education in the country is that these bodies are not working together. A country that has a national objective on education should have one body to be responsible for meeting it. All the government needs is to create units under one body that will be in charge of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to ensure that the curriculum is unified to achieve a national goal. With this, one body will not see itself as superior to the other. There will be no need to hold on to beliefs that for a state where there is a federal university, there must be a federal polytechnic and others. The federal college of education in a geopolitical zone can serve all the colleges in the zone together. Running affiliations with universities will not be necessary and there will be unity of purpose.