Only holders of higher degrees should lecture at COEs, polys
Provost of the Federal College of Education (FCOE) Okene, Kogi State, Dr. Ajayi Ileya, in this interview with JOHN AKUBO, in Lokoja advocates the use of masters’ degree as the minimum qualification for lecturing in colleges of education and polytechnics.
In your opinion, what minimum qualification is appropriate for teaching in colleges of education? It is very important for government to consider teaching qualification for lecturers in colleges of education and polytechnics as being very crucial to the quality of education.
Some years ago the National Universities Commission (NUC) made the possession of PhD as the minimum qualification for teaching in the university.
If that is the case there is no reason why the minimum teaching qualification for colleges of education should not be raised to masters’ degree because what is happening today is that fresh graduates who just completed the national youth service scheme are employed by these institutions as lecturers. These people lack experience and have not been exposed to research and so on.
But if masters’ degree is made the minimum teaching qualification for COEs and polytechnics, I think that would improve the quality of teaching at that level of education.
What strategy is the college adopting to ensure the quality of teachers is not compromised? There is saying that no educational system can rise above its teachers, because teachers are very critical and they occupy a central position in the educational system of every country. If you neglect teachers you have neglected education.
That is why any nation that is serious must pay attention to teachers. Not just teachers in terms of number, but also in terms of quality. In this college, we have been trying to ensure that our teachers are trained and re-trained on a regular basis and we encourage them to go for further studies.
Those with first degrees are encouraged to go for masters’ and those with masters are encouraged to go for doctorate. This is mandatory and not optional.
The moment anyone of them is able to secure that admission the school foots all the fees while his/her salary still runs. That is why many of our staff, lecturers are not only pursuing their masters’ and doctorate within the country but also outside the country. Currently, we have not less than 40 lecturers with doctorates.
Regular workshops on issues like teaching methods are also organised because knowledge is dynamic. This ensures that we don’t impart into our students obsolete ideas that were passed onto us many years ago. For those without teaching qualification, we force them to go back to the university for their postgraduate diplomas in education.
So they would be exposed to the theory and practice of teaching. We also have a quality assurance unit in this college, which ensures that quality is being observed not only in teaching but in terms of the facilities on ground, the environment and so on.
Conferences are organised from time to time, and we sponsor members of our staff to attend conferences both within the country and outside the country where they gain new knowledge.
Your college is an affiliate of the University of Ibadan. Does that make your degrees equal in standard with that of the mother university? Let me say that the degree that we award in this college compares favourably with degrees awarded by any university in this country. We are affiliated to a first class university, which is seen as the best university in this country.
We would not do anything that would lower their standards. Two years ago, an NUC accreditation team was here to accredit all our degree programmes, and none was denied accreditation.
That is an indication that NUC is satisfied with our degree programmes. The university of Ibadan is involved in everything we do here and they routinely observe our lecturers teaching because they want to maintain their standard.
They are involved in the setting of examinations questions and they must approve the questions. During examinations, they invigilate our students.
They also make sure that our facilities on ground compares favourably with theirs. They have done everything possible to maintain their standards.
What are you doing to encourage research? Some schools in the college have organised workshop on research methodology because we feel that you cannot be an academic staff without being exposed to the rudiments of research so we have been encouraging them.
What are your dreams for the institution? My dream is that the college should become a first class tertiary institution in this country, in terms of facilities and the quality of our graduates.
My vision is that we should be able to contribute first class middle-level manpower for this country and when we are able to do that, we would have done our bid in terms of contribution to the development of Nigeria.
The menace of cultism still hinders the country’s educational development. How are you grappling with this? We have not had cases of cultism since I took over.
This is mainly due to proactive measures that we have been able to put in place. All the stakeholders have done their bid to stem cultism here.
The student body has what we call peace committee made up of students who are saddled with the responsibility of reporting all suspected cases.
We have the community that reports all suspected cases off the campus because many of our students live within the community. So the community helps to monitor them and they report suspicious activities to the school. We have personnel of security agencies as students and they help us to monitor them.
As a lecturer, the highest level one should aspire to attain is doctorate. That is why I said the government should raise the benchmark in terms of minimum qualification for teaching in COEs and in the polytechnics to masters’ degree
The students handbook clearly spells out the consequences of indulgence in cultism; outright dismissal. With all these measures in place we are containing cultism.
Beyond that, we always drum it into them that if any of them indulges in cultism the punishment is expulsion. In the students handbook it is clearly stated there.
So it is important for them to avoid cultism like plague. How is the college accessing Tertiary Education Trust Fund and how beneficial has it been? In our college we want more funding from TETFund because our lecturers are making full use of the opportunities provided by the fund to better there educational qualification, by going for further studies.
Many of our teachers attend conferences and workshops sponsored by TETFund. I would not understand why any lecturer would not subscribe.
Any lecture that fails to take advantage of what TETFund is offering in terms of sponsorship is not worth his calling. As a lecturer, the highest level one should aspire to attain is doctorate.
That is why I said the government should raise the benchmark in terms of minimum qualification for teaching to masters’ degree at the COEs and in the polytechnics.
To what extent, in your opinion, has the college impacted the state? The impact of the college on the state abounds in the many primary or secondary schools. Most of the teachers there are our products, both in government and private schools.
To that extent we have been contributing to the manpower needs of the state and Nigeria at large. Entrepreneurial studies in recent times have been encouraged to make graduates self-employed after school.
What has your college done in this area? There is a particular course in the General Studies Department on entrepreneurship education, and the course is compulsory for all our students regardless of their course of study.
The college has also established a skills acquisition center in fact there is a building dedicated for that purpose. Because we feel we should see how we could contribute our quota to the quest for creating jobs. We are not just training our children to be teachers but we are training them at the same time so that they can do other things for themselves.
The skills acquisition centre is there and it is opened to all students. It is also opened to youths from within the community. There skills like weaving, welding, GSM repairs and amongst others are taught.
We have realised that part of the reason for youth restiveness is because they are not properly engaged. So we want to give back to our immediate community as a form of corporate social responsibility.
What challenges are you facing? The greatest of our challenges is funding but it is not limited to us alone. The overhead is not regular yet it is inadequate to run the college.
We spend a lot of money on fuel because electricity from the public power supply is not realistic, it is not reliable. So it means that we have to look for how to power the generator by buying diesel, which is very expensive.
Let me say that the degree that we award in this college compares favourably with degrees awarded by any university in this country. We are affiliated to a first class university, which is seen as the best university in this country. We would not do anything that would lower their standards
Even the bill from the electricity firm has gone up seriously. For diesel we spend over N2m monthly and for electricity over N1.5m. The imprest to run the college is just a little above N4m monthly.
That imprest is not regular and it is from it we buy stationary and to do other things. Government approved some allowances for academic staff and hazard allowance for non-teaching staff, but the government has not released money for that. Government also asked us to outsource security and cleaning services.
They asked us to send away our cleaners and contract those services to security and cleaning companies. Since we complied government has not released any money to fund those services. This is peculiar to colleges of education and polytechnics.