Daily Trust

A case for technical colleges in Nigeria

- By Adamu Tilde, PhD.

For a while now, Nigeria has been witnessing exponentia­l growth in the rise of certificat­eawarding institutio­ns and massive production of holders of certificat­es of all kinds: diplomas, NCEs, degrees, masters, PGDs, etc. Ordinarily, this should be a welcome developmen­t. But, unfortunat­ely, this phenomenon comes at the expense of acquiring quality skills, thus resulting in the production of certificat­e holders with no skills at all or with some skills that are not in demand and/or have no economic value whatsoever.

One comes to realise the effects of this phenomenon when one does a simple closeproxi­mity analysis—for example, over 60 registered and unregister­ed colleges of education award NCE certificat­es in Bauchi State alone. Most of the courses offered in these colleges are combinatio­ns of English/Hausa, Social Studies/ English, Arabic/Fulfulde, etc. The questions to ask are: what are the specific skills that an average NCE holder acquires in the three years they spend in college? Do these skills, if any, have any economic value? If yes, how many NCE holders, for example, does Bauchi State need at any given time?

Again, in Toro, one out of the 20 local government areas of Bauchi State, there are six colleges of health technology and counting. Most of the courses offered in these colleges are diplomas in Medical Records, Environmen­tal Health, Community Health, Laboratory Technology, etc. I may sound dismissive of these courses, but don’t get me wrong. These are significan­t courses and perhaps, with valuable skills to offer, but we already have enough to go around. And, trust economics, its laws are no respecters of irrational decisions: the higher the supply, the lower the demand and invariably the price. So the need to rethink why we do certain things instead of other things could not be more urgent.

The way forward

To be very clear, I am not presenting anything novel. Our pioneer leaders had envisaged the inevitable need for technical skills for economic growth and developmen­t, and that’s why they establishe­d monotechni­cs polytechni­cs and technical colleges across the country. No thanks to unimaginat­ive leadership and penchant for mass production of certificat­es-wielding graduates that had led to having polytechni­cs with more students studying mass communicat­ion, theatre arts than engineerin­g, computer science, statistics, etc. Nothing can be more ironic.

In the following subheading­s, I will argue on why we should pay more attention to technical skills and invest more in establishi­ng technical colleges:

Guaranteed employment

Rest assured that employers lined up waiting for you once you possess skills like plumbing, welding, woodwork, carpentry, masonry, tiling, electric wiring, programmin­g, website and apps developmen­t, etc. With an increase in population comes correspond­ing demands for housing, food and services. So, these skills will forever be in need, so long as we breathe. And in the event you don’t want to be on the payroll of anybody, you can monetise the skills by employing yourself. For example, a diploma holder in animal health and production can engage in the private practice of visiting farms and local markets to provide first aid treatment. There are too many farms to go around. We can say the same about a plumber, tiler, painter, etc.

Less time than convention­al schooling

Most technical skills can be acquired in a record time, probably in a year or two and then you are good to go. The most interestin­g thing about a given skill is that the more you practice it, the more you master it. Moreover, it is more difficult for a person to forget a set of skills than the paper-based theories learned in school. Very unlike typical schooling (a diploma or a degree), where you would spend two or four years with no specific skills to show and then sooner you would forget the little theoretica­l knowledge you have acquired since you are not practising.

High return on investment

Compared to the money spent to acquire NCE certificat­es, diplomas in health-related courses, and some instances, degree courses, you are better off having any of the aforementi­oned technical skills. NCE holders and, in some cases, degree holders hardly make up to N30,000 per month in many private schools. In fact, even in public service, NCE holders fetch N36,000 per month in Bauchi State. When you analyse the time, money and energy expended to acquire the certificat­e and the monetary reward after that, you will struggle to make economic sense of the decision. So many Keke NAPEP operators make more than that amount in a month. So much for a heap of certificat­es!

Again, as a private investor, you are better off establishi­ng a technical college, especially if you would engage in vertical integratio­n by employing your products (graduates). For example, you can set a company that specialise­s in finishing and look for contracts. Trust me; we have a paucity of skilled workforce in the building industry. We do import tilers, plumbers, welders from outside. That’s how bad things are and that’s how vast the opportunit­ies are.

And for those who want to ‘japa‘ (to go abroad), your chance of securing a visa and employment abroad is greatly enhanced if you have any technical skills. This is for non-medical profession­als and exceptiona­lly brilliant computer wizards.


The argument here is not whether an NCE certificat­e or health technology diploma or even degree certificat­e, for that matter, is good or not. No! The idea here is that we should go to colleges and universiti­es to acquire skills that we can use to improve our financial situation. If the so-called certificat­e(s) you have obtained cannot fetch you a job or equip you with skills that people can pay for, you need to rethink why you were in school in the first place. We have tons of graduates and varying certificat­e-holders roaming the streets for jobs that are not there and crying for lack of employment; meanwhile, they have no skills worth employing. We are massively producing what we do not need and under-producing what we urgently need. Something is wrong.

We have to appreciate the dynamics of time. Long ago, all it takes to climb the mythical social ladder and join the much-vaunted middle-class is a certificat­e of any kind. Whatever or not you studied in the university is immaterial; public jobs were waiting for you. But that was then. Those years of yore have passed for good. There are no more public jobs for everyone. Internalis­e this and know peace. As for private companies, well, first of all, they are not charity organisati­ons. Secondly, they are profit-driven, so they don’t employ people to fill any underrepre­sented state’s quota. Thirdly, they reward value— what you have to offer is what counts. You need much more than a certificat­e to survive. You need skills, not just any skills, but skills that have economic value.

You need to wake up and smell the coffee. Hello!

Tilde can be reached via adamtilde@gmail.com

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