• Friday, July 19, 2024
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We will make Akawe Torkula Polytechnic premier institution tailored to today’s industrial needs – Rector

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Martins Moses Agena holds a PhD in Development Communication as his area of expertise and scholarship; he has been a lecturer at the Federal College of Education, Zaria since when he was returned to the institution after his successful National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He also worked as a Special Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Shippers Council; he is a fellow of Chartered Institute of Administration in Nigeria. Recently, he was appointed by Governor Hyacinth Iormem Alia of Benue State as the second Rector of Akawe Torkula Polytechnic (ATP) Makurdi, Benue State. In this Exclusive interview with NATHANIEL GBAORON, the don spoke on his vision for the relatively new state Polytechnic. Excerpts:

Congratulations on your recent appointment!

Thank you.

What’s your vision for the polytechnic, and how do you plan to build on the foundation laid by your predecessor?

The polytechnic has a history, from Murtala College of Art and Science to School of Remedial Studies, to School of Basic Studies, to school of Advanced and Professional Studies. And in 2020, the institution was upgraded into a polytechnic. The state polytechnic is named after a former traditional paramount ruler of the Tiv nation by name, Alfred Akawe Torkula. So, that is where we have Akawe Torkula Polytechnic. We aim to make Akawe Torkula Polytechnic a premier institution and leader in providing excellent technical and vocational education with cutting-edge skills tailored to today’s industrial needs. We will strive to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and research, contributing to the development of a knowledge-based economy in our dear state, and beyond the country.

The past rector in his own way, made efforts towards having accreditation of some courses. But for some reasons which I can’t tell exactly, that he couldn’t make sufficient progress. Within the four years of the institution, infrastructural efforts were zero, administrative efforts were nothing to write home; Which I can’t tell exactly what he suffered, but I must appreciate him. It is now for me to give the Benue people what they need in the 21st century as a school, that will give them the required technical skills that will respond to realities of today’s world, all these in line with the developmental vision of Rev. Fr. Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia, the executive governor of Benue State.

As the second rector of the Polytechnic, what new initiatives and strategies do you intend to introduce to take the institution to the next level?

Thank God I’m a new rector in the 21st century, and I think like a 21st century scholar, rethinking education, meaning training people from study to work. My own target is not for me to produce graduate that will be looking for a job. I think the cardinal target is to give them the required skills that they will be self-reliant, self-employed, and they will be employers of labour, not for them to be desperate. Because the design of a polytechnic education as a technical institution does not require you going to labour here and there looking for job, but the requirement cardinally is for you to be productive in yourself, for you to acquire skills that will make you productive and give to the society what the society is looking for.

How do you plan to address the challenges of infrastructure development, staff recruitment, and student enrollment in a relatively new institution?

Permit me to acknowledge the effort of my own boss, which is the governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Reverend Father Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia, who in one year in office has been able to demonstrate to the Benue people that he has the capacity for them to provide infrastructure they need. And then, because he had a keen interest in education, he talked to me and said, Doctor Martins, what can we do to make that polytechnic an institution that will make our people self-reliant and tackle the issue of unemployment in our own country? And I feel that the governor did not just call me to come and remain there.

He has a plan to visit the institution in a manner that he is visiting other institutions. And permit me to tell you that science and technical education is what is attractive in the 21st century. There are so many non-governmental organisations that are willing to see the effort of the peculiar science and technical school for them to give contributions. Now, it is our own responsibility to garnish the institution in a manner that will be attractive to international organisations and federal government establishments that are wired for purpose of support for us to address that institutional infrastructurally and academically.

What’s your approach to academic excellence, and how do you plan to ensure the polytechnic’s programmes meet industrial needs and global standards?

The target of a polytechnic education is 60percent practical and 40percent theoretical. That is to say, my target is to harness human resources that will be on ground as technicians and then theoretically for scholars who will be training my students. I have them globally because we are in an age where boundaries are broken. My resource persons who are based in the US, who are based in UK, Canada and other parts of the world, could remain there, but I have found them already, because my first week and second week in office, I started making contact for me to gather resource persons that have relevant technical experience that will train my students to meet the global standard. So, while they stay there in the country, I have already started assembling technicians and technologists in relevant skills for them to be on ground so that what they learn then, the practical aspect will be sufficiently given to them so that they will be self-reliant and be of value to our own society. So, I think my approach is just for me to use that institution, tackle issue of unemployment and tackle issue of sustainable development.

How do you intend to foster partnerships with local industries, businesses, and communities to enhance research, innovation, and job creation?

Nigerians are quite talented. What makes an expert in any discipline are three basic requirements. Your own native ability, training and practice. If the local industries are already there for them to give an avenue for my students to practice, that’s fine. Then we have to partner with them. We can’t do without them because they need us to give them the human resources that will service their own local industry. Our institution also needs the local industries for our students to get the experience that is required. So, it is give and take. The target is for us to produce manpower for them to help people to support their industry technically and then they are there also for our institutions to get our students to get experience on training. So industrial working relationship, our students and the local and international industries is what is very, very key and what we have to leverage on.

What’s your plan for staff development and capacity building to ensure they’re equipped to deliver high-quality education?

I think it is to give oxygen to the institution because I met it in a state of coma. We have already registered a consultancy firm called Akawe Torkula Polytechnic Consultancy Services Limited. The cardinal target of this Consultancy Services Limited is for it to be training our workforce from time to time to partner with public service institute in the state and other related training institutions home and abroad to keep our students, our staff abreast. So, I think we need to perfect our staff for them to give the service that is required to our own students. We cannot allow them to remain with the knowledge they had in the past for them to be giving our students what is not reliable in the 21st century. Already we have set the machinery in motion to be training both academic and non-academic staff for purpose of excellence so that our students will not lack any knowledge that they require.

How do you plan to enhance the student experience, including extracurricular activities, sports, and welfare services?

Well, that is the cardinal target and ambition of the Fr. Alia administration, how to expose our students and to make our product marketable. Already, sport wise, we have created a sport office. The responsibility of this sport office is to harness the skills available in this institution from both the student and the staff, and to create available opportunities and avenue for them to practice the talent they have, and then to train them from time to time to make them very, very productive, which the governor is much willing, he has already reintroduced the issue of scholarship in the state. So the students that will have the required skills, we are going to select them and link them to international community, to various institutions and organisations abroad that have what we are looking for to perfect our students so that our product will be marketable globally. That is just the dream of His Excellency, Rev. Fr Alia and we are already leveraging on that to succeed.

What’s your strategy for resource mobilisation and management to ensure the polytechnic’s financial sustainability?

Well, the polytechnic, as a science and technical school is not relying on state government solely for purpose of financing. We are going to make the institution quite attractive, quite prospective, for other non-governmental organisations and the federal government to see the need to support the institution. By the time they see the prospect of growth of the institution and the possibilities of producing graduates that will be of value to the society, we will not lack funding at all, because there are so many agencies home and abroad. We had a contact with MacArthur foundation.

They were willing to support science and technical in the school. But of course, I need to put the institution in order before we approach them, for them to see what to do for the institution. So, we’re not relying 100percent on the state government. Already, the state government is the owner of the institution. I don’t need to bother myself about it. The state government will be doing statutorily what is expected of the government, but what I’m going to target most is external funding so that the institution will reach the level we want. Because I have five years and my target is after three years, I should be able to be proud of the institution, make it global, make it a leader of science and technology in this country.

How do you plan to promote the polytechnic’s brand and reputation locally, nationally and internationally?

Well, by the time our students are excelling and we are marketing them, our consultancy services, already we have introduced up to 20 skills. 20 skills we intend to give other graduates who are on the street without skills for them to be marketable. Data analysis, project management, and cyber security and all that. Up 20 of these skills, we have assembled these skills there to be given to other graduates and people who are willing to be skilled and to market them. Because our international friends are already there, they have introduced areas of giving our product international certification for them to be marketable globally. So, the target is not just for us to train them and make them local students, no, we don’t intend to do that, because we are living; we are moving with the time and we’re moving with the ties so that our product will not be lacking behind. We are ready and we’re prepared for all.

What’s your timeline for achieving specific milestones and goals during your tenure as rector, and how will you measure success?

Of course, I have timeline, I have five years appointment. So, my target is to achieve all that I want in three years, because by the time the signature of the governor is there in three years, then the remaining two years will be for polishing. So, whatever I want to do, I’m planning within three years to achieve, to take the polytechnic where it should be, globally, and then the remaining two years will just be for polishing. So, my timeline for making the polytechnic to be what it should be in the world is three years.

What kind of support do you expect from stakeholders at all level?

Of course, I think with time there is this awareness we are creating and what the stakeholders need to know about technical education, because if you have a PhD but you don’t have the skills that is required of today’s society, it will not help you. By the time the stakeholders discover what the polytechnic is doing, I think their support will be enormous. This is an institution that has an age of over 48 years because that institution was established in 1976, but upgraded to a polytechnic in 2020, and then between 1976 to 2020, already people have passed there that are very critical stakeholders in this country. They have a stake because that institution contributed to their lives. We are going to ask them, now that the institution gave you this, what are you bringing back? And so, the stakeholders will have to cooperate because they have people who have children, they have trained them in their universities, and they need the skills for them to excel in the country, because what makes you relevant in the 21st century is your own skill, what you can offer. It’s not all about the certificate you have. And then, our target is to give the people the technical skills that will give them what they need.

What other thing do you have to tell Nigerians regarding support to both your administration and the Polytechnic?

What I want Benue people to know is that we are in an era of post-modernism. Post modernism is an era beyond globalisation. We were there in the modern era, technology was emphasised. But in post-modernism, what to do with the technology is what is also emphasised. Now, you have the technical know-how. How do you intend to leverage this technical know-how for the better benefit of the society? So, people should have a rethink of what a polytechnic education is, because the jobs are not there. Benue State and Nigerians should know that. Let’s give attention to this polytechnic to help our society. It’s one thing to be learned. It’s another thing to be relevant and of value in the society.