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We’re constrained by challenges of space, dearth of facilities – YABATECH Rector

We’re constrained by challenges of space, dearth of facilities – YABATECH Rector
Rector of Yaba College of Technology Oluwafemi Omokungbe
Mr. Oluwafemi Omokungbe, an engineer, assumed office about four months ago, as the substantive Rector of Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH). In this interview with journalists, he unveils his administration’s four-point agenda, challenges and his vision to lift the college to its lofty hieghts.

As the pioneer higher institution of learning in the country, what is your vision for the college?

Well, let me start by saying that this administration, under my watch, has marshaled a four-point agenda that will be the focus of the management towards the development of the college.
I want to start from where my predecessors left the institution and take it to its loftier heights. By so doing, we want to develop ourselves academically by granting study leave to staff to improve themselves.
Having said that the four-point agenda of this administration would focus extensively on these four key developmental areas, which are; Academic Improvement, Infrastructural Development, especially in Epe campus, Expansion of Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) and Welfare of staff and students.
In area of physical and infrastructural development of the college, which is central to our administration, given the limited space for expansion of the college at its Yaba main campus, the focus would be on Epe Campus, where several developmental projects would be executed to provide additional learning space for the students.
Apart from the development of physical facility, which is a critical factor to our administration, most of the existing facilities and laboratory equipment are obsolete. Indeed, in the next few years, we shall concentrate on how to build more structures to address our space constraint.
Towards achieving this, there are plans to demolish some old structures on Yaba main campus in order to give way for modern edifices.
This is necessary for us to make way for improved carrying capacity of our academic programmes by improving on the physical structures on Epe and Yaba campuses respectively.
Under this management, the building of one of the schools on Yaba campus would be renovated and converted to hostel for students to accommodate more students on campus, while a new structure would be built for the School of Management that would accommodate no fewer than seven Departments.
Still under improved infrastructural base the health sector would be upgraded to make it more functional and relevance to the health needs of members of the college community.

Is there any plan by your administration on how to transform the college to a university as planned by the Federal Government?How do intent to fund your administration’s four-point agenda?
In the area of academic development, we thank God that Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has been very helpful and supportive to us through its various interventions in the overall development of the college. The management is also looking towards the establishment of a Directorate of Research and Development to raise the bar of our academic excellence. Generally, our research should be focused towards copy technologists. So, with the directorate, they should be taking care of our research and development profile.
And, of course, most of the researches are being funded by TETFund. For instance, under the area of fabrication, TETFund has the guideline and the college is in a lead for this. We have over N200 million in the area of academic improvement unaccessed fund with the agency, which our applications to access it is already on ground.
Once this is done, we are set and ready for it.

There is a difference between making the college a university and making it a degree awarding institution. When you have a status of a university, you can award higher degrees even to Bachelor Degree. So, if we put our house in order and ensure that in every department, we have quality staff, then we can say that we are ready, rather than for us to agitate for the government to pronounce us a university.
Let me also add here that critical infrastructure is also very important when we talking about this same status. We are constrained with space and most of our equipment and facilities are obsolete. So there is need to replace them, develop our Epe campus and improve on our infrastructure. When we look at the issue of carrying capacity, we want to increase it and ensure adequate space and quality lecturers. Our roads are also deplorable and like I mentioned earlier we also intend to demolish some of the old buildings to build a befitting one.
We have been able to separate the residential area from the academic area. We intend to convert the school to hostel. At the present Rector’s Hall, we intend to build the School of Management Studies there that will house seven Departments. The present YABATECH Medical Centre will also be upgraded. And, we hope that all this will help to boost our status.
Of course, in all these, funding plays a vital role and to sustain our dreamed status. So, our plan is to improve on our Internally Generated Revenue. We are working towards a table water factory and bakery, where we will produce bottled water and bread at commercial level. We are also going to enhance the status of the YCT Consult. It was registered as Ventures. We feel it should a Limited Liability Company, and so what we will do is by engaging professionals for us to start quote for jobs outside, under YCT Consult.
Our plan is to engage professionals by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a ratio of 60-40 to run consultancy jobs for the college.
Through our inventions, we will be able to collect patents on them so that we can improve on our IGR .
Part of our challenges is that most of our classrooms are in deplorable condition. What we intend to do in this area is to upgrade the staff offices, while those members of staff who are retiring from the job can get their entitlements without delay. So, these are areas we feel will make the college to be the best in Nigeria.

You talked about staff training and development, how do you intend to monitoring the kind of programmes staff attend for training and their returning to the college after the postgraduate programmes?
In YABATECH, we have a committee that access the programmes our lecturers or other members of staff go for such that such programme will have direct benefit and impact on the college and students before they programmes could be proposed to the college management for get approval from TETFund. We ensure that the courses our lecturers are going for have direct impact on our students. We have also put mechanisms in place to guide against staff going abroad and not coming back. Again, this we do through a bond and proper monitoring.
In as much as we place high premium of human capacity development, through our open door policy, we are ensuring a policy that every year, we will have no fewer than four members of staff from each department going for their postgraduate studies. Through this we will have direct access to TETFund allocations and access such regularly.

You mentioned the fact that the college could partner the Federal Government in the nation’s rail projects, but have does the college have the capacity to do that, and whether the management has reached out to government on local content?
We are very much on it. I came in barely three months ago. We need to prepare these papers so that we can present to government and most of these things are not what you rush into. Some of our laboratories have to be in order so that we will deliver. So, efforts are being made to ensure that the laboratories are put in order. Within a given time line, I intend to have so much impact within one year of my administration. We want to develop our laboratories to produce bolts and nuts under the Consultancy so that we can come into the rail line project. Our Foundry can produce the materials used for the rail lines. Through this we want to key into the Federal Government local content arrangement to improve our internally generated revenue.
Our administration would focus on how to improve the academic profile of the college through cutting-edge research as well as introduction of new academic programmes, while we will also ensure that all existing programmes are reaccredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) or other professional accreditation bodies.
There are the plans to establish the Directorate of Research and Development, which would be directed towards technological development of the college.

Will the college reinstate the bursar?The court has ruled that certain damages should be paid to the former bursar and that he should be reinstated. What is the college doing on this?
Well, I don’t even see this as a challenge, and when you go to court, you either win or lose. I am the Rector and I have the Governing Council I report to. Whatever decision the council takes on the matter is well with me. So, let wait for the council on the issue of the bursar.
Of course, we are more concerned than that. At present, we need to put our structures back in shape and when you look at the population of students and the bed space that we have, the ratio is not something you can say you are happy about. And, we are talking about funds to put up infrastructure for the students, that is more of a challenge than paying N20 million to the bursar as directed by the court judgement.
We need to improve our laboratories systematically and the equipment that are obsolete needed to be replaced. These are more of challenges to this administration. And, don’t forget that I also have a court case that I won.

Like I said earlier, for me I report to the Council and whatever direction the council is going, I don’t have a choice.

How will your wealth of experience come into bare in ensuring a healthy relationship with the various workers’ unions?
I understand the language of unionism. The unions and management are supposed to be partners in progress. When the management is transparent, and when there is transparency in the system, there won’t be any problem and you will not even notice the activities of the unions on campus. That is why I told you that I understand the language and on my part, I will be very transparent.
More importantly, I have a plan of four years and after which that could be reviewed. Like we know, government is a continuum. So, it is now left for the incoming government to see which area will be of benefit that will have impact where the previous administration has not done it well.
You can’t automatically reject all what the previous administration has done, that will not be fair. I think that is one of the problems we have in this country. I have done due diligence for what I met on ground and I know which area to key in and that is what we are doing. I hope to have a healthy working relationship with the unions.
I want to say that proper welfare programmes for both members of staff and students would be put in place by the management to enhance the quality of lives on campus.
Thus, the management and the various workers’ unions on campus, under the new dispensation would be partners in progress, as our administration would be transparent in dealing with staff matters.


Security is a major challenge in the country today and campuses are not spared. How do you plan to raise the bar of security on campus?Currently, what is the profile of college’s IGR?
We will be talking in terms of what we can do to boost the revenue base and see that the IGR can be used for the programmes I have enumerated. But, based on the government’s policies on IGR, 25 per cent of what you make as institution must be paid back into government account or else you stand a chance of losing your grants. This we are critically looking into and we are going to follow suit. We have a working budget and we have estimated what we are going to realise from the IGR and what we are going to do with it and in terms of the projects. We will try as much as possible to ensure our IGR, through production of bread and water is greatly improved.
We shall also invest in the production of bolts and nuts, which was not done in the past so that we don’t just rely on revenue on part-time studies programme with large carrying capacity. So we cannot rely on it. Whatever area we can boost and upgrade infrastructure and improve carrying capacity for both the full and part time programmes, we will not hesitate to do that.
Some of the challenges facing the college include lack of adequate hostel facilities, good road network on campus, shortage of structures for students, obsolete laboratories, dearth of equipment, and decayed infrastructure, among others. And, we better look into how to address these.

When I said students and staff welfare, it is inclusive of security. For instance, the security apparatus we have on campus are the ones we met on ground, but we are trying to improve on that such that the college will be rid of the menace of cultism and other on towards actiovities. We are creating awareness programme and sentisising students on the use of drugs, especially the use of Tramadol and others. But for the security apparatus, we are working seriously on that.

At present there is no student’s union on campus and do you plan to reinstate it?
I am aware that at the moment there is no students’ union in the college. But, we are working towards bringing it back. I have met with their class heads and representatives of the department and we have elected some of them to be in the committee of the council. I intend to meet with the regularly.
Meanwhile, having said that, I have taken time to understudy the reason why the union was banned in the first instance. When I am satisfied with my findings, then I will be at a better position to recommend to the Governing Council for the ban to be lifted. Seriously thinking, there is a need for students to have their union, and as such the management would not have to interfere in their activities. They are going to run students’ union the way it was being run when I was a student so that it will have positive impact on their lives and the institution.
There is a programme coming up in August by the Committee of Rectors, there I will make recommendations to that Council that four or five students from each school should attend leadership training. If it is approved, we will make sure that if need be, we will take them out for retreat so that they can learn how students’ unionism and how it should be run rather than for the union to be used as political thugs. We are going to make them do it the way it was being done in the past.
There is the need for virile students union that will join hands in moving the college forward. And, I can assure you that the management will not interfere with.
Also part of our plans is to develop sporting activities on campus and encourage students’ participation in sports and games. One of the existing buildings would be developed into a centre for indoor sports

SOURCE:newtelegraph

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