Rector, Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State, Arc. (Dr.) Olusegun Olanrewaju Aluko in this interview with AbuSatar Hamed, talks extensively about the developmental trends in the institution. Excerpts.
What has been responsible for the relative peace in the institution?
I am happy that we have become the darling of parents, unlike in the past when the story was different. Today, Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro is the most sought-after polytechnic in Nigeria. We have been maintaining that standard in the past three to four years and we intend doing so.
If a leader wants to discipline his subordinates, he too must be disciplined. If a leader wants integrity from his subordinates, he too must also demonstrate integrity so that people will know what he likes and dislikes. My colleagues in the academic and management as well as students know that I will not tolerate indiscipline and I’m happy with this. This has been one of the greatest achievements; and has been one of the things that have helped us to tame the monster called cultism. As a rector, I don’t know any student as cultist, but if you let me know that you are one or anything of such, there are rules and regulations, as well as penalties in the school that deal with that. Once a student of this institution violates any of our laws, there will be fair trial, but justice must take its course. All our students know that although, there will be fair trial, but if at the end of the day a student is found culpable of an offence, he or she will pay for it. I’m glad to let you know that we have never bent our rules no matter who is involved either the son of a staff or anybody, including myself; that’s why our students have become most disciplined you can ever found in any higher institution in the country today. We have rectified that.
What contributed to the seemingly large population then was because results of examinations were not being released early enough. Now, six weeks after sitting for an examination, students must get their results. If a student supposed to be withdrawn, we no longer hesitate to advise him or her to do so. In all our courses now, we stick to carrying capacity.
Can you tell us about dichotomy between degree and HND holder?
Yes, we’re in competition with degree-awarding universities, but our products know our worth and those employers of our products also know their worth. For your information, despite declining interest in Polytechnic education in the country, records have shown that 50 per cent of those who apply for Polytechnic admission in the country seek to do so with us. I believe that if other Polytechnics strive for competency, we can turn the tide, particularly when government appears to have removed the dichotomy between, HND and BSc.
However, we still have challenges in its discriminative aspect, which is though not of anybody’s making, but of the mind. Despite the removal of dichotomy, there is still discrimination which government can’t remove. I believe parents and guardians who always prefer to send their children and wards to Universities instead of Polytechnics can remove this discrimination which I believe will take time to go. I’m of the opinion that it will go as soon as the economics of the country improves with Polytechnic graduates getting more employed than their University graduate counterparts. I’m not speaking just as a Rector of a Polytechnic, but as a scholar. I believe that Nigeria can only get skilled labours in Polytechnics than Universities. For example, in this Polytechnic, there are fabulous things that our students have done in areas of welding/fabrication and electrical/electronic that no university can do. Recently, our Government Council members visited us and they were highly impressed with our students’ technological performances. I believe no nation; including Nigeria can ever develop without the development of skills. One of the challenges that the Minister Of Education has given us is that we should develop indigenous technology so as to be able to drive the economy of our country and the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro has keyed into this.
What about the curriculum?
As much as I believe that Polytechnic curriculum is different from that of university; at the same time, if you award a degree in the Polytechnic, I can best assure government that the degree will work for government more than the degrees awarded in conventional Universities. It’s a matter of government taking the rights political decision. There is a programme being run in the United Kingdom called “Apprenticeship” whereby students go to the industry for four days and attend classroom for just one day; at the end of the programme, they are awarded degree and Masters. Infact, they have even started running Doctoral Degree. You can’t see HND holder’s subservient to any degree holder outside Nigeria. I guess you know that products of Polytechnic pass the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Nigeria, ICAN examination more than degree holders. So what’s government waiting for? I make bold to say that a technical Polytechnic student will beat arms down his colleague from the same department of a University and that’s where the government has missed it and I’m glad that they are gradually coming back to it. We’re not talking about theory, policy; we’re talking about skilled development.
How is your relationship with the various workers’ union in the school?
When I was chairman, I used to tell my members that strike was not the solution to any labour problem on campus and it should be sparingly used because it’s the limit of union’s power. To me dialogue; is a better option to industrial strike. You may want to find out that as ASUU chairman here, we did not record any single strike because I let them know that it was not the best way of resolving issues. To me, strike should be sparingly used by any reasonable union.
What is the secrete of your success?
Every assignment has its own challenges, but one thing I have developed, is that I communicate very well with everyone. I’m transparent with them so that one is not short changes and another one endangered. The primary aim of being here is for the students to be taught through the school fees they pay. It’s better to keep the students in school, finish on time, so that we do not spend more time. That’s why we have a stable academic calendar unlike what obtains in other Polytechnics and even Universities. As an institution, God has been helping us and we have not been hiding anything from our governing members, members of staff and even students.