Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I WAS greatly moved and saddened by Reuben Abati's description in The Sunday Guardian of May 4, about the decay in our educational system in a piece titled "Dynasties of Poverty and the Education Challenge." In particular as an engineer, I felt embarrassed that students of the University of Ibadan "had taken to the streets to protest incessant power outage and lack of water supply on campus. They held the campus hostage and then spilled into the Ibadan community". Yet the university has a Faculty of Engineering!This situation need not have arisen and the challenge facing the nation is to prevent a future occurrence. This can easily be done because all we have to do is to change to an educational system, which will make our university graduates productive at an earlier age, and be able to become self-employed immediately on leaving the university if they so wish. This will not be difficult to achieve in the case of graduates in engineering for example. All that is required is to revise the curriculum of engineering undergraduates along the lines of undergraduates in the medical profession, so that practical training becomes an integral part of the curriculum for undergraduates studying engineering. This also means that just as teaching hospitals are established for the training of medical students, Engineering Production Centres (EPC) will need to be established in universities with faculties of engineering for the practical training of engineering undergraduates. In such a university, the EPC will offer services to not only the university community but also the society at large in such areas as construction of houses, roads, water supply, power supply, telecommunications, and waste management. The EPC will run public transport systems on its university campus and environs and also carry out repairs on vehicles for members of the public. Mechanised agriculture will also be an activity of the EPCs putting to use large hectares of land available on many university campuses. The EPCs will also manufacture spare parts so that they will eventually manufacture whole appliances, vehicles, plant and equipment. In this connection, an EPC will be a useful medium for acquiring technology from the technologically advanced countries.In the area of research, the EPCs will be concerned mainly with matters, which can be directly applied to improve production and reduce costs in their areas of operation rather than pursuing academic research at the frontiers of knowledge. Another major area of activity of an EPC should be the development of alternative sources of energy, which are environmentally friendly, such as low head hydroelectric power plants and solar energy.The cost of setting up an EPC will be minimal since all the buildings and most of the facilities required by it will be built by the students and it should become not only self-financing but also a net revenue earner within a couple of years.This concept can be extended to other areas of our national development. For instance in the case of computers which may be considered to be currently in its infancy in the world despite being ubiquitous, there is no reason why a university in Nigeria with a faculty of computer science should not write programmes which can be widely used in such fields as education, banking, public administration, construction, etc. Such a faculty can even manufacture computers at an EPC. Similarly, universities having faculties of geology and petroleum can own and operate oil fields, thereby making local content in the oil and gas industry a certainty. Even in the area of shipping where the Cabotage Law enacted since 2004 has not brought any change due to lack of suitable manpower, universities along our coastline in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar can establish faculties of marine engineering for the production of the necessary manpower.Finally, by thus adopting our own "home grown" strategy such as this for our development, we shall be contributing to the debate about whether the intellect of the black man is inferior to that of other races of mankind.

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