TETFund Boss, Others Fault Conversion Of Colleges To Varsities

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The Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Arc. Sonny Echono, has expressed dissatisfaction with the growing trend of converting public colleges of education to universities, observing that the development is necessary.

This is even as the President of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Dr Smart Olugbeko, warned of the negative consequences of converting public colleges of education to universities in a country with acute shortage of teachers qualified at the basic level of education.

Both Echono and Olugbeko, spoke in Abuja at a three-day national conference and workshop on Digital Pedagogy and Fundable Research Proposal Writing organised by COEASU in collaboration with the Committee of Provosts.

 The duo described the development as disturbing, considering the important role colleges of education play in producing teachers at the basic education level for the country.

The TETFund Executive Secretary while expressing discontent over the development questioned the rationale behind it when existing colleges of education were not producing enough teachers for primary schools in the country.

Echono appealed to the Federal and State governments to give priority attention to the development of basic education in the country.

He cited instances of Germany and Japan where their teachers at the basic level earn more than their counterparts at the tertiary level. 

“This penchant to want to convert colleges of education to universities, frankly I see no need for it. Universities already have faculties of education. And many of the conventional universities have this already. Why don’t we produce enough teachers for this basic level first?

“We can have some level of specialisation because improvements come. And some of them already have that. But do we want to convert all our colleges of education to universities when we are not producing enough teachers for our primary schools?

“And you know the concept of the pyramid. The highest number of enrolment is at the primary level. Because people begin to drop out as they move to higher level. So that’s where we need the highest number of teachers. And in countries that get it right, I can give examples of Germany and Japan. It is the teachers at the basic level that earn more than the teachers even at the tertiary level.”

Also speaking, Dr Olugbeko warned that there would be negative consequences if there are no colleges of education in the country.

The move, the COEASU President argued, is a misplaced priority on the part of government.

The academic called on government to borrow a leaf from China where universities are being converted to technical institutions.

“Doing that is at the peril of basic level of education. Because when we talk about colleges of education, they were established for the purpose of catering for the basic level of education. And this is the level of education that anybody that wants to be literate will need to pass through. They are specially dedicated to train people that will teach at this level.

“Therefore, if because our primary schools have collapsed as a result of privatisation of primary schools at the detriment of public primary schools, therefore government because most of them are elitist on their thinking and orientation, what they believe is that tertiary education is all about universities. And that is why they keep on converting colleges of education to universities at the detriment of the system”, he said.

He equally condemned the development in Lagos State where he said all state-owned polytechnics and colleges of education have been converted to universities.

He continued: “In Lagos State today, there is no polytechnic, college of education at the level of the state. 

“They have converted all of them to universities and this will have dire consequences on the state because why countries that are making waves in technology are converting their universities to polytechnics, as it was done in China, instead what we have in Nigeria is at the reverse where we see our legislators sponsoring bills to convert colleges of education to universities because they already have existing structures. To us, this will have dire consequences on our education,” he stated.

It would be recalled that over the years, governors and members of the National Assembly came under fire over what was tagged as the unlawful proliferation of universities in the country.

LEADERSHIP reports that no fewer than 24 polytechnics and colleges of education have been converted to universities by the federal and state governments of recent.

Prominent among other Unions that have condemned the conversion of Colleges and Polytechnics into Universities is the  Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

ASUU for instance, had warned against the establishment of new universities amid paucity of funds for the sustainability of the established institutions.

Experts also argued that the trend of upgrading polytechnics and colleges of education to universities was becoming worrisome considering the function the two cadres play in producing middle-level manpower.

Polytechnic education provides technical and vocational training, technology transfer and skills development to enhance the socio-economic development of the country, while colleges of education are tasked with producing professionally-trained teachers for vocational and technical secondary schools to meet the nation’s requirements for technological take-off as provided in the National Policy on Education.


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