- Says The Institution’s Owned 100 Per Cent By Oyo Government
Professor Ayobami Salami is the Vice Chancellor of the First Technical University. This eloquent technocrat had an interview session with PMParrot/Parrot Xtra Magazine recently in his office located on Ibadan-Lagos Expressway. During the session, he spoke about how the institution has been trudging on despite all odds. Excerpts:
How has the journey been since the university took off last year?
We thank God for His mercy. We also thank you, our friends from the media
for being our partners in progress. I appreciate the tremendous support we have received right from the word go. We thank God that skepticism has gradually given way to commendation. We have been in the business for the past one year. Like I said, the media is part of the success story.
But what makes The First Technical University different from a normal Polytechnic or conventional University?
My usual answer to this is that the Polytechnic is where people are trained for skills – where you have technicians and technologists. The university is the centre where managers are trained. The Polytechnic graduates are supposed to have the skills and not really the theoretical aspect. But the Technical University is the place you combine both skill and managerial abilities. And even, we can interrogate that further. People are already bothered that the Polytechnic graduates are not really coming out with the skills they are supposed to have. The same thing applies to the University graduates we produce these days. Do they have the managerial ability? The problem with the Nigerian educational system is that we have the skill gap. This is because when they graduate, they cannot be subjected to what I will call ‘plug and play’. They cannot be readily employed and ready to deliver. This is where we come in. The First Technical University is not only here to address the issue of knowledge gap, we will also address what we call the skill gap in this country.
The name of the University was recently changed, why?
The name was not changed. The Act establishing the University was amended by the Oyo State House of Assembly. What followed it was not a name change but a modification from The Technical University Ibadan to the First Technical University Ibadan.
Permit me to say that what we are doing here is different. This is why we believe that other state governments in Nigeria will soon start to copy and replicate what we are doing at the First Technical University. We are the first to do this in this part of Africa. There is a Technical University in Ghana but I will say here that it did not take off like we did as a technical university. We are here to assert our place in history.
Can you enlighten us on the issue of the ownership of the university?
Today, as I am speaking with you, the First Technical University is owned 100 per cent by the Government of Oyo State under His Excellency, Senator Abiola Ajimobi who has been doing his best to make things work for us here. What the government is doing is to allow private bodies to complement its efforts. There is a window provided to allow the private and organized sectors to play roles. But what we tell anyone coming in is that they will come in as a non-profit making partner.
We encourage those we call the ‘Angel investors’ – these are people who are expected to see what we do here as service and thus come in to complement the mission and vision.
We also expect people who will partner us without expecting recognition. In the same vein, we equally love to accommodate ‘legacy donors’ who wish to immortalize the names of loved ones or their names by sowing seeds here on our campus. For example, Chief (Dr) Tunde Afolabi’s AMNI International Petroleum Company is providing the AMNI International Institute here and it will cost over one billion naira. They are not expecting any return. Anybody who wishes to partner us with the expectation of getting returns should look elsewhere.
Are your courses accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC)?
I can boldly say yes to this. Infact, when we started, we had 14 courses. We ended up accrediting 15. The commission found out that we had made provisions for the 15th course. For now, we run Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics with Electronics and others. We also run some highly specialized courses like Biomedical Engineering which also runs in the University of Lagos. We started at the same time. In addition, we run Cyber Security. As far as this particular course is concerned, we are the only institution to runs it in Nigeria. In addition, we also offer Software Engineering. With these specialized courses, we hope to get our students prepared to solve societal problems. They will be trained on how to write computer programmes to help the society.
I will say it here too that our students will be expected to write projects that will provide solutions to one or two problems in the society from the perspective of the course they are studying here. They must do this before they graduate.
How will the University avoid strike actions?
The First Technical University will not be plagued by the strike epidemic that is common in public and conventional universities in Nigeria. If a student does not fail, we can easily predict date of graduation. By the way, what will be the reason for our staff members to embark on strike action? I don’t think we will go this way because we are proactive when it comes to the issue of staff welfare. We pay hand allowance and others. Our staff members have the best retirement package.
People said your school fees are on the high side…
Well, this can be explained. But I will tell you, indigents but brilliant students can have access to a space here. But we will not subsidize the rich. However, we will not deny the poor. For now, we have raised over N700 million worth of scholarships for indigent students. This in essence means that we have created avenues for people who are qualified but do not have means. Once students come in, everything, including field trips, chemicals, practicals are taken care of. This is a university where the government and the parents collaborate to secure the future of our youths.
What of your enrolment statistics?
Our students are not many. We matriculated 183 students when we took off. We are not in competition with anybody. We have a specific design that we must follow. The design is for us to have 24 students, maximum, in a class. We are not expected to mass produce.
Permit me to add here too that right from inception, we planned the internalization of our courses. That is why we have a working relationship with the Technical University in Texas, the United States of America. We are bench-marking with the very best. It means that parents who want American exposure for their wards should come to us at the First Technical University.