Engineer Ahmed Luggard is currently the Rector of Kaura Namoda Federal Polytechnic, Zamfara State. Part of his early career was as a consultant with Afri Projects Consortium, the main management consultant of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
In 2000, Abubakar switched over to an academic career and was appointed a lecturer at Kaura Namoda Polytechnic, where he rose to become the rector of the institution. Engineer Luggard talks to ABBA ABUBAKAR KABARA on his main focus towards improving the academic scope of the institution through the introduction of more vocational courses.
Recently, the Minister of Education, Professor Rukayya Ahmed Rufa’i, constituted a seven-man ministerial visitation panel to evaluate and draw recommendation to address the poor state of federal polytechnics and colleges of education across the country. Your institution was the first to visit; what was the outcome?
Yes, the visitation panel was timely constituted, considering the unfortunate physical and academic condition of these federal institutions across the country. But I cannot, sincerely speaking, say anything about the outcome of the panel’s visitation, because that one is subject to the approval and release of white paper by the federal government.
What I can really say is that, at the time I interacted with members of the panel, it had already gone round the polytechnic and inspected the projects executed within the institution, most of which were executed during my tenure, using the internally generated fund.
I could recall that the panel was able to inspect about 50 completed projects, out of which I executed about 30 of them. And I am pleased to say that these projects became a reality through the financial prudence, collaborative focus and sustained cooperation from my staff, and commitment toward upgrading the academic and physical posture of the institution.
All the projects executed were strategically selected to meet the accreditation requirements as stipulated by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
Can you mention some of the projects you executed and their anticipated impact on the academic life of the polytechnic?
For instance, we have newly introduced Higher National Diploma (HND) in marketing, and the necessary criteria required for accrediting the programme by the National Board for Technical Education is the provision of a standard and functional mini-mart for the students to learn practical skills in marketing.
Similarly, we have also introduced HND and National Diploma in Banking and Finance, and this course also needs such mini-mart as criteria for accreditation for approval by the NBTE. In view of this requirement, we have constructed a befitting mini-mart to ensure that the two programmes are duly accredited for the approval of the NBTE.
On the issue of female education, particularly as it affects the states within the North West where there is still notable apathy to female formal education, as an experienced educationist, is there anything you are doing to improve the situation?
It is true that female enrolment from these catchment areas is remarkably very low. It is a very sad phenomenon that is becoming a source of concern, particularly among the states within the North. In this polytechnic, we also experience such setbacks. This is because parents in these areas are still reluctant to allow their female children to attend higher institutions, and even in this polytechnic, the population of female students is largely from other catchment areas outside the North West zone.
The figure from states like Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto is relatively very low, compared to that from other catchment states. It is really a serious issue, but I hope by the time we fully equip our Hospitality Management programme through the intervention of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and begin to offer Higher National Diploma in Hospitality Management, there is hope that parents will start allowing their female children to register for the course.
The programme will be particularly beneficial to female for home management, and even if they don’t work, they will be able to effectively manage their matrimonial homes in terms of good cooking and other social demands.
Similarly, our Entrepreneurship Centre is quite relevant for female students, from where they can learn various skills like fashion design, hair dressing, pomade making, which I believe will help the grandates to establish personal entrepreneurship engagement in their matrimonial homes at the end of the programme.
There is still this pending controversy on the issue of equating the university graduates with Higher National Diploma graduates in terms of salaries and other employment benefits; what is your view on this of discrimination?
This is really a lingering issue which, in my own opinion, needs to be taken seriously. In any case, we expect our lawmakers to assist in making this a reality.
I believe by the time this controversy is resolved, it would make life easier, because for us as producers of HND and ND holders, we really feel very bad to see that our own products are being discriminated and are less recognised by many employers of labour, including government, whereas when you look at the main objective of establishing polytechnics as organs of producing middle-level manpower, there is need to encourage the products of the institution, because they provide the main workforce that moves the nation’s economy.
It is obvious that for any nation to develop technologically, the middle-level manpower has to be in good position. This is what is being utilised and exploited in developed nations like China and other developing economies.
The middle-level manpower provides the necessary engineroom for a solid economic breakthrough. I strongly advocate the waving of the existing discrimination between the graduates of the two institutions in order to give a breather to the nation’s economy.
For several years, this polytechnic has failed to hold convocation ceremony for its graduating students; what has been the problem?
This is true. The last time we had a convocation was in the year 2,000. This means that for 12 years, this polytechnic has not marked a single convocation. We are planning to ensure that by the year 2013, we organise a combined convocation ceremony for our graduating students, and hopefully by the time we make a breakthrough, we hope to make it either annual event or at least once in two years. I think the preceding administrations had not been able to hold convocations due to logistic problems.
The issue of classroom accommodation still remains a problem in this institution; is there any plan to solve this?
We have already gone far toward solving this issue. We have already begun a project of providing at least one storey building as additional accommodation for students, with the hope that by the end of the year 2013, the complex will be accomplished.
What major impact do you hope to leave by the time you conclude your tenure?
Let me restate that the essence of establishing this polytechnic was to run an agricultural engineering programme. This was in view of the agricultural potential of this area where the institution was founded, where the largest percentage of the population is engaged in agriculture as the main occupation.
My ambition is that before the end of my tenure, I will mount a programme of National Diploma in Agricultural Engineering Technology, and also a National Diploma in Agricultural Technology. In addition to this, we are like going to introduce a National Diploma in Computer Engineering, and possibly a National Diploma in Library Science.
Nigeria is rated as one of the leading nations in examination malpractices; what in your opinion is responsible for this trend?
In my humble opinion, I would lay greater blame on the current too much emphasis on paper qualification as necessary requirement for securing employment. This, I believe, is main problem which inflicts a lot of damage and economic setback to the nation’s development. I strongly believe that this worrying phenomenon could be discouraged only if less emphasis is accorded to certificates and greater consideration given to practical skills.
The irony is that government agencies as well as Organized Private Sectors (OPS) tend to strongly attach much value to paper qualifications rather than practical skills. You can see that, in the current prevailing corrupt socio-economic atmosphere, the danger is that certificates could easily be obtained through so many dubious channels.
But on the other hand, one cannot possibly fake or dubiously acquire practical skills without actually undergoing practical experience within a particular time frame. One must have acquired it through physical exposure to practical experiences, which is further integrated through self determination, interest and constant practice over a period of time.
It is then obvious that if the much required emphasis could be laid on practical skills, it would certainly provide the most effective way of discouraging examination malpractices in the country. By the time we change from this attitude and begin to give priority to practical aspects, the blind race for certificates and qualifications would drastically be reduced and this will place the nation on a concrete foundation for economic and technological development.
But in our case in this polytechnic, we record very few cases of examination malpractices because we have tried to formulate and cultivate very strong rules and regulations that attract severe penalties to ensure that our products end their programmes with their certificates in the brains, and not in their hands.
We aim at producing graduates who can readily defend the knowledge and skills they have acquired in the course of their studies.
Most of our institutions of higher learning have been battling with the menace of cultism which is one of the damaging factors for healthy academic growth; how have you been coping with this scourge?
In fact, I could recall only one case last year, when students were celebrating an event. There was a breach of peace when the security personnel waded in and discovered a pistol with one of the students but, luckily, nobody was harmed. The gathering was immediately dispersed to restore peace and normalcy.
The student was immediately dismissed from the institution. I want admit that we receive appreciable cooperation from the larger civil community, particularly as we have many out-campus students who live in the outside community. The people assist us with useful information on any suspected moral miscarriage from any individual or group of students.
We maintain very strong cordial relations with the community and this gives us the opportunity to detect any potential movement related to cultism. I can say we are very lucky that this institution is free of from such cases of cult activities.