*SCIENCE AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA:
AN ANTIDOTE TO CONTEMPORARY SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHALLENGES
PROF. BASHIR GARBA, MFR
(FCSN, FICCON, FSESN, FCAI, FICent, CChem, MRSC)
Secretary to the State Government
Sokoto State, Nigeria
*Being Lecture presented at the 24th Convocation of the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, 7th November, 2017.
It is generally believed that, the global political and socio-economic landscape is experiencing rapid changes. There is no doubt therefore, we are living in an age in which the role of Science and Technical Education becomes evident every day. Globalisation is creating considerable opportunities and challenges. Its impact on national economies is driven by significant progresses in Science and Technological development initiatives as exemplified by Plethora of breakthroughs in biotechnology, space research, Information and Communication Technology, energy development among others. Thus, Science and Technical Education plays fundamental role in achieving sustainable development such as in wealth creation, improvement in the quality of life and real economic growth and transformation in our society. It is through Science and Technology that we can harness the forces of nature and to transform the raw resources with which nature endows mankind into goods and services for better quality of life. In fact, the wealth, influence and power in the world political scene of any nation depend largely in her capacity and capability to utilise its Science and Technical Education results for socio-economic benefits. Advances in Science and Technology can help to diversify the economy, by improving productivity in sectors like Agriculture. The performances of Science and Technical Education results/output in the recent times became topical issues. Various stakeholders have called for concerted efforts for repositioning of the economy with clearly defined roles for Science and Technology. While Government and its agencies ensure the establishment of an enabling environment and creation of the constitutional framework to stimulate investment in Science and Technology, the private sector also plays the pivotal role of identifying and nurturing investment in Science and Technology results which will eventually create the much needed employment and wealth for sustainable development. It is on this backdrop and in line with our various national policies on Science and Technology as well as Technical Education that I considered the topic for the 24th Convocation Lecture as apt and in line with the present administration change agenda for sustainable development and for self-reliance.
Education constitutes the core of human development. It opens up opportunities for both individual and group empowerment. It is a vital tool for achieving sustainable development goals of any nation. Human capacity development anchored on strong learning system is central to the attainment of government policies on self-reliance. Education is the most crucial instrument for empowering young people with knowledge and skills which in turn provide them access to the productive employment. The ability to acquire and utilise knowledge and skills effectively is the key to the growth and development that will propel socio-economic development in Nigeria.
Thus, the importance of education to human beings is obvious to require pedantic explanation, especially in this forum, which is blessed with personalities who have been so much attached to education and intellectual endeavours. Education is a human right that should be accorded to all human beings solely by virtue of being human. Among prominent instruments that provide for education as fundamental human rights are:
i. Universal declaration of Human Right (1948)
ii. The International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
iii. The African Charter on Human and Peoples Right (1981)
iv. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution, especially the section alluding to the Fundamental Human Rights and Obligations of Government to direct its policy to ensure that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
On the other hand, relationship between education and development is well established. It has been documented that schooling improves productivity, health and reduces negative features of life in all ramifications. In the Islamic context, the Holy Prophet has categorically declared that pursuit of knowledge is compulsory to all Muslims Men and Women. The importance and linkage of education to the development of any society is well known. It is in recognition of this importance that the International Community and Governments all over the world have made commitments for citizens to have access to education.
Undoubtedly, overcoming literacy and ignorance will form a basis for accelerated national development and by extension the development of human civilisation. Incontrovertible evidence abounds which illustrates that education is crucial to the development of the community and the nation. Accordingly, past and present governments have implemented many policies and programmes that have addressed issues and problems of educational development. It also reduces the rural to urban drift.
2.0 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Science and technology embody the paradigms, knowledge, skills and techniques by which we understand, relate with, control or exploit nature and directly and indirectly both ourselves and our neighbours. In many instances, the course of human history is, in part, the history of science and technology. Science and Technology are to modern life what the hands are to the body. They are used to harness the forces of nature and transform the raw resources with which nature endows man into goods and services for better quality of life. In fact, the wealth, influence and power in the world political scene of any nation depend largely on her capacity and capability to utilise science and technology for socio-economic benefits.
Science is a form of knowledge that seeks to describe and explain the natural and physical world and its place in the universe. Occasionally, the fundamental theories, concepts and structures of science change but, for the most part, the basic ideas of science such as the cellular basis of life, the laws of energy the particle theory of matter have proven stable. However, science is not only a body of knowledge but also a way of knowing. Scientific investigation involves exploration, experimentation, observations, measurement, analysis and the dissemination of data. These activities require specific skills and habits of mind, for example, accuracy, discipline and integrity in the application of scientific principles are fundamental to scientific activity.
Technology includes much more than the knowledge and skills related to computers and their applications. Technology is both in form of knowledge that uses concepts and skills from other disciplines (including science) and the application of this knowledge to meet an identified used or solve a specific problem using materials, energy and tools. The method of technology consists of inventing or modifying devices, structures, systems or processes. Technology is also a way of knowing and a process of exploration and experimentation. Technological investigation involves the application of methods known as design process, which in turn involves the use of concepts and procedures, such as the identification of a need or problem and the selection of a best solution. Science and Technology is significant to government, especially at this period when a number of programmes are to be embarked upon aimed at achieving the Change Agenda of the present administration.
It is interesting to note that Science and Technology is now globally recognised as critical in the socio-economic development of any nation such that those nations where Science and Technology are given top priority support are the ones making waves in all sectors of the economy. The performance of the Science and Technology sub-sector has in recent times become a topical issue. Various stakeholders have called for concerted efforts from the public and private sectors to reposition the economy with clearly defined roles for each sector.
While government and its Agencies ensure the establishment of an enabling environment and the creation of the institutional framework to stimulate investment, the private sector plays the pivotal role of identifying and nurturing investment in Science and Technology, which will eventually create the much needed employment and wealth for the nation.
Science and technology both exist in a broader and economic context. They are affected by the values and choices of individuals and governments and in turn have a significant impact on society. The world as we know it today, has been affected in many important ways by science and technology. For example, science has radically altered and expanded our understanding of the earth and space, of the workings of human body, and of the ways in which living things interact; technology has revolutionised the way we communicate and made vast changes in our lives through the discovery of new drugs and materials. It is important therefore, that we see science and technology in this wider context as endeavours with important consequences for people.
3.0 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
It is important to note that the fundamental purpose of technology education is to produce all types and levels of technological manpower required by the economy and, in so doing, extend the realm of practical human possibilities through research. The survival of Nigeria as a nation in the advancing world of technology requires progress towards these two goals.
The 1999 Constitution of the FRN requires governments in the federation to promote technology and science education. The purpose is to cultivate the knowledge and rationale mind needed to maintain the good life, democracy and enlightened humanity; produce scientists for national development; further the cause of science in human and national development; and service technology education as the provider of fundamental scientific knowledge used by technology. The cultivation of a scientific culture through universal basic science education is necessarily a national objective of Nigeria as a growing democracy. It is realised that for popular suffrage to succeed, the electorate must be equipped with the national abilities to make enlightened choice of their governments and participate in their governance. It is believed that democracy in Nigeria will thrive to the extent of the grip of scientific culture on the people.
One major weak point in the educational system in Nigeria has always been in the science and technology sector. This was due to various factors, the most important being the limited objective of the earliest providers of western education in Nigeria. As far as the colonial government, the policy maker, was concerned, all it needed from the natives was a crop of Nigerians who could assist with the colonial administration as clerks, court interpreters, etc. and as administrators to replace expatriates, especially during the post-world war economic depression when it was no longer economical or fashionable for the colonial government to bring expatriates to occupy middle-level administrative positions in Nigeria.
Another end-user of the products of colonial education was the colonial trading companies, which also needed interpreters, accounts clerks and the like to facilitate their trade with the hinterland. Since there was no attempt to add value locally to the raw materials they traded in, such as palm-oil, palm kernel, cocoa and other minerals, there was no special need to have educated Nigerians with high technical knowhow in any appreciable level. On the other hand, most Nigerians preferred liberal education to science and technical education for their children because it provided ready white-collar jobs. Education was indeed regarded as a means to liberate their children from the tedium of farming and other menial jobs.
4.0 INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENT IN THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SECTOR IN NIGERIA
Government, given its pre-eminent position in a third world setting with regards to the management of scarce resources, has over the years devoted considerable and continuing interest in the effective application of research and development efforts in Science and Technology to the sustainable industrialisation of the nation. This interest has found expression in various measures directed towards the establishment and implementation of a policy framework for the acquisition and utilisation of science and technology for national development. Available records show that the interest of government in research and development in science and technology predates the attainment of independence by Nigeria in 1960.
Thus, in addition to the valuable applications-oriented work of research institutes, the efforts of government towards the development of the nations scientific and technological research capability was complemented by its support for university-based researches following the establishment of University College, Ibadan in 1948, later renamed the University of Ibadan in 1962, and with the emergence of other Universities thereafter. Apart from the establishment of centres of research and development activities in science and technology, however, the need for effective co-ordination of research and development activities, as well as the related issue of the supervision of both research institutes, engaged the attention of government soon after independence.
The efforts of various post-independence governments towards meeting this need are encapsulated in the chequered history of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, which has been characterised since birth by merger with another Ministry, unmerging, outright dissolution and later, rebirth. It will be recalled that the establishment of the Ministry of Science and Technology, as the successor organ of government to the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) by Act No. 1 of 1980 was anchored on the continuing desire of Government to ensure the effective and results-oriented co-ordination of national research and development effort in science and technology. In this regard, the functions and mandate of the Ministry indicate the continuing effort of Government towards the attainment of the sustained technological advancement of the nation, and hence, its socio-economic well-being, through co-ordinating promotional and supportive activities of the Ministry.
In furtherance of the above effort of government towards the co-ordination and promotion of science and technology activities and in keeping with its mandate, the Ministry evolves and published in 1986 a national policy on science and technology. The policy document enunciated guidelines and objectives and presented strategies for implementation with a view to providing guidelines for science and technology activities in both the public and private sectors of the economy. The establishment of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in 1980, with a Minister of Cabinet rank as its head, was therefore a significant and positive development activity. By providing science and technology with a voice in the Cabinet, the emergence of the Ministry effectively placed a scientific technological research within the mainstream of policy formulation, articulation and implementation.
It is to be noted that given the very pervasive nature of science and technology, virtually all the Federal Ministries are charged with responsibilities, which depend heavily on scientific and technological process in their applications. Thus, for example, apart from the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology which co-ordinates research and development activities, the Federal Ministry of Education, given its mandate for manpower development, also promotes research and development activities in Science and Technology through the efforts of the various Universities, Polytechnics and other tertiary educational institutions which operate under the aegis of the Ministry of Education.
Other Federal Ministries which, because of their activities may be described as Sectoral Ministries with regard to science and technology include the Ministries of Agriculture, Aviation, Commerce, Tourism, Communications, Health, Petroleum Resources, Solid Minerals Development and Works and Housing.
Table 1: Profile of Government Expenditure in Science and Technology
FMST CAPITAL ALLOCATIO FG CAPITAL BUDGET (%)
Table 2: Budgetary Allocation to Educational Sector in Nigeria
Total Recurrent Expenditure (NBillion)
Allocation to the education sector (NBillion)
Allocation to education as a % of total education expenditure
Source: CBN Statistical Bulletin (2014)
5.0 ROLE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS/TARGETS
The concept of sustainable development is as a result of some decades of debate on the international scene as to how the earths resources should be managed. The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) provided the baseline conceptualisation of sustainable development. In 1992, World leaders under the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio De Janeiro provided a framework for actions needed to make the transition towards sustainable development. A decade later, the global community embarked on another global effort to rekindle interest and commitment to the implementation of sustainable goals through the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.
In the United Nations Millennium Declaration on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) World leaders committed themselves to achieving a broad range of time-bound (2000 2015) International Development Objectives for which Sustainable Development provides a unifying framework (United Nations, 2000). However, there is general agreement that progress towards sustainability has been slow. Two of the many interpretations of the Sustainable Development concept pre-dominate the literature. There are the wealth approach and the WCED 1987 approach. The wealth approach recognises sustainable development as that which fully appreciates the value of natural and built capital, so that the next generation can inherit a stock of assets no less than those inherited by its preceding generation and thereby maintain intergenerational equity. On the other hand, the WCED approach classifies sustainable development into three main components:-
Ecological sustainability which requires that development is compatible with the maintenance of ecological processes.
Economic sustainability which requires that development should be economically feasible.
Social sustainability which requires that development should be socially acceptable.
The MDGs and SDGs are no doubt of the social sustainability approach and Nigeria started funding the MDGs in 2006. Sustainable development has become part of the lexicon of modern policy making. Unfortunately, no matter how we look at sustainable development in this country, it remains clear that we have not done much. Thus, the Science and Technology Education can promote and facilitate attainment of sustainable development targets in Nigeria.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
The following are the eight Millennium Development Goals:
i. Halving extreme poverty
ii. Halving the number of people who suffer from hunger
iii. Achieving universal primary education
iv. Promoting gender equality and empower women
v. Reducing child mortality
vi. Reducing maternal mortality
vii. Reducing the number of people living with HIV/AIDS
viii. Ensuring environmental sustainability
The SDGs (15 Goals): - The MDGs on the expiration of the target period metamorphosed into SDGs.
Nigerias Sustainable Development Targets (Plans for Prosperity)
i. The constitution
ii. Sectoral policies and development plans in Vision 2010
iii. The NEEDS
iv. Vision 20-20
v. The 7-Point Agenda
vi. The Transformation Agenda
vii. The Change Agenda
Prominent features of rural development strategies as contained in the NEEDS documents include:-
ii. Ensuring sustainable growth in the Agric. sector
iii. Emphasising on Small and Medium Scale Industries
iv. Increased access to basic infrastructure
v. Reducing mortality rates through increased access to quality health services
Thus, Science and Technology has greater role to play towards achieving the various sustainable development targets.
6.0 OVERVIEW OF POLYTECHNIC EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
Polytechnic is an institution for advanced full-time and part-time education especially in scientific and technical subjects.
After the Second World War, African nations became very worried about the wretched state of underdevelopment of the continent. As each State got its independence from the Colonial Masters, elaborate development plans were embarked upon. Nigerias first development plan covered the period of 1962 1968 and was heavily dependent on foreign input both in labour and material for its execution.
During the oil boom era of the seventies, the approach to development was to establish turn-key industrial project without any indigenous input either at the design or fabrication of machine stages. Such large capital intensive turn-key projects included automobile, petrochemical, cement, fertilizer, paper and steel plants. There was the erroneous belief that the mere acquisition of such project will transfer the appropriate technological know-how to the nation. Virtually, all the raw materials for these industries including machinery were imported. For example, in the establishment of cement factories, only limestone and water were the local contents. The entire machinery, and major raw materials like gypsum, and even skilled labour were imported. We all are living witnesses to the failure of such development plans which resulted in many abandoned projects.
The second National Development Plan (1970 1974) also collapsed due to partly to the inadequate indigenous technical manpower needed for the implementation of the lofty projects policies to address the shortfall in technical manpower led to the establishment of Polytechnics in Nigeria.
With the continued underdevelopment of the country despite the massive injection of imported technology, government undertook a critical review of our development efforts. Two major facts were identified to be responsible for the failure of the successive development plans viz:
Inadequate indigenous technical manpower
Lack of a Science and Technology base for sustaining a self-reliant industrial production.
Several steps were taken, especially in the late seventies and early eighties, to rectify the anomalies. Two of such steps are worth mentioned here. These were:-
The creation of the Ministry of Science and Technology to oversee the development of indigenous technology;
The complete orientation of our educational system imbibing Science and Technology with the introduction of a National Policy on Education in 1979 and revised in 1981.
According to the National Policy on Education (1981:22), Polytechnics as well as Universities and Colleges of Education make up the Higher Tertiary Education Sector. The goals of Higher/Tertiary Education include:
(i) The acquisition, development and inculcation of proper value-orientation for the survival of the individual and society.
(ii) The development of the individual capacities to appreciate their environment;
(iii) The acquisition of both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individual to develop as useful members of the community;
(iv) The acquisition of an objective view of the local external environment.
While these general goals are pursued by the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education through teaching, research and public service, the Polytechnics emphasise application and development.
Comprehensive policy on Polytechnic education was included in the National Policy on Education under set objectives on technical education as follows:-
a) To provide trained manpower in Applied Sciences, Technology and Commerce, particularly at sub-professional grades;
b) To provide the technical knowledge and vocational skills necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial and economic development.
c) To provide people who can apply scientific knowledge to the improvement the solution of environmental problems for the use and convenience of mankind;
d) To give an introduction to professional studies in engineering and other technologies;
e) To give training and impact necessary skills leading to the production of craftsmen, technicians, and other skilled personnel who will be enterprising and self-reliant; and
f) To enable our young men and women to have an intelligent understanding of the increasing complexity of technology.
Objectives of Polytechnic Education
Following the introduction of the National Policy on Education, seven Polytechnics were established by the Federal Government between 1977 and 1981. Encouragement was given to State Governments to establish State owned Polytechnics by the payment of 50% marching grants to State Polytechnics. Their goals and objectives were tailored in line with the nations aspirations on technical education.
The functions of the Federal Polytechnics as contained in the Federal Polytechnic Decree 33 of 25th July, 1979 (and its amendment Decree 28 of 8th October, 1987) include:
a) To provide full-time and part-time courses of introduction and training.
i. in Technology, Applied Science, Commerce and Management;
ii. in such other fields of applied learning relevant to the needs of the development of Nigeria in areas of industrial and agricultural production and distribution and for research in the development and adaptation of techniques as the Council may from time to time determine.
b) To arrange conferences, seminars and study groups relating to the fields of learning specified in paragraph (a) above and;
c) To perform such other functions as the opinion of the Council may serve to promote the objectives of the Polytechnic.
By implication, a Federal Government Declaration then was that nothing in this section shall prelude a government or state or any of its agencies from setting a Polytechnic similar to any Polytechnic established under this decree, all Polytechnics whether State Government owned or Private, are similar (in structure and functions) to Federal Polytechnics.
The National Board for Technical Education
To ensure the achievement of the objectives of which Polytechnics and technical institutions were set up by Government, the Federal Government by Decree 9 of 11th January, 1977 established the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to among other functions control the standard of technological education in the country. The NBTE was given the power to ensure that no institution should start any programme without NBTE resource inspection and approval that the NBTE-determined minimum standard in terms of curriculum, personnel, books, equipment and infrastructural facilities have been met. The resource inspection is usually followed after about two years by NBTE full accreditation visitation to confirm whether the programme and its students along with the personnel and supporting facilities are good enough by NBTE-determined standards for award of certificates or diplomas.
After several years of monitoring the operation in Polytechnic and in conjunction with managers of Polytechnics, the National Board for Technical Education produced The Federal Polytechnic Staff Manuals in 1986 (v-vi), which dealt specifically with the economic, technological and educational objectives of setting up Polytechnics.
The Economic objectives include:-