A myriad of problems is currently threatening the future of Plateau State Polytechnic, Barkin Ladi, among them the threat by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to shut down the institution.
At its first convocation in eight years, students of the 44-year-old institution left the ceremony confused and disturbed over the implication of such news on their academic future.
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Ranging from wide manpower gaps, non- accreditation of programmes, poor infrastructure, lack of technical laboratories, workshops and hostels, as well as outstanding staff salaries, poor security of students and staff, the numerous problems of the institution were encapsulated at the event by the rector, Mr John Datoegoem Dawam.
He attributed all the challenges to lack of funds.
During the school’s recent convocation, the rector caused a public outcry when he stated that the NBTE had indicated that it would close the polytechnic – by denying it access to its Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) – due to lack of accreditation of most of its programmes.
This means that the over-four-decade-old school will not be able to admit students, until it secures full accreditation from the board before the end of July 2022.
Daily Trust gathered that the state government has stopped the funding of the institution, tasking it to look inward to fund itself.
The state government under Governor Simon Bako Lalong expects the polytechnic to assume the position of an independent entity and even remit some returns to the state’s coffers at regular intervals.
According to the provost, despite its achievements, the institution has grey areas that require urgent attention to facilitate the sustenance of its vision and mission, adding that it was already losing staff to other institutions within the state.
He explained that with many staff retired and some dead, there was a need for the employment of critical technical and administrative staff to reduce the employment gap and avert the threat of closure of some courses by the NBTE.
He said the resource inspection, accreditation and re-accreditation programmes of the NBTE and other regulatory professional bodies, which are carried out every five years to ensure standards are maintained and upgraded, have not been carried out for several years.
“Such periodic inspection by regulatory agencies is also to review the Internal Quality Assurance System (IQAS) of the institution, which is anchored on the adequacy of office and classrooms accommodation, furniture and facilities, as well as workshops, laboratories and hostel accommodations,” he stated.
Sources at the polytechnic, however, said the COVID-19 pandemic was partly responsible for the non-accreditation of the polytechnic’s programmes by the NBTE in 2019. It also caused the regulatory body to place a restriction on the number of students to be admitted by the institution leading to low internal revenue.
A staff of the institution, Samson Golu, said the polytechnic was going under due to poor leadership and corruption, stressing that it faced double jeopardy as the state government is insisting that the school uses its internal revenue such as school fees to run academics at a time when the NBTE has restricted the number of students the school can admit per session.
“So, the internal revenue of the school is limited and there is no other source of funding. The management cannot meet up with the standards required to keep the school. In a very serious society where education is taken seriously, this polytechnic cannot stand, it should be closed down,” he said.
A former student of the institution said at the time of his graduation, his courses were not accredited by the NBTE which was the reason the convocation was delayed for so long.
Julius Bawa, who graduated four years ago from the Social Development Department, said he is yet to be mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) because his course is yet to be accredited.
Also, some undergraduates of the polytechnic are expressing worry about the threat of the NBTE, though some are optimistic that the state government will rise to the occasion.
Bitrus Izam, a student of the institution who read Hospitality Management, said his assurance lay in the fact that the state government was already aware of the issue and will do something about it. “I have that confidence,” he said.
But Felicia Luka, a student of Banking and Finance said, “I regret my choice of this school. Since I heard of the threat to close it down, I have been confused. I am praying over it,” she said.
According to a staff who gave his name as Geoffrey Mallang, the polytechnic, as a technical institution, requires serious and consistent funding, adding that apart from lecturers, each department requires technical staff to handle workshops and laboratory equipment.
“These laboratories and workshops use heavy machines that require constant electricity supply. And in a country like Nigeria, where electricity supply is not steady, you will need standby generators and to run the generators, you need diesel and mechanical and electrical staff to maintain the generators.
“All these require millions of naira to run, but where is the money? The owners of the school have said they don’t have money,” he said.
Already, students at the polytechnic are paying dearly for the inability of management to pay their lecturers. To survive without salaries, Daily Trust found out that some part-time lecturers have resorted to selling handouts to students to make ends meet.
A second-year student, Shedrach Nyelong, told our correspondent that students pay for everything, including handouts, exam fees and the fueling of school generators.”
The school management is also at war with the host community over the alleged inability of the government to pay full compensation to land owners after 44 years.
An administrative staff of the institution, Silas Dadu, told our correspondent that communities have not been fully compensated for their lands, adding that members of the community and family members whose lands were taken over to build the polytechnic have resolved to take back their lands for farming.
“The worst part is that the community members are carrying out mining activities on the school premises to make money for their upkeep,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, has said his government has started handling the challenges based on available funds and will continue to do its best.
Lalong, whose tenure will end in 2023, said TETFUND interventions have gone a long way in boosting the efforts of the state in providing a good learning environment for the staff and students.
“On my recent visit to the TETFUND headquarters in Abuja, I obtained the commitment of the new executive secretary to do more for our tertiary institutions, particularly the polytechnic.
“We are also working very hard to ensure that all labour issues concerning the staff of the polytechnic are addressed once and for all to forestall strikes, which have become a major setback to sustaining a stable academic calendar,” he added.