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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stakeholders clamour for ‘plug & play’ graduates

Stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector have called for plug and play graduates from the nation’s tertiary institution.

They made the request through the national president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, at the just ended first ICT Education Summit, which held in Lagos.

In his address at the occasion, Dr. Ekuwem said that the summit is a logical outcome of the yearnings, complaints, outcries, albeit lamentations on the part of the industry leaders, companies and employers of labour on the steadily eroding quality of Nigeria’s technical education based on ICT evolution.

“We may wish to wish for a plug and play graduate, that is one that leaves a university or polytechnic, gets employed and excellently discharges his or her schedule with very little or no on-the-job training,” he declared.

Ekuwem noted that this wish may not be utopian, after all, if the tertiary education in the country were founded on a sound ICT education, whilst they are still in the university or polytechnic.

The ICT industry, he said, remains a bastion of progress in the nation’s economy, hence as one of the fastest growing ICT markets globally it would be wise to structure the education system closely in line with this evolution.

“The policy, legal, institutional and regulatory frameworks that underpin the Nigerian ICT development are the collective envy of the world,” he said, noting that the current leaders of this revolution are no longer growing younger, and wondered how the progress would be sustained with the kind of graduates coming of the nation’s tertiary institutions presently.

“If the succeeding leaders of this digital revolution are not men and women of knowledge, digital depth and quality that mental agonies await us all,” he warned, especially if they have to handover to mediocre successors.

In another sense, Ekuwem, who is the chief executive of Teledom International Group, said that an industry without a sufficiently available critical mass skilled manpower and expertise is unsustainable.

He recalled that there was a time in this country when Nigerian graduates and engineering discipline specifically excelled wherever they found themselves, from the public to private sectors and even in the academia.

“What went right then and what have gone wrong now,” he quizzed?

Ekuwem was quick to note that it may be argued that the nation’s post-primary education system has failed by sending the kind of pupils to the tertiary institutions, hence, he asked what is the pedagogic state of the health of secondary institutions?

“Are there good laboratories, workshops, libraries and bookshops? How conducive is the learning environment? Are the teachers motivated and are they even well-trained and regularly updated. What are the indices for assessing the fitness of a secondary schools to produce ‘raw materials’ for the tertiary institutions,” he asked.

The aforementioned indices, he said, applies to the tertiary institutions and members of the academia.

“How up to date are the professors and the lecturers. In what state are the laboratories, updated curricula?” he said, wondering if there is any atom of truth
in the money-for-marks allegations.

Above all, he wanted to know if the tertiary institutions in the country have broadband internet connection, lamenting that officially, Nigeria is an English speaking country, therefore, English is taught, read and write in schools nationwide.

“Yet, how good is our students’ English, to read, grasp the salient points in each ICT subject which are taught in English,” he also asked.

ATCON further asked for a revisit to the one year National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) programme, so as to boost the technical competences of the ICT graduates, stressing that expertise is exportable commodity and therefore a major foreign exchange earner.

“A competent Nigerian ICT professional makes the Nigerian brand much more glittering anywhere in the world,” he submitted.

In his speech to the occasion, Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili, represented by a former Minister of Communications, Chief Olawale Ige, urged stakeholders to come up with initiatives that would make graduates from the nation’s tertiary institutions marketable anywhere in the country, especially at this era of ICT.

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