Professor Benedict Edigbo Mbam is the Provost of Ebonyi State College of Education (EBSCOED), Ikwo. In this Interview with SAMSON NWAFOR, speaks on why the college is witnessing low student enrolment and other issues. Excerpts:
What are your experiences so far since you assumed office as Provost of the college two years ago?
The first is that I discovered there is a little difference between university management and the College of Education Management and also between a federal tertiary institution and a state tertiary institution. Nevertheless, having served in different capacities in the university, I have some experience in administration, though I have never been a chief executive. I was able to adapt. After three months or so, the court case between management and the union leaders at the Industrial Court has been favourably disposed of and withdrawn. The trade unions in the institution now work in collaboration with the management. I was also able to stop exam malpractices and cultism among students in Ebonyi State College of Education.
Does the college offer degree programmes?
Our primary duty is to run NCE programmes. Presently, we have 21 NCE programmes and run degree programmes in affiliation with Ebonyi State University and we have just five-degree programmes. We are also planning to expand our horizons in degree programmes. But, we are being cautious of the rules and regulations by the National University Commission and National Commission for Colleges of Education, that 20% of the student population will be for degree programmes, while 80% must be NCE programmes, which is our core mandate and that is what we are doing now.
How has the college been coping with administrative and academic activities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic actually affected our programmes, distorted the calendar, but God was so kind, and I thank our governor, the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr David Umahi. He did a lot of things. He was able to encourage us to embrace the online teaching of the students during the period of lockdown caused by the pandemic. We were able to do that. We were able to deploy software that teaches the students using text, voices, pictures and files for lectures. It helped both the students and the staff.
Your college was about the only institution in Ebonyi that passed the scrutiny of the House of Representatives Committee on TETFund Projects that visited the state recently on oversight function. What was the secret?
Before I came down to Ebonyi State College of Education, I was a Dean of a College as well as a member of the Governing Council and my committee, a sub-committee set up by the Governing Council, was in charge of projects. We had over 140 projects and my team was handling them. So, we know what it is. All the rules and regulations concerning the execution of projects from TETFund and BPE and other regulatory agencies, we know them. And personally, being on that committee, I know them very well. And there is also an assessment unit in the institution which is similar to that of TETFund. So, with that experience, I was able to follow due process and ensure that every fund, every kobo sent to was utilised for the projects the funds are meant for, and we were able to follow due process and completed many projects; and even the ones we met on the ground.
What is the accreditation status of the 21 programmes run by the college?
When I assumed duty, we made 100% full accreditation that was elapsing then. So, 21 of them are due for reaccreditation, meaning that their accreditation status has already elapsed. We are already discussing with our supervisory agency that is in charge of accreditation, that is, the National Commission for Colleges of Education, for them to come and re-accredit us. We are already working on the plans. They have written to us, told us they are coming in the first quarter of 2021.
What is the relationship between the college and the host community?
That was the only challenge I had when I assumed duty in the institution. A week after I assumed duty, we visited the traditional ruler of the community, the chairman of the local government and other prominent politicians from the community. From that time till now, we are working harmoniously.
Does the college have enough structures for administrative and academic activities as well as other key facilities that enhance teaching and learning?
If you take a tour of our college, you will see the number of structures we have, very modern, courtesy of TETFund. Facilities like laboratories, utility vehicles. So, we have enough, infrastructure wise, both lecturers’ offices and classrooms. I also thank the governor, because when I came on board, there was no light in that college. The Power Holding Company, which is Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), brought the bill of N8 million. We couldn’t understand it. After discussions, we were able to do what we did and we got a prepaid metre and we started using them. But through the intervention of the governor, we were able to install a solar panel and we stopped paying EEDC. So, what we are using now is the solar panel supplied by the Ebonyi State government. He also provides a borehole for us and we started using water-free in our offices and the entire college. Infrastructure wise, we are enjoying it. We have a number of classrooms, the same goes for offices and they are all enough.
What about the academic staff. Do you have enough?
As I said earlier, there is a difference between a university and a College of Education. In a College of Education, if you have a first degree, you are qualified to be a lecturer, but it is not so in the university. So, we have enough lecturers for NCE programmes, but for degree programmes, we don’t have enough. However, our parent institution, Ebonyi State University, Education Faculty, is helping enough. But we want to be autonomous. We want to have our own lecturers and we already discussed with the Visitor, that is our governor, and he is listening.
What is the relationship between the management of the college and the Ebonyi State government?
I can tell you that from inception, our governor had never visited this college. He visited the college when he was a deputy governor to represent the governor in one of the convocations. But, two months after I arrived, he visited us, meaning that the relationship is very cordial. He visited us, we interacted. Not only that, the governor remembered us and released a whopping sum of N500 million to us to offset some of the arrears of salaries and promotions in the Paris Fund that the Federal Government shared with all states. So, the relationship is very cordial and from time to time, I visit his office, especially when I send a memo and he wants us to have a discussion about it. He did our internal roads, which he promised would be asphalted.
How have you been running the college without a Governing Council since it was dissolved by the governor last year?
I must tell you the truth. From where I am coming from, I know the role of the Governing Council, and it’s very imperative that the Council be on the ground for the College to be complete because they have the roles that they play. When they were dissolved, we felt the impact because the management now combines the administrative functions to that of policymaking, which is the role of the Governing Council. So, the dissolution of the Council is affecting us in one way. But, we will like the Council to be reconstituted. But, it should be at the discretion of the government because they know the cost and what it is to reconstitute the Council.
Since the state government slashed the subvention it gives to the college, how has it been coping with funding?
For funding, we enjoy maximum funding, but let me tell you that anything about money – no amount of money will be enough for that College and we augment from our IGR, but we still need more.
What is your target for the college before the expiration of your tenure in the next two years?
I always say, by the grace of God, we will move further than where we are now to another level. Because, since there is peace, and one good thing is that all the administrative teams that are working with me are very much efficient and are working in a harmonious relationship with me. I set up committees late last year when their reports come by March, we will follow their blueprint and we will be able to get there. What we want is to be the best. Next two years that I may be completing my first tenure, the college will be at the next level.
What is the rate of enrolment of students into the college?
I have to be frank with you, every State College of Education normally witnesses low enrolment because there are Federal Colleges of Education side by side in almost every state. Even in Ebonyi State, we now have Federal College of Education at Isu in Onicha, Ebonyi State. So, because of that, we are actually experiencing low enrolment, and it is through the enrolment of students that we generate higher or the bulk of the IGR, though we have other sources. Our admission status is not encouraging and there are many factors responsible for this. Number one, we made a survey of the college, to determine the popularity of the college. We discovered that 97% of the people that know about the existence of the college is from Ebonyi. Enugu is about 1%, Abia is 1%, Imo is 0%, Anambra almost 0% and Cross River is about 1%. So, we discovered that people do not even know that Ebonyi State College of Education is in existence. But we are taking some measures like good internet presence. As a Computer Scientist, I made our website robust such that if you go online and google Colleges of Education, this college will pop up for admission seekers to get our institution on the list of Colleges of Education online. It was not so before. We are also planning to engage a media practitioner that will help us showcase the school outside the state. We have also created some platforms in social media where we capture our environment and the courses we are doing and post. That’s what we are doing to beef up the enrolment. For this year, we have not completed our admission processes, because we are waiting for the universities and polytechnics to finish admission first before we conclude. This is because we have one entrance exam with other tertiary institutions. Most times, admission seekers put university as the first choice; polytechnic, second choice and College of Education, third choice. We allow them to conclude their admission first. So, we will be concluding our admission around April and May this year, and do our matriculation in the same month of May.
They normally give us that concession.
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