interviewBy Usman A. Bello
Lokoja — Professor Ajayi Iyela is the Provost of the Federal College of Education Okene, Kogi state. In the interview, he speaks on latest developments in the college and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Why has the college auditorium been under construction for the past ten years and is yet to be completed?
The uncompleted auditorium by the main gate is dear to my heart. When I assumed office as the provost of this college, I included the project in my first budget so that we can complete it and put it into use but along the line, I discovered that the contractor that handled the project had problems with the governing council then, which resulted to court case.
This lingered for long because it started during the administration of Professor Abdullahi Aliyu as the provost and the administration that succeeded him also had similar problem. The governing council had no option than to take the contractor to court for certain reasons and when I wanted to take over the project , I was advised by the college lawyer not to touch the project because the case was in the court. Part of the problem was the claim made by the contractor that he had done a lot on the project which was not actually true. Presently, we cannot see the contractor because it seems that he gave a fake contact address at the inception of the bidding for the job. For now I have decided to present the issue before the new governing council whenever it is constituted either to settle out of court so that we can conveniently complete the project because of its importance to the students and the college.
You assumed office in 2009 as provost, what have you achieved in the last three years?
In my three years as the provost of Federal College of Education, Okene my emphasis was basically on physical development , staff and student development. In this area we have recorded tremendous achievement which are there for people to see, assess and comment on them. In terms of physical development, by the special grace of God we have attracted 40 capital projects to this college , many of these projects have been completed while others are at various stages of completion. We also have a project on skill acquisition center.
That project is very dear to us because we felt a responsibility as an institution to the community. So it has become expedient and necessary to contribute our quota in solving youth restiveness in the community , central senatorial district and Kogi State at large. By the grace of God toward the end of March 2013 the project will be completed and be ready for commissioning. At the completion of the project, we expect that youths from Kogi central and other parts of the state and even outside the state will come here so that they can acquire skills.
In the area of entrepreneurship, our students would be involved so that they can learn one or two trades before they graduate. With this the youth will be self reliant and be useful to themselves. We have carried out 70 renovation works since I came into the college and I am sure that less than two months from now whoever comes to this institution will just conclude that this is a brand new college of education. We also now have a functional e-library in the college.
One of the yard sticks used to assess educational institutions is the level of internet and information compliance. With this functional e-library, staff and students can conveniently access any information or journals in any part of the world and one can also take academic lectures from foreign tertiary institutions. These are developments we felt we should put in place to enhance the quality and the academic strength of the college. In the area of revenue generation , we cannot expect all our problems to be solved by the government because of other salient and pressing issues the government has to attend to.
So to generate income we established block industry last year, we added 12 rooms to our guest house, we have also completed our pure water factory within the campus, a modern x-ray centre to cater for the needs of the people within the community was also established, so instead of travelling out of the community for such service, people can now access it and the charges are very affordable. We also introduced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) consultancy services which the college renders to people and organizations outside. It is pertinent to say that this institution has commenced degree programme. We have offered admission to the first set of the students for the programme and we expect them to resume by the end of February 2013. 261 students have been offered the admission for the programme. It is however worthy to note that the college is affiliated with University of Ibadan to run the degree programme. Our mission is that this college in the nearest future will become a full fledged university of education and I do not see the reasons why in the next few years the college will not assume that status.
How did you maintain peace in this institution because it has not experienced unrest since your arrival?
Since my arrival in October 2009, the institution has been very peaceful and I have been receiving maximum co-operation from the staff and the students and even the community. As a result of this absolute peace we have been experiencing uninterrupted academic calendar. So as far as FCE Okene is concerned, we have no problems.
On the staff welfare , we continue to pay their salaries and allowance without delay. To boost the physical and mental wellbeing of our staff, we introduced a programme called Healthy Living Initiative where members of staff are expected to go for medical checkup at least once every six months. To improve their efficiency, the college organized capacity building workshop for the staff as well as increasing the amount of sponsorship fee paid by the college for in-service training.
We have started it and members of the staff were happy because of the effectiveness of the programme. To improve on the welfare of the students , we constructed a recreation centre for them to relax and interact with one another and that has also fostered unity among the students.
How did your administration tackle issues of cultism which has been a problem in our institutions?
On the issue of cultism, to curtail the excesses of our students, within themselves, they have a peace committee that monitors the activities of the students. So any student the committee discovers is indulging in anti-social behaviour is reported immediately to the college authority. The community also reports to us the activities of students that are off campus. So we monitor the students twenty four hours and there is no way they can be involved in any act of cultism in the college.
You have carried out series of renovation work in the college, why did you ignore the student hostels and staff quarters?
It is sad to say that since this college was established, successive administrations in the college have never touched the staff quarters in terms of renovation. I believe that it is also important to create enabling environment for the staff and as a result of that I had directed the works department of the college about three months ago to go round all the houses at the staff quarters to estimate and submit the cost implication of renovating the houses to me . We will do that immediately we complete the on-going projects in the college.
Our plan last year was to renovate all the students hostels, but the budget we submitted to the National Assembly and the approval given was only enough to renovate only one block. I want to assure the students that in the 2013 budget, there will be enough money for us to carry out the renovation of the remaining blocks.