Dr Daniel George Udo, the acting provost of College of Education, Afaha Nsit, last week marked his one year in office. In this interactive session with the media, the acting provost shares his experience and plans for the institution and how he wishes to leave his footprints on the sands of time. Edidiong Obot was there ..
**“I have sent a better hand in the person of Dr Daniel Udo to the College.” This is how the governor described you during the series six of his media chat in the state. If he sees you as the better hand for the job, who are we to counter same?
Do you know that is to turn the beam of the search light towards this direction and if you must cough or sneeze, all eyes are on me.
**SIR, HOW HAS YOUR ONE YEAR IN OFFICE BEEN?
It has been quite exciting, I have to say. You know I came from the classroom and I know the principle of the studying. My one year in office has enrolled me in to a course I have never taken before in my entire life and I am still undergoing that training trying to understand the course and predict or pre-empt the questions that might come in examinations. I am trying to follow up, reading, studying and preparing, knowing that one day, examinations will come because no course is given for nothing. So my one year in office can be described as quite exciting because every course has its own peculiarity and College of Education, Afaha Nsit has its own peculiarity.
In fact, if I may make some analogy, It is like one driving a rickety, tattered, haggard battered bicycle on the roughest of the road with potholes. The wheels of the bicycle may be wobbling, the brakes may not be catching, the handles not straight, meanwhile you have the enormous task of riding the bicycle across the rough road to a destination and it is only when you get to that destination that you can say, thank God, I have arrived. As you quoted His Excellency a while ago, what he expects from me is to arrive at that destination without excuses meaning he expects results. That is why the course of study is very peculiar. Afaha Nsit is truly a peculiar course on its own.
**HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE STUDENTS AND YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM?
Our relationship is quite interesting and they are very corporative. Within my one year in office, we have had very successful Student’s Union election so there is the Students Union Government in place and we work in good cordiality with the students.
In fact, no matter the number of missed calls in my phone, once I see my SUG President’s call, I suspend everything and pick his call because the students are the reason why I am here, without them, I would not be here and the day they decide not to be students again, I will loose my job, God forbid that, they will continue to be calm. I give my first priority to the students because they are our future leaders and they will carry our image as a college to the outside world. That is why I give my focused attention to the students.
** HOW BEST WILL YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE STAFF?
The staff and management are also very good, without them, the machinery of administration cannot turn. They are the ones in charge so without them I cannot serve the students that I so love. I carry them along as I do with the students.
** HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO RUN THE AFFAIRS OF THE SCHOOL DURING THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN?
(Exclaims) Oh my God! Covid 19 came as a guest that is uninvited. According to Chinua Achebe, when trouble knocks on your door and you tell it to wait since you were unprepared, the trouble will reply, I came with my seat prepared and before it ends, it has already set its stool in place and find the problem sitted in your house, so that is Covid-19. It came unannounced, we never expected it. We lacked words to tell the dreaded Covid-19 to go back but as God will have it, He has preserved us.
In March we had to send the students home in the midst of their academic activities. We were looking at Matriculation in a few weeks and after that was to be examinations but Covid-19 came and disrupted the activities and we terminated the academic calendar at that point and sent the students back home, of course, the staff had to be home as well. The lockdown came and locked everything down, even then, that was the time I was most frequent in the campus than when the lockdown did not come because of security of the campus.
I remember sometimes I left my house at 10:30pm in the night from Uyo to the school with my high powered torchlight. Naturally, the security personnel will not expect me at that time of the night, but I had to come to let them awaken, ginger and inspire them to be vigilant because at that time people were locked into their houses and I have the facilities of the school to protect. Anybody may take off the hunger and do something unthinkable and squander the facilities, so we had to be up and doing and God helped us we did not record a single incident through out the lockdown even up till now, no single security bridge.
** ON RESUMPTION, HAS YOUR STUDENTS COMPLIED TO THE DIRECTIVES TO STAY SAFE FROM THE DREADED COVID-19 VIRUS?
Yes, first, we set up an 11-man committee in place comprising of medical personnel, administrators, students and all the unions headed by the school Medical Director, Dr Christopher Akpan while the Secretary of the committee is the Principal Assistant Registrar in charge of information, Mr Ekomobong Udoh, a large number of the committee members are from the medical sector because they have more contributions to make.
Students have complied absolutely, but I can tell you very frankly that the thing seems to be wearing down. We try as much as possible to enforce the use of the face mask in the school during classes.
We have also acquired some Personal Protective Equipments (PPE), a customized face mask, soon, we will make it go round all the staff and even the students if possible. I do not believe that the Covid-19 has gone as people try to make us believe. I remind the students and staff not to take it for granted until we are completely sure that it has gone and gone forever, that is when we can relax. For how dangerous it is, I wouldn’t advise anyone to take it for granted.
** SIR, HOW WILL YOU ASSESS YOUR ONE YEAR IN OFFICE?
Oh! how will I know the dance since I am also the dancer? How will I assess myself that I have done well or I have not done well? I think others who are watching will be the ones to tell me. But I know for sure that I met with a very porous kind of security arrangement in place. Burglary activities was almost every night. After consulting with management and approval of Council, we brought in two security structures to compliment the internal structure that is the Adam security and school-to-school peace initiative. I want to say that by God’s grace, since we have brought them in, they started working with us, we have not recorded a single incident of security breakdown and none will be recorded by God’s special grace. God will gratify our efforts with success. It is neither our own power nor might but I believe that everything works together for good when God is involved. We have had somewhat peaceful environment.
Within the one year, we have tried to revamp some internally generated revenue. Before now, we were all depending on the school fees, but as I speak, we have been able to fix the ICT unit, courtesy of TETFUND and are ready for JAMB Computer Based Test (CBT) center. Before I came in, that center was suspended by authorities of JAMB based on the fact that we did not have facilities and was ill-equipped but now, we have installed over 200 computer systems, installed CCTV cameras which are the requirements and a place for sitting to wait candidates. After putting all these in place, we informed JAMB to come for inspection. They came for pre-inspection and will come for one last inspection before they will give us authority to commence test in the center. I want to believe that by next JAMB we would have the center here. It will not only serve JAMB, it will serve other units like the teacher training unit sponsored by SUBEB. If that is done, we believe that we will have some revenues generated from there.Again, I also realized that we have some arable fertile land unused in the campus. During the last planting season, even though Covid-19 lockdown came in to throw a little challenge, we ensured we cultivated about 4.5 hectares. We have our cassava there, by the time it is mature for harvest, it will be surprising. Our school farm, the piggery, rabbits and poultry, we want to see how they can come up to commercial relevance so that we have some internally generated revenue. Away from that, I made some inspection around the campus, and when I went to technical education, I was marvelled at what I saw. There are some heavy duty equipments donated to us by TETFUND which we have not utilised because we don’t have sufficient space so I quickly sent an application to TETFUND requesting for extension of the workshop. By God’s special grace, TETFUND has approved that to the tune of 300million naira and we are expecting the first trench any moment from now to be able to commence work there. I want to believe that before next accreditation team visits, we should be able to put that place to use and that will generate a lot of revenue. We noticed that there are some machines that can repair our modern vehicles but are not being utilized because there is no space. Once that is done, I will no longer go to Uyo, the state capital to look for mechanic, rather, people will trip in from Uyo to fix their cars here which will be another source of revenue.
Also, there is one very productive department in this college that has never been put forward for accreditation which is the department of Home Economics. I asked the head of department to send in requirements for accreditation which she did before the lockdown. I have written to His Excellency, the state governor informing him how viable the department could be if we are able to make it functional and even put to commercial use. This is a place that if you want to have refreshment, you go to Uyo. I seize this opportunity to thank the governor for granting us that approval and ordered that the request be processed. Another one was to write to him requesting the building up of Health Centre. You noticed that this is a village, in the neighbouring communities, if we have a viable Health Centre, it will not serve only the college alone, but will also extend services to the neighbouring communities. So if we have to bring the students back to the hostels as we have projected, we need a good Health Centre and cafeteria which the home economics unit will take care of that. We have attached the documents, drawings and cost implications and it is undergoing process, I believe, it will come out.
On other areas, members of staff are responding positively in terms of discipline and attendance to duties as well as approaches to students. They are work in progress but we are still hopeful. Last week, the ministry of works came to inspect the tunnel. Remember, they had wanted to build the road for us and ended up excavating the area but for some reasons it was seemingly abandoned but I have made a loud cry to His Excellency that the ministry of works should come and complete the road because that canal is becoming a threat, if NCC or NUC should come for accreditation and see the canal, they will deny us accreditation. I pray before they come that place should be completed.
We also did a maintenance work at the mini-theater hall. These are some of the strides I can look back even when Covid-19 came in between from march to August when it was relaxed. We lost quite some months and could not really do anything. I can look back and say there is work in progress.
** HAS THE TOWN HALL MEETING YIELDED ANY POSITIVE OUTCOME ?
Yes! I have very strong reason to say that, I have lots of corporation from the staff. For instance, recently governing council was reconstituted and we had to elect internal members from the congregation and academic board who are supposed to represent us in Council. We conducted the election last week, when I look back to the comments made by staff, indeed, God is helping us. We have reasons to tell God, thank you. A number of staff will say that in the history of this college, it is the first time they saw a free, fair and credible election, very transparent. Even those that lost the election were very happy because they know they lost it and called to say thank you for conducting a very free and credible election. We are looking at a situation where we are as fair as possible to the system. This system has helped us and it is in this system we have hope for tomorrow. If we are not fair to the system today, how can we sustain the hope. That is why as much as possible we try to be very fair to the system.
** WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL COLLEGE AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND THE COLLEGE?
I am looking at a College of Education that parents, students and parents will be struggling to make admission for their wards. Infrastructure wise, it should be a kind of college that at night the entire vicinity will be well lit and secured so that students can move from the hostels to the classrooms, even if it is raining, the rain will not soak them or their books; they should be sure there is enough security. I am looking at college of education when you pass by in the middle of the night the entire environment is lit up with good paved paths that people can walk down.
I see a kind of college of education in mind where the facilities is lit in place, our libraries well equipped and when JAMB releases results, we will step up the cut-off point simply because we cannot accommodate all the students, and only when good reports, staff and students discipline, people attend to their jobs as at when due. Only when such will come out of college of education will people struggle to make their children come to college of education. Only when they are sure that their wards are safe and in safe hands without molestation, no cultism, free education, that is when people will struggle to make college of education their first choice. I don’t want to see a College that people come as a result of last resort.
*** SIR, COMING FROM A CLASSROOM WHICH YOU LECTURED, HOW WILL YOU RATE THE EDUCATION SECTOR IN THE STATE?
I would not say we are the worst and I certainly cannot say that we are the best. There is a lot of work to be done. I can only rate it as work in progress. I thank God for His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel who has said let there be a roadmap for education and has appointed credible people to make up that roadmap to pave the way so that we can say between now and the next 10/20years, this is how we want to rate education in the state and where it should be because if you want to destroy any people in the world, simply destroy their education but once you build their education to standard then the future of the students and that of the community is secured. To answer this question, we have not landed neither are we the worst rated, it is work in progress.
** BEFORE NOW, STUDENTS HAVE ISSUES WITH ISSUANCE OF CERTIFICATE AFTER GRADUATION, IS IT THE SAME THING UNDER YOUR WATCH?
No, not at all. More than a thousand certificates have been signed by me and sent to National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) Abuja, a supervisory body over all colleges of education. After the signatures of the provost and that of the registrar, it is sent to NCCE for the signature of the executive secretary of the commission.
I received them back from NCCE and are now ready for issuance, am referring to the convocation that was done around June 2019 before I assumed office. Those results are ready for collection, the ones not ready are results which were not ready for approval. In fact, after this lockdown, we have approved well over 400 results. Those ones, the certificates will also be ready soon.
** ON THE ISSUE OF THE COMMUNITIES TRACE PASSING INTO THE SCHOOL PLOTS OF LAND, HAS IT BEEN PUT TO REST?
Yes, largely, they have been resolved, but you know you cannot clear them off in a day because the communities has their own issues. When I step in, I had to go down to see what actually the problem was. The communities are not comfortable over the fact that since the college was located here, they have not been wonderfully parts of administration in the college. They said they want an MoU, I have made them to understand that we cannot sign an MoU. We are just an academic institution and not an Industry. One factor made the communities to agitate very vehemently against us which is the uncompleted road construction that runs through the college and empties the water into their stream which according to them is their only source of drinking water and where they fish and nothing like compensation and their only stream is polluted by that drainage. I sorted to find out whether there was something like environmental impact and there was none before the construction was done since the work was not generated by the school. I hope the contractors will do something about it.
I assured the communities’ leaders that something will be done about it as it is not supposed to create a rift between the communities hosting us and we, the guest. I went down to see the Ette Idung, we are in talking terms so they have decided to corporate with us to achieve the best in terms of education of the students. The relationship with the communities is quite cordial.