The decision of Lagos State Governnent to transmute the State-owned institution, Lagos State Polytechnic into to a University of Science and Technology has been on for many years. What first started as a means of addressing the dichotomy between graduates of Universities and Polytechnics seems to have now become a major policy issue in the State.
When the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu muted the plan to convert the polytechnic into a University sometimes last year, not many took the announcement with much seriousness, thinking like the usual government decisions, it may not come to fruition very soon.
A major indication of Government’s seriousness came to light when the Lagos State House of Assembly took a bold step by passing a bill to transmute the Polytechnic of Excellence into a University few weeks ago. Between then and now, major steps have been taken from the side of the State government and that of the Lagos State Polytechnic community. To this end, the Management of the polytechnic, led by the Rector, Dr Nurudeen Olaleye has set mercenaries in motion for the smooth transition of the polytechnic into a University, as proposed by the government, by organising a 3-Day Management retreat to discuss the development and also prepare the Polytechnic for a smooth transition.
Today, 8th February 2022 will remain historic in the annals of the history of Lagos State as the Nigeria University Commission formally presented Certificates for the two new Lagos State Universities to the Governor, Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu.
While the intention of government is seen to be genuine, many stakeholders have criticised the way Lagos State government is going about the transition.
A school of thought argued that, the decision of government is wrongly timed, coming at a time the nation is confronted with inadequate skilled manpower viz technicians and tradesmen. Those promoting this argument remarked that, government ought to have moved the Lagos State Polytechnic to another location of the State, as a way of preserving the vision behind the establishment of the polytechnic. They based their position on the need to sustain the polytechnic vision of training middle cadre skilled technicians and craftsmen who are currently in high demand in the country, Lagos especially.
The above position was recently strengthened by the outburst of the Chairman, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Mr Idris Bugaji who described the upgrading of polytechnics to Universities as a ‘worthless exercise’.
Reacting to the upgrading of Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu into a University of Science, Bugaji argued that ‘the decision was a great disservice to the nation as it will complicate the problem of lack of adequate skilled manpower in the nation’.
He therefore charged the Lagos State Governor and other education stakeholders in the state, to reconsider this decision as it will do more harm than good to the nation at large.
A second school of thought argue that, the fate of many staff, especially the academic staffs of the Polytechnic currently hangs in the balance, as many of them will apparently lose their positions, and by extension, their jobs by the time the university fully takes off. This is because, many of the current LASPOTECH staff are not qualified to lecture in university. They also argued that, those who may be lucky to be absorbed into the new university will have themselves demoted, as staff ratings and structure of a university clearly differs from that of a university.
Similarly, the question on the lips of many concerned stakeholders and LASPOTECH community members is the type of retirement and settlement package that the Lagos State government has put in place, in the event that, many of the hitherto polytechnic staffs will have to be laid off. It is believed by this group of people that, the transition will create more joblessness as many breadwinners who are current staffs of the polytechnic may be losing their jobs, without any serious retirement package in place.
Also of major source of concern is the fate of current students of LASPOTECH, particularly those in ND 1 / 2 and HND 1 / 2, many of whom still have a minimum of two to three years to complete their programmes in the school. The question being asked is, what arrangement has government put in place to ensure these students does not become victims of the polytechnic transition into a university?
There is also a large population of concerned stakeholders of the Polytechnic, these are graduates of Lagos State Polytechnic, who currently carry the certificate of the institution. The question is, what becomes of their hard-earned certificates? They argue that, while a change in the name of an institution is an easier but a hard knot to crack, a complete transition of a polytechnic into a university will automatically erase the existence of the polytechnic, thus potentially rendering their certificates ‘useless’ and obsolete.
A good case in reference here is the proposed changing of the University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University by the Goodluck Jonathan administration and the public outcry that greeted the government decision. The UNILAG Alumni association vehemently kicked against the plan to change the name of the institution and, the rest, like they say is now history. University of Lagos has remained, UNILAG since then.
While congratulating the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his giant strides in the educational sector of Lagos State, by birthing two (2) new universities at the same time, there is need for serious stakeholders engagement for the decision to be a win-win for all stakeholders.