INTERVIEW My agenda is to make Ebonyi College of Education world class –Provost

By Darlington Chude

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Prof. BCE Mbam, the Provost of the Ebonyi State College of Education, Ikwo is just in his first year of managing the institution and full of his zest to make a difference.
The former teacher at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State came to the saddle February this year with dreams and aspirations of making the college the best.
He let us into some of the plans and objectives he has for the college in this interview.

How and what informed the transformation of this institute from a College of Agriculture to the College of Education it is now?
Just as you said, the institute used to be a college of agriculture, but 16 years ago it was converted to a College of Education by the former governor of Ebonyi State, Dr. Sam Egwu. Since then, it has been a College of Education. There have also been lots of transformation under the supervision of two predecessor provosts including Prof Silas Omebe whose tenure ended in December 2018. And since then the institution has been living up to the core mandate of the college, which is to produce the teachers for primary and secondary schools.
Three years ago, we had an affiliation with the Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki. We met all the requirements of the National Universities Commission (NUC), in five programmes to perfect the affiliation. Right now, we have degree students of up to the 200 Level. Where we don’t have the manpower, the parent university would give us lecturers to help out.

How would you assess the quality of graduates from this College?
Of recent we sent a list of over 150 graduates who made distinction to our governor for immediate employment. People who graduated made wonderful grades, we hardly encounter failures. Even if some fail, they repeat and graduate meritoriously. Generally our products are excellent and outstanding.

How adequate is the manpower here?
Many lecturers we have here are qualified, and most are chief lecturers, which is the apex rank a lecturer can attain in the system. After assessing other lecturers in other colleges of education, we know most are at the same level – principal and chief lecturers. They are also assessed by external bodies.
And here through the TETFund we have a program that enhances development of the staff, including the lecturers, through seminars and conferences. So we have qualified lecturers, even those that are graduate assistants here also grow in the field and attain the level to teach as full-fledged lecturers. From the results, you can testify that we have good quality of teachers and can compete, since they are periodically assessed alongside others. That is why the NUC granted us affiliation to teach degree courses, which we are doing now.
Majority of the staffers here are full time employees, we have very few on part time. We also have adjunct and contract staff; those retired ones who are still strong still help us especially to groom the younger ones. We only hire in few cases if we are short of staff especially in specialized areas.

What is the attitude of the students to learning in our country today where many students don’t seem to show readiness for learning?
I can say that vividly that our students are very hardworking, and they attend classes. From time to time too I do teach them so I can have a better and closer interaction with them because there is no school without students. They, just like the lecturers appreciate it. The relationship between the two – teachers and students is very cordial. They are hardly in any form of exam malpractice in years.
There was one time we encountered exam malpractice involving about 37 students, and we didn’t waste time to expel them, some lost years in the punishments. After that incident, we never had a case like that. Because of how the incident played out, all students sat up, are more serious and comply with the rules of examinations. We have also noticed a better tradition and trend of improved results and grades.
We have zero tolerance of exam malpractice. We have flyers and other awareness channels everywhere that don’t encourage exam malpractices, cultism and other acts that don’t help learning and peace within the campus. The students are aware that we don’t tolerate those and that we mean it when we say nobody should try them.

Are you saying emphatically that cultism is not a challenge in this College?
I can say it doesn’t exist here. We checkmate the students always and everything they do through the Dean of Student Affairs, even how they spend their money. We haven’t had a case of cultism, even during their election and other student activities. The school isn’t big, so we can monitor every one of them. We plan to have better monitoring by building more hostels to accommodate all students on campus. We have been to private institutions and that’s what they do to help with watching students properly, making sure they act according to the rules.
I would also like to thank the state government because in the past four years it has been taking anti cultism programmes seriously and committees were set up with lecturers as members. Because of that we don’t experience cultism in any College of Education in Ebonyi State. To be really sure or believe me, you can check our records from inception. Also cast your mind back if you can recall hearing of this College in the news relating to incidents of cultism.

Few months ago, there was in the news the embarrassing report of sex for marks by lecturers targeted at students, especially the ladies. What can you say about it here?
Since I assumed office in February this year, I haven’t heard about sexual harassment and students go about their normal duties. When we went through records, we had traces in the court that such was happening here. It involved few lecturers that faced trials, so everyone is cautious of that. Even in meetings we let the lecturers know that we don’t encourage that here. We interact with the students to know if they have any indications of it, to let us know of any such issues.
We advise the students to feel free and always channel their grievances or questions surrounding issues on their studies to the student union or dean of student affairs or straight to management. We encourage them to always read their college handbook on how to do so.

How do students report if they feel they weren’t scored or graded properly?
The procedures are there in their handbook to follow. If you are confident that you are aggrieved from your result then you follow the procedures. When there is a case like that, we get the reports, empanel three lecturers and an external person to look at the petitions and remarks. For it to be resolved, the lecturer must always provide the marking schemes too.

You mentioned providing more hostels to accommodate the students, so can you explain more on the state of infrastructure in the College?
I can say that we have relatively enough infrastructure and a conducive atmosphere for students to live in. TETFund has actually helped us in that respect; old buildings were renovated, then new structures built through TETFund.
Every year, we get the normal interventions, then special zonal intervention, as well as high impact interventions – about four of them. Yearly, we are sure of the normal intervention. Through that a lot of buildings have been provided, even the hostels we are thinking of building now, would also be on our hope that more TETFund assistance would come. In terms of infrastructure, we have buildings, well built, furnished and equipped classrooms, halls and a medical centre. We have enough now, also on-going projects. Regarding equipment, we have our laboratories, e-libraries, ICT centres, and we can say we have all we need to carry on. The state government also helps a lot, even with electricity and roads within the campus, water boreholes and streetlights. So, we are just fine.

Correct me if wrong. But this structure in which we are holding this interview has celebrated people. You chose developing other buildings except this, why?
You may have idea of how TETFund operates, they have areas of concentration. They don’t delve into every area. They are other aspects in which the proprietor provides. We have plans to relocate from this block. Last week we completed the drawing of the administrative blocks where the entire management would move to and we are estimating that within 10 to 12 months, we would be done with that. Our main aim here is to make sure that we have conducive environment for the staff and students first before the managements. We are almost moving out.

Back to the issue of funding, after commending the governor and TETFund, how do you generate incomes to assist the institution?
Our internally generative revenue comes from the charges the students pay. That’s why we got affiliated with the Ebonyi State University. We get more revenue through that because the degree students pay higher than the certificate students and the charges the student pay is our source of IGR. Apart from that, we have other ventures we inherited from the institute of agriculture like farms, cows, goats, pigs, poultry and other sources of income. When we were a college of agriculture, all those were there and as we inherited them, it is only wise that they are sustained because fund is never adequate for any institute. Today, the channels help shore up and sustain our resources.
We also have as part of our mandates, primary and secondary schools. It’s a requirement from our supervising body, the National Commission for College Education, that we must have such schools to float the department called primary education, so the charges from the pupils are also part of our IGR. Even now, with all these, we have plans to expand further. For instance, we have a lot of palm plantations, swamp farms like rice fields. We planted that this year and later sought for marketers.

Are they those things the public doesn’t know about this College of Education?
When I assumed duty here, first we pursued and achieved peace, making sure all the court cases and petitions pending against the college were withdrawn and resolved. When we came on board too, we worked to ensure that the staff worked in unison. Every lecturer here is Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) compliant through the teachers registration compliance management. So they have the basic requirements we need. The state government organized sports and our college took first in the female category as the male contingent came third.
We are thinking ahead and making sure that all our courses and programs are accredited. We may go behind the state university in accreditation and introduce new programs like home economics, then childhood care education because the council of colleges of education is interested in that. So far, we don’t have a course or a department of Technical and Vocational education, as a result, we have plans to add it to our list of requested courses for accreditation because we know such course aligns with modern trend and requirement in education.
In addition, we would seek the assistance of the government to establish skill acquisition centre where all graduating students can learn a skill for three months after graduation. So after graduation they can have a skill to live on in case a paid employment fails.

Where do you expect to see this college in the years ahead, even after your tenure?
My plans before I leave here is that this college would be one of the best in the country and to be recognized globally. I dream for a status so high and noble that when someone browses colleges of educations, we would be among the top colleges.
After I must have left, I also want the peace which we have restored to remain. Where there is peace and harmony, progress is certain. The peace is more important to me than so many other things.

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