Abia college of education transforming from obscurity to ‘citadel of infrastructure’
By Steve Oko
Abia State College of Education ( Technical), Arochukwu, has virtually transformed from a place of obscurity with dilapidated colonial buildings to ‘a citadel of infrastructure’ under the watch of the incumbent Provost, Dr Philip Nto.
The institution established in 1993 ( 30 years ago) with some colonial structures ( now too archaic) donated by the late Alvan Ikoku, can now boast of modern and befitting structures some of which may not be found in many tertiary institutions around.
Yes, some of the structures erected under the Dr Nto-led Management can rarely be found even in full -fledged universities in the South East.
Speaking with Wawa News Global during a recent facility tour of projects in the institution, Nto who is rounding off his second tenure as Provost of the College, said that within the seven years he had held sway, the College had recorded infrastructural revolution.
According to him 15 new structures have been erected or renovated by him using resources from TetFUND.
From the interactions with the Provost who had served as Commissioner for Finance before his posting to the College, funds from TetFUND have been the secret of his infrastructural transformation in the institution.
A visit to the College will only affirm that Dr Nto who hails from the neighbouring Ututu Community truly understands and explores the dynamics of TetFUND interventions.
TetFUND has constantly emphasized that public tertiary institutions in the country have billions of unaccessed funds with the agency.
The inability of the affected institutions to access the funds is due to abuse of funds previously released to them as TetFUND has a culture of not releasing new funds to institutions that failed to execute projects for which monies were released according to specifications.
Abia College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu, was prior to the arrival of Dr Nto, blacklisted by TetFUND following the abuse of TetFUND largesse by a previous Provost of the institution.
But ever since Nto took over the mantle of leadership, he did not only clear the way for normalisation of relations with TetFUND, but has unprecedentedly also tapped into the available funds and opportunities in TetFUND to literally transform the College to a centre of infrastructural edifice.
Different magnificent quality structures with facilities now adorn the college.
It is hard to believe how the miracle works but a visit to the college will simply confirm that it is real.
The secret of his success is attributable to some factors such as his contacts, parental up-bringing ( having been raised by highly-disciplined parents who were both teachers), and sound christian background which is averse to corruption and cutting of corners, among others.
Some of the landmark structures erected by Dr Nto-led Management Team include the School of Education building, which was, until now domiciled in a shanty.
It was an error for a College of Education not to have a befitting School of Education which is its core reason of existence, but unfortunately, previous administrations never saw the error to tackle it headlong.
Not only that an imposing solid structure was erected by Dr Nto, the building has modern facilities and office apartments for various officers including the Dean of the School who hitherto shared his office with auxiliary staff at the former building.
Dr Nto also built an ultra modem library complex which can arguably pride as the best in any tertiary institution both public and private in South East Nigeria.
Other remarkable structures built by Dr Nto include the School of Science Education, School of Vocational Education, Centre for Continuing Education, among others.
One notable common feature in all the structures erected under the watch of Dr Nto-led administration is that they are all accessible by persons living with disabilities.
The lecture halls/ class rooms also have digital/ electronic white boards for easy access to the global community through the internet.
Nto also erected a befitting Administrative bloc named after the late paramount traditional ruler of Aro kingdom, HRM Eze Kanu Oji.
He equally attracted a philanthropist, Chief Chikwe Udensi who renovated the 500-sitting capacity Examination Hall.
To ensure regular power supply to the College, Nto procured 500KVA transformer and connected the institution to the national grid, a feat that was a mere utopia before his arrival.
He equally installed pre-paid metres to avoid unnecessary wrangling with the public power providers over electricity bills.
The College also has a stand-by 250-KVA generating set in the eventuality of power outage. Solar panels were also installed for illumination at night.
However, poor students’ enrollment has been identified as the majority challenge of the College in the moment.
The recent directive by the Federal Government for Colleges of Education to stop running degree programmes with affiliate universities has compounded the challenge.
Before the directive, the College was affiliated to the Abia State University Uturu, and the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike respectively, an idea that made it have a considerable chunk of student population.
But ever since then, the students’ population has crashed so badly.
The Provost admitted this when in response to a question thrown at him he said:” We don’t have enough students; we don’t have them enough”.
Naturally, the low students’ enrollment has affected the internally generated revenues of the College, thus, making it unable to meet financial responsibilities.
This, invariably accounts for the challenge of backlog of salary arrears owed staff which according to the labour union, are about two years.
The Provost who said a committee was set up to review the salary of staff noted that N50 million monthly subvention recommended by the committee would be enough to effectively keep the College running.
Findings by Wawa News Global also revealed that the staff strength of the College is about 220 while the current students’ population is about 200 or less.
Our findings further revealed that each student pays about N35,000 as school fees per session with some discount for Aro indigenes.
Besides the school fees, as also obtains in most tertiary institutions, are paid in installments.
This, plus Government’s failure to release subventions regularly, obviously, accounts for why salary arrears have become an issue in the College.
On the way forward , the Provost explained that part of the plans to upgrade the institution to a university of education was to boost students’ enrollment and ultimately shore up the IGR.
He regretted that the preference for university degree over National Certificate of Education, NCE, had drastically affected students’ enrollment in the college.
He expressed optimism that when the Bill which had already gone for public hearing, was eventually passed into law, student population which has now diminished, would improve.
Dr Nto said that the geographical location of the institution at an equidistance to neigbouring Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi States, put it at an advantaged position to attract students from outside the state.
” That’s why the Governor has approved that the college should be upgraded to a university. Recently, we went for public hearing. Once the Bill is passed and the Governor assents to it this place will be populate because everybody now wants university degree.
“NCE is already going into extinction, we need to think out of the box. We have the infrastructure, we have all the buildings and facilities that can enable a university take-off here.
” Without students in all these buildings, it means we are building for reptiles. That’s why we will continue to work hard to ensure this place is upgraded.
” Once we take off, students will come because nobody wants to play a second fiddle. NCE is a long route to acquiring a degree”.
He, further, said that the university when approved, was structured to operate under Public Private Partnership, PPP, so that it would not have to depend solely on funding by Government.
The Provost said the institution decided to establish Centre for Continuing Education to help train people interested in certificate course in various vocations such as welding, fashion design, hair dressing, etc.
Dr Nto who said he had erected 15 quality buildings since he came on board in the last seven years, lauded the management of TetFUND for its numerous assistance to the institution.
He recalled that TetFUND had prior to his arrival, blacklisted the College following the breach of TetFUND rules by his predecessor who did not satisfactorily deploy funds from the agency.
” It may be surprising how I achieved all these within seven years only while the College has lasted for over 30 years staying in the old buildings donated at inception.
” It’s only through God. Initially I didn’t want to come here after serving as Commissioner for Finance. I nearly rejected the appointment but when the Governor told me he would want me to come and solve a problem here, I decided to come.”
He said some people had thought the Governor sent him to his village to retire him but thanked God for the huge infrastructural strides recorded under his watch.
The former Finance Commissioner said that he also leveraged on his contacts and exposure to explore opportunity to attract funds to the College, disclosing that he had attracted special grant from the Federal Ministry of Education for the building of a befitting entrance gate to the institution.
He debunked allegations by some detractors that projects executed in the institution were substandard, explaining that there is no way they will access new funds from TetFUND without utilizing the previous fund according to specifications.
Dr Nto who would soon be completing his second tenure as Provost vowed to sustain the on-going infrastructural revolution to reposition the College.
However, the State Government should complement the efforts of the Provost who has leveraged on his contacts and exposure to replete the College with structures using TetFUND.
The Government has no justifications to withhold the monthly subventions of the college to avoid needless strikes and industrial actions by members of staff.
Dr Nto has, by all standards written his name with gold in the annals of the college, probably because, as a son of the soil he has no choice than to perform.
But importantly because he chose to deliver as he could have possibly go the way of his predecessors.
Steve Oko, Publisher/C.E.O, WaWa News Global. For more information on advert placement and news coverage, contact us on: 08038725600, or via email firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Always read WaWa News Global - Your most dependable online news platform for the latest breaking news in Nigeria.