Special Report

August 21, 2022

Akinkurolere: Female engineering students outshine their male counterparts

By James Ogunnaike

The immediate past Rector of Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa in Ado-Odo/Ota local government area of Ogun State, Engr. Dr. (Mrs.) Olufunke Olanike Akinkurolere, in this interview, calls on government to invest more on technical and vocational education if Nigeria wants to move forward in technology. She also speaks on her achievements while at the helms of affairs in the institution. Excerpts:

How was it when you came as the second substantive Rector of OGTECH?

When I took over as the second Rector of Ogun State Institute of Technology, (OGTECH) Igbesa in 2014, everywhere was just opening up. I can say it has been a very memorable journey. In terms of infrastructure, everywhere was just opening, no fence. I met the gate at the entrance and very few structures. But I met people on ground who were willing to work and with these people, and we were good to go. It was a great challenge, but, today, I give thanks to God because of what we have been able to achieve. The people I met at OGTECH and I have been able to work as a team with commitment and dedication.

When you came to OGTECH, how many accredited courses were there and how many are there now?

When I resumed, there were 11 accredited courses and 18 programmes. So, we went straight to work, looking for how we could improve on our programmes and, today, there are 35 fully accredited programmes.

OGTECH was recently recognized as the best in terms of academic programmes. What are the factors that you can attribute this to?

First of all, I want to give glory to Almighty God because I believe there is nothing that is not possible with Him. I also want to thank members of staff because it takes the Rector to provide good leadership but you cannot provide good leadership if you don’t have good people following you. So, if you want to have a good leadership you need a vibrant team. I want to appreciate the staff, both academic and non-academic; they are so wonderful. We have dedicated and committed staff in OGTECH. Winning an award, you know all institutions in Nigeria were put on the same scale and there were criteria and for us to have won the award. It means we met all the criteria. The award was the most compliant in admission processes. When you look at all the categories of award, that was the one based on merit and academic performance because when you talk of admission, you have to follow guidelines. I want to appreciate the admissions unit of the institution because they were actually in charge. Today, we can boldly say that OGTECH is an award winning institution. I want to appreciate Governor Dapo Abiodun. By winning the award, we were singled out among all state owned tertiary institutions because we happened to be the only state owned tertiary institution that won the award. All other categories were won by Federal Government owned institutions and for it to have come to Ogun State further reinforced that we are the Gateway Polytechnic and for the Governor of the state to have recognized that also re-informs his commitment to education. Sincerely, since he came on board, he has been fulfilling his promises in the area of education. I was not the only one recognized, he also recognized the students. That recognition was a challenge for us to do more and that is why we have been working to make sure we don’t go below standard.

You are a female engineer, what do you think can inspire more females to come into this field?

I have been advocating for more females in this field. When I was processing my admission, it was only two female students. So, in a class of 22, we had only two females. One of the ways to encourage young female students is by telling them our testimonies because I have discovered that in engineering, female students always outshine their male counterparts. They should not be intimidated by their male counterparts. Though, it is a male dominated profession, I can tell you that female engineers are doing well in the profession now.

Technical and vocational education is crucial to the development and industrial growth of any country, but in Nigeria, it has become a case of much talk, less action. What do you think is the way out?

No nation can have meaningful development without skill development. Getting a degree is different from having a skill. We may know the theory, but do we actually have the skill? You may have degree and diploma, make sure you have a skill and that is everything about vocational and technical education. We want skilled laborers in our nation. When you look at Nigeria’s population, we have more youths than many other countries, so we should use this to our advantage. All we are advocating for is skill and that is what the polytechnic education is meant for. I know of a friend who has B.sc in chemistry but, today, she is a journalist. We have been advocating that government should invest more in this sector. When we are talking about skill, we need to train people because you cannot acquire skill theoretically. We are advocating that we should involve industries more because these are some of the things that actually help. We also need skilled manpower in our nation Nigeria. The future is bright for us in this nation, we just need to get things right. We should train our youths and give them skill. We have vibrant youths in Nigeria.

Industrial action has become a norm and of course bedeviled our tertiary institutions in Nigeria. How can this be addressed?

Nobody likes industrial action, even the ASUP and ASUU are not happy about strike because most of them are parents that have their children in tertiary institutions. Government needs to invest more in education. The educational sector should be well funded. At least, 20% of annual budget of the country or state should go into education. A lot of people think that lecturers are always happy going on strike. I don’t think any sane person can be happy. Government needs to listen to the lecturers. Though, there are challenges in the nation, what the lecturers are asking for is for the betterment of the nation’s education sector. Strike disrupts academic calendar, the future of our children, the students we are training. Time waits for no man. A lot of opportunities must have been lost.

One major highlight of your tenure is the award given to the institution by JAMB. How did you achieve this?

OGTECH is a polytechnic, some of our members of staff engage in research. Apart from the fact that what we do here is raising future leaders, they do not only come in here to get their diploma as the case maybe. We are raising future leaders and then we also imbibe in them moral values and we are always happy about the outcome. These are some of the contributions. We are producing graduates that are independent and useful to the society, and that is basically what the institution is all about. We want to make them employers of labour. You don’t have to wait for government to get you job. That is part of the training that we give them.

During your tenure as Rector, can you lead us into some of your achievements?

Everything is by the grace of God. When I wanted to start, I was in this office with some of the staff members and we decided to look at some basic projects that could bring structures. When I came, I told you I met only the gate and the implication was that anybody could come in at any time. Today, everywhere is fenced. OGTECH is now a polytechnic of choice. We improved on infrastructure. When I came in, the foundation of the multipurpose hall was only laid, so we started with that and, because of my profession as a civil engineer, we were able to put that in place. We ensure that whatever we are doing can stand the test of time. All the projects under my supervision are of standard. We did landscaping, we constructed bigger auditoriums. We constructed a multi-million Naira twin lecture hall which is named after Governor Dapo Abiodun. When you go round our campus, you will see everything almost blue roof, they were constructed during my tenure as Rector. The Mass Communication Department, with brown roof, was constructed and equipped by me. There was a building that was burnt down by fire, we reconstructed it. We also built a twin hall for ICT. We have over 300 computer systems there. Most of these things were done from our IGR through the support of government. There is a laboratory for the Engineering Department, it’s a storey building that has eight standard laboratories, furnished and equipped. In the School of Science, I can count the number of offices with air conditioners.

How have you been able to confront cultism on campus?

We have been able to reduce or tame the activities of cultists to the barest minimum. Not that we don’t have them around, but one thing is that the institution has zero tolerance for cultism. There was a time we expelled about 12 students and we informed DSS and the police. We also pasted their pictures everywhere so that nobody will harbor them. We sent some students home recently. This has reduced the activities of cultists drastically.

How supportive has the Ogun State government been in the actualization of the OGTECH of your dream?

I want to send an appreciative note to the people of Ogun State because to be here as Rector, I can say that government has been very supportive. In Ogun, we have over 10 state owned tertiary institutions and for government to be able to sustain all of these, that is well appreciative. For the very first time in the history of this institute, we got support from government during accreditation. The fact that government supported us shows that they want the school to continue to survive. We receive our subventions regularly. Government monitors our IGR to make sure that there’s no misappropriation. Government is trying to make sure that we run smoothly and that is why our students stand out anywhere they go to.

Did you leave OGTECH fulfilled?

I left OGTECH fulfilled. I can say that with my shoulders raised up because it’s not only about infrastructure, what about impacting on lives? A lot of people, when I came on board, the most senior lecturer was Lecturer II. Now, we have Chief Lecturers. Staff promotion has been very consistent. I have been able to address promotion issues from 2010 and as of today we are not indebted to anybody. We pay our salaries on the 25th of every month. I make sure we remit staff deductions regularly because I noticed that that’s what a lot of staff use to survive. Just this year alone, we have sent about 25 members of staff abroad for training, it’s not by TETFUND, it is from within. So, I left OGTECH fulfilled. I return all glory to God. I thank the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu. He’s been a good mentor. I have worked with Commissioners and staff and where we are today is through their encouragement and advice.