ITM Ugep And The Death Of A Good Vision BY OBASESAM OKOI

In Breaking News, Columnists, Education, National News, Opinion

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students of ITM Ugep, (photo credit: YouTube)
students of ITM Ugep, (photo credit: YouTube)

I have given some thoughtfulness to the suffering of students, faculty, and non-teaching staff at ITM, Ugep, before crafting this message. I write not as a public intellectual but as a man with an uncommon dream to establish a private university in the near future and develop it to a world class model so that generations after me will inherit a glorious heritage.

I recall standing before a convocation of Yakurr in Diaspora in Dallas, Texas, USA, to re-echo the sentiments expressed by Elder Ebri Eteng, who spoke passionately about ITM, Ugep, and his role in that enterprise, and to challenge our scholars in North America to join the struggle for the survival of ITM. I also recall leaving my comfort zone in Canada to travel to Nigeria to mobilize the masses in support of the movement for the survival of ITM.

In the course of this struggle, bricks have been thrown at me, and mud had been slung at me. But I keep standing! In the course of this struggle, I have made many enemies. But I keep standing! In the course of this struggle, I’ve had the opportunity to remain silent or muster the courage to challenge the oppressors but chose the dangerous path less traveled – to challenge the oppressor and liberate the oppressed. I keep standing!

I am conscious that my children will never study at ITM, Ugep, or even in Nigeria. They will study in Canada or USA or the UK. In spite of the realization that I have nothing to lose or gain for my struggle, I keep standing! So when I write or speak about ITM, I act from that mass of humanity.

Since resuming this campaign, I have read terrible philosophies from members of the public. Some have argued that the governor has submitted a bill to the state House of Assembly to transform the status of ITM, Ugep, to a Polytechnic, which will enable the institute to access funds from TETFUND.

While this is a good idea, the question for any enlightened mind is whether ITM as a National Diploma awarding institution is different from the traditional Polytechnic, and if so, what are the differences?

Also, as an institution established by law and accredited by the federal government to award National Diploma programs, I am still in doubt why the management of ITM cannot access funds from TETFUND to purchase equipment or upgrade some physical facilities.

ITM Ugep
ITM Ugep

The second question for any enlightened mind is whether the new governor has consulted widely with the principal architect of ITM, Governor Imoke, to discuss the schools’ philosophy and whether he has consulted with other stakeholders, notably members of the committee set up to evaluate the challenges at ITM and recommend possible reform, including Honorable Mfawa Ofegobi who worked alongside the governor to make that school a reality?

This is important because every school is established with a philosophy. Through personal experience including through my study of universities in Canada and the USA, I discovered that, to a great extent the philosophy on which a university was founded determines the learning experience of students and the political trajectory of that school.

It will interest us that the prevailing political rhetoric, as encapsulated in the proposal to transform ITM into a polytechnic, was never captured in the list of recommendations to the governor concerning the immediate and future direction of the school.

The straw that broke the Camel’s back was the response by the Personal Assistant to the Rector of ITM Ms. Oby Idakwo, who argued that “ITM is working and adopting a sustainable approach in its efforts,” and that lecturers have effectively taught the students while results are about to be moderated by external examiners before they become available online.”

Ms. Idakwo argued further that my advocacy “is a reflection of the disgruntled interest of a very few staff and students.” This begs some critical questions concerning the mentality of leaders managing the ITM.

First, I am disappointed in ITM management especially by its use of the word “disgruntled” to address staff members who have dedicated their time and intellectual labor to teaching for nine months without payment, for which some have chosen to resign.

I as I write, the first lecturer recruited by ITM has resigned. The Associate Dean of the School resigned after receiving warning threats from the new management over her relentless struggle for the rights of students.

Just last week, the Human Resources Manager resigned, while two other computing staff are awaiting their one-month notification of resignation to elapse. These resignations are the result of working without payment for nine months.

Second, the management has threatened to sanction some student leaders who have been outspoken about the challenges at ITM. I have been told reliably that the school now has a total of 114 students and two diploma programs with partial accreditation. The implication is that the students may graduate while their certificates will not be recognized for employment and further studies.

The truth is, accreditation of the various diploma and even higher national diploma programs was punctuated by Ayade’s government that decided to chase Highbury College by means of coercion rather than ensure a tactical albeit, smooth transition from Highbury to the state government that will prevent distortions in the teaching and learning experience of students and faculty.

Third, is ITM management aware that its students are getting 20% of the standard and quality of learning that Highbury had introduced? I have been told reliably by students that the newly employed lecturers have no capacity to impact their future. Which means they are not qualified to provide instruction at the tertiary level.

Teaching is a noble profession exclusively for those with the intellectual capacity to inspire and develop the human mind. It is also a profession for the best, brightest, and experienced minds.

Four, it has been confirmed that new students were denied the opportunity to attend classes for a period of one month despite paying high tuition for the semester. The few students who were bold to question this injustice were threatened with expulsion.

These indicators do not by any means justify the position of the management and some vested interests that the school is working or that it is adopting so-called “sustainable” approach to management.

Let me conclude that a school is not defined by the quality of buildings but by the quality of teaching and the learning experience taking place inside the buildings. Inside the ITM campus are amazing infrastructure to facilitate effective teaching and learning.

Finally, the leadership of a school calls for humility. I was shocked to the marrow the day I found the President of my former university queueing behind students to buy a cup of coffee which he could have asked one of the staff in his office to buy. I was moved.

But then, I realized we are supposed to treat each other as equals. I therefore would like the management of ITM to learn from this story and manage the affairs of the school with humility and sincerity of purpose instead of imposing a dictatorship while they come online to spread lies.

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