FCE Okene: I assumed office at a period of growing demands but lean resources – Dr Hassan

Dr Umar Hassan is the current provost of Federal College of Education (FCE) Okene, Kogi state. At a press conference to mark his two years in office recently, spoke to SALIHU OYIBO on his numerous achievements in infrastructural development, staff and student welfare as well as  his projection for the institution in the next two years.

You have just clocked two years in office as Provost, Federal College of Education Okene. What have been your achievements so far ?

On September 26, 2017, precisely,  President Muhammadu Buhari graciously approved my appointment as the provost of this great citadel of learning. On my assumption of duty, I met a college with great potentialities and with the burning desires to move to the next level of growth and development. 

As it is often said, government is a continuum, therefore, we set in motion necessary machinery to address all the lingering challenges we met on ground which are majorly financial and of course, academic. We inherited huge liabilities of promotion arrears for 2015 and 2016 which were as a result of shortfalls in personnel cost.

In spite of the lean resources at our disposal, critical decisions have been taken to stabilise the system with quick interventions in academic programmes. 

These include organising resource visit for the newly introduced programmes: History, Geography, Economics and Adult and Non-Formal Education. Consequently the visit led to the accreditation of the last programme. 

We also created the Political Science Department as part of our determination to attain the set noble vision and mission of the college and to key into National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) reforms and in consonance with societal demands. 

Two new schools namely, School of Adult and Non-Formal Education and the School of Early Childhood Care and Primary Education were also established within this two years. We created additional academic directorates and restructured the existing ones for greater efficiency and service delivery.

Similarly, our genuine efforts towrads moving the college to the next level of growth and development in research and academic development has continued to yield fruits, with growing opportunities, such as in manuscript development intervention, which hitherto could not be accessed since 2012. 

This has been however made possible by our tenacity in imbibing due process, ensuring transparency and accountability in our engagements with TETFund. We have also been able to access interventions in the areas of academic manuscripts/book publication between 2012 and 2016 and academic manuscripts/book publication 2016/2018. 

Infrastructural development is key to any tertiary institution, what effort have you made towards that area?

This administration met some ongoing TETFund projects and knowing full well that new projects cannot be accessed without the completion of the ongoing ones, it became expedient for us to mobilise the contractors to site to ensure immediate completion of the projects. These projects were the ICT complex at 60 per cent completion, but now completed, School of Vocational Education lecturer’s building at 70 per cent completion also now completed and the Gymnasium at 60 per cent completion then, now completed.

Consequently, despite the critical conditions attached, we were able to attract the following TETFund projects to the college: the construction of one-storey building complex for Early Childhood Care, Primary, Adult and Non-Formal Education, with external works which is ongoing, but has reached  90 per cent  completion; Construction of Twin-200 seater auditorium with external works ongoing 80 per cent completion; construction of one-storey building block of eight classroom complex – ongoing 85 per cent  completion, Construction of 1 storey building for School of Languages Lecturer’s Office complex, ongoing at 80 per cent completion and the construction of two VIP toilets with borehole facilities (students’ integrity project) completed.

Remarkably too, we have attracted two major capital projects to the college, which are currently ongoing. These are the construction of administrative building; This project when completed is expected to bring an end to the lingering problem of acute office accommodation confronting our non-teaching staff, most especially, the administrative officers and also enhance their productive capacities in service delivery; construction of hostel block for female students.

It may interest you to know that this administration had also taken some bold initiatives to attract other projects to the college through other agencies of government, corporate agencies and individual, rather than the usual TETFund interventions. 

These project interventions include,  erection of 45 numbers of solar powered street lights; drilling of two  solar-powered boreholes and accessories, one each in male and female hostels;  drilling of one motorised borehole in the staff quarters, asphalt overlay on about 1.2km stretch of road network and donation of three tricycle motorbikes.

In addition, we have carried out the following rehabilitation of the main campus and staff quarters overhead tanks, for the first time since installation several years back. Before now, both were in such dilapidated state that over 60 per cent water pumped and stored before discharge and distribution were lost.we have also done the de-silting of the college main drainage network which again was the first time since its construction years ago. This has helped in the control of surface water run-off, which previously has caused the washing off of the road network and erosion in some places.

We also embarked on installation of solar panels/submersibles that supply water to surface reservoirs in the main campus and staff quarters. This has allowed for continuous pumping of water to the reservoirs and also reduced tremendously the use of diesel fuel to power the boreholes.

These initiatives have no doubt made considerable impact on the wellbeing of our students on campus and of course, our staff. Interestingly too, discussions are at advanced stage to benefit from Dangote Foundation for hostel construction and rehabilitation.

More so, we have sent the list of some capital projects to TETFund for quick intervention and one of it is the 4.5km of  access road we want to open at the left flank of the campus so that development can also reach there and as well ease the mobility of students and staff of the college.

We are also proposing to have a mini-sport complex which will be a combined structure that will accommodate convocation ceremony. We are also looking at some other projects that are very vital to the institution for intervention.

On the welfare of students and staff development what have you achieved?

One of the cardinal priorities of this administration is staff development. It is our conviction that our policy trust can only be efficiently and effectively delivered with a well trained and highly motivated work force. This explained why we attach utmost attention to the issue of staff welfare.

Obviously, I assumed office at a critical period with growing demands with scarce resources. We inherited huge promotion arrears for 2015/2016. I am delighted to say that so far we have been able to clear 19 months of 2015 and 9 months from 2016 arrears. Remarkably too, 2018 promotion was effected and financially implemented. Similarly, as at December 2017, all salary arrears were cleared. It is also worthy of note that the contentious issues surrounding the payment of arrears of Peculiar Academic and Non-teaching allowances have been put to rest, as we have commenced the implementation.

In addition,  this administration has continued to give opportunities to staff to attend workshops, seminars and conferences for optimum productivity and self-realisation.

Similarly, we have embarked on aggressive staff development programme, which gives adequate room and opportunities to more qualified members of staff to be sponsored for higher degrees, especially for master’s and doctorate degrees. Many of our staff members have also continued to benefit by obtaining first degrees, and Higher National Diplomas. 

It is worthy of note that while the sponsorship of academic staff is driven by TETFund, the non-teaching staff are locally sponsored. Since the inception of this administration, a total of 123 staff members were sponsored for further studies, 45 academic and 78 non-teaching staff. Also a total of 174 staff members have benefitted from TETFund sponsored conferences and workshops.

Also students’ welfare has remained a critical part of our development agenda. We have continued to ensure that the college environment is made conducive and well secure for teaching and learning. Provision of basic amenities such as water and electricity are never compromised. In addition, drugs and other medical facilities are provided to cater for health challenges of our students and staff.

The student friendly policy of this administration has made it a matter of priority to open up the college and make education easily accessible to the students and prospective students alike by charging low fees. I wish to state here that Federal College of education, Okene, remains the cheapest in terms of fees when compared with other sister colleges in Nigeria.

Remarkably, the relationship between the management and the student union is very cordial. The college has continued to enable smooth conduct of Student Union Government (SUG) elections. We have also provided a serviceable vehicle to ease the operation and transportation needs of the SUG.

What efforts did you put in place to sustain the existing peace in the college?

This administration has in the last two years driven her policy trust on honesty, transparency, accountability and in compliance with the rule of law. We have also ensured open-door policy, staff inclusiveness and regular consultation with all stakeholders and unions on policy formulation and implementation processes. 

Our administrative machinery is driven by the committee system, as most staff members are opportune to serve on one committee or the other.

What is the relationship between the college and the host community?

This administration has given special attention to college-community relation by enhancing our programmes and priorities on Corporate Social Responsibility. This effort has continued to yield positive results for the sustenance of peace and mutual co-existence with the college’s immediate community.

Recently, we went into collaboration with an organisation to provide empowerment facilities and training to members of the immediate and larger community in the Central senatorial district of the state. In the same vein, employment opportunities and other forms of assistance, are being provided for the immediate community, which include, the extension of medical services to members of the immediate community. All these are carried out by the management of the college to foster unity and also sustained the existing peace and tranquility we enjoyed together.

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