Dr. Tunji Daodu, Provost, College of Health Technology, Ilese, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, is also the Chairman of Provosts of Colleges of Health Technology in Nigeria. He is a consummate administrator and Fellow, Royal Society of Health, London. He tells TON in this interview, why prospective undergraduates should embrace health related-courses and why the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) should include specialised institutions in its schedules, among other issues. Excerpts:
It seems that the college of health technology is not appealing to many prospective undergraduates in the country. Why is this so?
That is a good observation and the reason is simple. One, until about seven years ago, the certificate awarded by colleges of health technology was lower in status to that of the polytechnics but the two are now equivalent to each other. Another factor is that colleges of health technology do not enjoy media attention like universities and regular polytechnics.
But honestly speaking, colleges of health technology are not doing badly at all in the country.
They offer many courses for students to choose from. Here in Ilese, for example, the school has courses such as environmental technology, community health, dental technology and dental therapy, among others and they are all accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NABTE), a government regulatory body for polytechnic and related institutions in the country.
What is the employment prospect for health technology graduates?
Whenever I have the opportunity, I tell parents that instead of allowing their children to go to university to study just any course without taking their economic relevance into consideration that they should come to specialised institutions like the college of health technology, school of surveying, and college of agriculture and so on.
The reality on ground has shown that some courses have little or no relevance to the economy thus graduates of such courses stay unemployed several years after leaving school.
But I must say that there are still professions in Nigeria that offer many job opportunities without corresponding number of qualified people to fill them. And most of these opportunities are in the health sector.
But unfortunately, many students don’t study health related courses. For example, when people approach me for employment and I ask them of their disciplines, they either say they studied accountancy, banking and finance, mass communications, philosophy or business administration and so on whereas we have vacancies for those who studied environmental health, public health, dental technology, dental therapy and related fields without enough qualified people to fill them.
So how many accounting graduates, for instance, will an organisation such as this college employs much less graduates of other less-related disciplines. But if you have a degree today in any of the health- related courses, there is job for you out there. And of course, salaries of workers and career progression in the health sector are also better compared to the non-health fields not only in Nigeria but elsewhere around the world.
So, what I will refer to as ignorance is the problem of many people in the country as regards choice of course to study and the type of school to go.
What is the major challenge confronting colleges of health technology in the country?
There are many challenges and they are all major. But inadequate fund is the greatest challenge among them. We have many things to do as an institution but we are hindered by finance. The laboratories need to be wellequipped and functioning, so also the libraries and ICT facilities. There is also the need to employ the best brains for academic work and other areas. You also need to expose students to practicals in and outside the college, carry out research works and so on. All these would require money.
Even to retain qualified hands at work also depends largely on remuneration and better condition of service. So, unless colleges like this are well- funded to enable them carry out these tasks, there will be problem of retention of good hands and so on. Funding actually is the greatest problem of any public tertiary institution in the country.
Now, our problems are further compounded by the fact that colleges of health technology are exempted from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) schedules. It is unfortunate that TETFund, which was instituted by the Federal Government as an intervention agency for financial needs of tertiary institutions in the country, only takes care of public universities, regular polytechnics and colleges of education, leaving out monotechnics and specialised institution in its intervention efforts. I wonder why it is like that. Tell me which institution should be better funded.
When we talk about specialised institutions, we are talking about colleges of health technology, school of aviation, school of agriculture, school of surveying, school of oceanography. These are schools that stimulate real economic development for the country, yet they are not funded by TETFund. This development is an indication of lopsidedness of work schedule of public policy of the agency.
How will you justify the inclusion of specialised institutions like yours in TETFund schedules?
My position is also that of the general view of all the provosts of colleges of health technology in the country. And this is simply that the Federal Government should compel TETFund, to henceforth, include colleges of health technology in its intervention activities.
The National Assembly should also wade in the matter in the interest of the public. The irony of it is that the government wants qualified health personnel to handle health conditions of Nigerians, yet it doesn’t want to pay the price.
So, the institutions including colleges of health technology that TETFund locked- out of its activities are actually the engine room that galvanise the economic development of Nigeria. Because come to think of it, how many universities that the government is spending so much money on have carried out research of public importance in the last ten years? I am not saying that government should not fund universities but let TETFund also include colleges of health technology and other specialised institutions in its schedules.
Because the wisdom that informed the setting up of these institutions is still there. Or how do we rationalise it as a country that colleges of health technology that are producing health workers that are handling health conditions of about 70 per cent of the country’s population will not be given adequate attention? In Ogun State alone, for instance, there are total of 426 primary health centres and 90 per cent of workers in those facilities are products of colleges of health technology.
And by implication, not less than 70 per cent of Nigerians living in rural communities are accessing care in primary health centres. So that is to say that the country is marginalising 70 per cent of the population, but those who advise the government only talk about the teaching hospitals as if they are the only health institutions in the country. So we deserve adequate funding from government and its agencies to enable us do better in service delivery.
When we turn out quality products, it will reflect in the quality of service they will deliver and in turn have positive result on the generality of the quality of health of Nigerians and economic productivity.
But some believe that the problem confronting tertiary institutions is not that of inadequate fund but that of financial impropriety and misplaced priority by leadership of those institutions, what is your view on this?
As far as I am concerned, I don’t believe totally in that position. Although, I won’t also rule it out entirely. Even at that, that position is not enough excuse for TETFund to exempt colleges of health technology in its schedules. In this college, we have many building projects springing up yearly and funded through Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
This college has equipment, especially for the dental programme, that many universities which have been in existence for over 20 years don’t have. The Dental Board and Dental Therapy Boards have been here and ascertained that. As a dental technologist or therapist, you can set up private laboratory to practice. So, it is not everybody that gets public money that squanders it.