ASCETA as a standard-bearer for Abia’s technological breakthrough
By Onoh Chukwuma Richard
When Governor Okezie ikpeazu assumed office in 2015, the Abia State College of Education, Technical Arochukwu, was nothing more than a glorified secondary school. Worried by the stunted growth of the tertiary institution which was established in 1993, the governor who is a core educationist and scientist decided to breathe life into the college by reengineering its leadership.
By February 2016, he appointed the then immediate Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Phillips Nto as the new Provost of the college with a mandate to reposition the institution and bring it at par with similar schools in Nigeria.
Dr. Phillips Nto knew what the Governor and the people of the state wanted, hence he hit the ground running not minding the mounting challenges which included dilapidated infrastructure, disoriented staff, low students’ enrollment.
From the broken down perimeter fencing to lack of public power supply and absence of basic teaching tools, Dr. Phillips Nto knew that he had to work extra hard to make the institution conducive for teaching and learning first before addressing the systemic decay including non-accreditation of courses.
Apart from immediately restoring the power supply, rebuilding the perimeter fencing, and clearing the entire compound, Dr. Nto embarked upon the renovation of the hostels which were not fit then for human habitation.
Realizing that the college was first and foremost an educational institution, the Provost turned his attention to the accreditation of courses. Before then, no course had achieved accreditation from the relevant authorities. He was overjoyed when the governor graciously approved funds for the presentation of the courses mounted in the college for accreditation. Today, almost all the courses have been accredited with the full complement of academic staff.
Before Dr. Phillips Nto took over as Provost, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) which is primarily responsible for the infrastructural advancement of tertiary institutions in Nigeria had withdrawn funding of projects for ASCETA because of misapplication of previously released funds.
After several visits and an interface with the interventionist body by the Provost, he was given a condition to complete the abandoned projects before ASCETA could qualify for new ones. Once again, the governor approved that he should independently source funds for that purpose. That was how he completed the abandoned school of vocational studies complex, Dual fish ponds, and fish feed Mill, thus qualifying ASCETA for fresh projects.
Since that breakthrough, Dr. Phillips Nto has attracted to ASCETA projects running into billions of naira. He started with the renovation of the old administration block, then built a brand new 300 capacity auditorium and school of Arts and Social Science. He has since constructed the school of Business Education, School of Science, equipped with various science equipment and an ultra-modern Library complex, that competes with libraries in bigger universities. Currently the School of Education complex and School of General Studies are 90 percent completed. These projects are outside various procured educational equipment and materials that facilitate teaching and learning.
It is also instructive that the Provost has attracted grants worth more than N800million for the academic development of the Staff. To also boost school enrollment, the Provost has activated the process of affiliating the college to the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike in addition to strengthening the existing one with Abia state University Uturu. When all these are in place, those wishing to obtain their degrees from the two institutions can as well go through ASCETA.
In building the confidence of students in the college, the Provost has started issuing certificates to graduates of the school, something that has not happened since its inception three decades ago.
On staff welfare, the Provost has worked with the Governing Council to ensure that those due for promotion are promoted. He is also working very hard to ensure that the staff is paid regularly subject to the release of funds by the government. He has always pleaded with staff to be patient as the current economic challenges are affecting many Government agencies.
That notwithstanding, Dr. Phillips Nto commitment to growing ASCETA to be the driver of the governor’s education for employment initiative is not in doubt. Every student of the college takes a compulsory course in skills acquisition so that upon graduation, he or she would not only be self-employed but become employers of labour.
Dr. Phillips Nto who has attributed all the achievements in the college in the last five years to Governor Okezie ikpeazu believes that ASCETA is poised to be the standard-bearer of Abia state’s technological breakthrough in the coming years.