Dr Omolade Oluwatoyin Akinsanya is an associate professor at the Department of Educational Management and the Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Vocational Studies, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. She speaks with TAYO GESINDE on why university graduates need to learn at least one vocation or the other.
I wanted to study Law initially but when I did JAMB, I didn’t get admission into the university. Both my parents were teachers so after my school certificate examination, they encouraged me to go and do Grade 2 instead of staying at home doing nothing. It was a year course, I did it but I still sat for JAMB, hoping that I would still gain admission into the university to study Law. When I finished the course at the United Missionary College (UMC), Ibadan, Oyo State, I went to Saint Andrews College of Education, Oyo, for my National Certificate in Education (NCE) where I studied English/Yoruba. When I finished the three-year course, I gained admission through Direct Entry to study English Education at the University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. Since then, I have been an educationist and I have been enjoying it. I have never regretted being a teacher.
Why the Center for Entrepreneurship and Vocational Studies was established
When the Center was established in 2005, one of the objectives was that it should have something special in Education apart from the university degree. So that was why the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Vocational Studies was created. We have courses in Entrepreneurship, General Studies (GNS) and Vocational Studies. All the students who come to TASUED can study a vocational course asides their normal courses of study. We have about 10 vocational studies, Catering, Fashion Designing, Woodwork, Hairdressing and Cosmetology, Textile Design, Bee Keeping, Shoe Making, Poultry, Fishery and so on. Any student who comes to this university, when he wants to graduate, must go with two certificates; one from the area of study, the other one in vocational studies. If you enter into the university through JAMB, you must do vocational studies from 100-400 levels and you must pass at least three of the four courses before you can graduate. If a student makes a first class but did not pass the required courses at the vocational center, the student cannot graduate. So, our students come out with two certificates. This is to empower our students so that when they graduate, they can be self employed. Many of them have benefited from the programme.
How I run the center
When I come to the office in the morning, I first go to the pond to see how the fish are thriving, then move to the poultry section to check the layers, we will pick the eggs and sell them to the community. We also rear broilers and turkey that we sell during festive periods. I attend to administrative issues and I also go round the laboratories to check on what the students are doing.
Having to fund the equipment the student will use is one of the challenges we have. I know the management of this university are trying their best to make sure that whatever we need for the students to practicalise what they are learning are made available. Another challenge is that some of the students don’t see the reason they had to do the course. We have to address them and keep on encouraging them on why they need to take the course serious. It is when some of them graduate that they see the benefits of learning it. Also, getting artisans to handle such courses is quite challenging. Someone who wants to instruct an undergraduate should be able to communicate with the students in good English. However, now, some of our students who have passed out are being employed on part time basis to handle some of these courses; especially shoe making and hair dressing. Some of our students are self employed while those who learnt how to make fruit juices are now working at companies like Nestle and Nigerian breweries.
Inculcating vocational studies into secondary school curriculum
I will recommend that vocational studies should be included in secondary school curriculums. I know some schools are doing it already but others too should follow suit. These will help change the orientation of people who believe that it is only white collar jobs that university graduates must do.
What we do with our end products
We sell to people who come here and to our students too at a very low price. The university also gives some out. Our center is mainly for teaching and learning and not about profit making. We sell the end products like custard, juice, honey and so on but we are not after the gain, what we are after is that our students should understand what they are taught. It is TASUED Venture that is saddled with the responsibility of generating revenue for the institution.
How I combine my role as a lecturer, administrator, wife and mother
Well, by the special grace of God, God has made it easy for me. When I was appointed the director of the center, some people said it was not a woman’s job, that a man should be appointed as the director. I remember that my vice chancellor told them then that if the person I appointed cannot do it, then she should tell me herself. She told them that if she was not complaining, that meant she could do it. Since 2015 that I have been here, God has been the source of my strength.
As a lecturer where you have to publish or perish, combining this, which is a 24 hours job, you have to come to the center Monday to Sunday to check on the livestocks if they are doing well, with the role of house wife, is not easy.”
Fortunately, my husband also lectures here so the two of us are always busy. Some times when we get home, despite the tiredness we still have to write papers. It is not easy combining the two but I behave like a woman in the house. When I get home, I go straight to the kitchen, my children would say mum you have not removed your dress but I would tell them supper must come first. When the food is on the fire, I would go and change.
Tips on how you can combine your career with the home front
You need perseverance, commitment and you must believe in God. When you are not in a rush to get quick money, you will succeed. Though your career and your home are two different things, one can affect the other. If there is problem at home, it will tell on your career because if you are not happy at home, definitely, it will affect your job.
So, you have to try as much as possible to behave like a woman at home not minding your status at the office; respect your husband and take care of children. When you get to the office, behave like a man so that nobody will rubbish you. But when you are at home, forget the office toga and be a woman to your husband, children and relatives.
Advice to unemployed graduates
Young graduates should do away with their egos and learn a vocation because some of them will say how can I go and learn a trade from an artisan? With the recession now, vocational training is the way out of unemployment. Even the Bible says that whatever your hands find to do, do it well. The Yoruba too say atelewo eni, kii tan nije, so, all these vocational studies are very important. Even as a civil servant, you need vocational training, it is something you can fall on when the salaries are not forthcoming and even after retirement.