By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Thirty-two years after the establishment of the School of Health of Technology in Etinan, Akwa Ibom State, issues of denial of improved facilities to ease problems on students and management as well as improved standards remain unresolved.
Although on its signpost and even on the only vehicle functioning both as the official car of the Provost and an errand bus, the inscription is “College of Health Technology, Etinan”. But that is far from the truth.
The official name of the 32-year old middle level health institution, which is housed in some makeshift and dilapidated structures built by pre-independence missionaries of Qua Iboe Church, opposite the now General Hospital, Etinan, still remains: School of Health Technology, Etinan.
A visit to the school revealed that until recently, the school was existing to churn out “graduates” with no prospects, and who are hardly eligible for employment in the state health sector because, poor training occasioned by lack of facilities, non-accreditation of courses, due majorly to lack of qualified professional lecturers in appropriate departments.
Principal of the school, Mr. David Udoh, when contacted listed various challenges facing the college and called on the state government to come to the aid of the school to enable its meet the necessary obligations as the citadel of learning.
This situation according to Mr. Udoh, has made management after due approval from the ministry of health to resort to devising mean including hiring part-time professional lectures, especially, in the department of community health. These lecturers, he said are paid stipends from the meager sundry fees the student pay.
“People have asked me: ‘how do you run the school’? And my reply has always been that we need to run the school. We are health professionals. Some of us went through this kind of school before we proceeded to universities. So we have the experience and we have to make some sacrifices.
“That doesn’t mean that we don’t write. We have written more memos and proposals than since the beginning of this school in 1988. The records are there in the ministry and with us,” the principal said.
Udoh said faced with the precarious situation, he had to obtain permission from the ministry to re-channel some of the funds meant for sports, medical exams and development fees paid by only year one students, to run the school and especially pay the part time professional lecturers, renovate the dilapidated structures and even construct lecture hall and laboratory, through voluntary donations by students and lecturers.
According to him the school at the moment has only 27 academic staff, the bulk of which are scientific officers with only 14 professionals while relying on about 30 part time professionals to make up.
But he said the ideal situation should be at least 10 professional lecturers in each of the six departments which run the nine programmes in the school.
The students of the institution are not equally comfortable with the way the state government has treated them as second class citizens in the state’s school system.
One of them, Esther Enoobong, a 200 level student in the Department of Community Health said, “It appears that the state government has forgotten about the school, hence we are not feeling their presence. We want to feel the present of government through the provisions of facilities here to ease our problems.
When we have academic functions, government should come and participate in the programmes. This will give us a sense of belonging that the school is government owned institution. We are professionals by the training we have here, where there is health challenge in the state, government should use us as volunteers.
“As a citadel of learning, we are in dire need of academic staff. Currently, the bulk of academic staff are on part-time basis. Being contract staff, we, as students do not have access to them whenever we need them for our personal need”, Esther lamented
Another, a 200 level student from the Department of Health Information Management, Christopher Benjamin said; “The major problem we are facing in this school is insufficient classroom blocks. Because of lack of enough classrooms, 100 level students and 200 levels most times mix together in one hall to have lectures, and the consequence is noise making because different lecturers will be teaching at the same time. But this problem will be addressed if we have enough classrooms.
“Again, we need free WiFi for online learning, and we need also public power supply to the school to encourage learning at night. In my department, we have only three professional staff out of the recommended 10. This is grossly inadequate with negative consequence in our studies as we do not have extra moral classes.
“As students, we need vehicle to ease transportation problem whenever we have competition with our sister institutions in Calabar, Cross River state and other places”, Christopher added.
It was however discovered that that most of the problems of the school could have been solved if the “Bill for a Law to establish Akwa Ibom State College of Health Technology” which has since been passed into law by the State House of Assembly, had received executive assent.
If the law is assented to by state governor which would have upgraded the status of school to College of Health Technology enormous benefits would have been brought to the institution.
According to the sponsor of the bill, Mr. Aniefiok Dennis, representing Etinan State Constituency, a change in nomenclature from School to College would enable the school to attract project from TETFund and other interventionist agencies like the Niger Delta Development Commission, have its governing council, employ qualified lecturers and increase the numbers of courses.
The state Commissioner of Health, Prof Augustine Umoh, has kept deafening silence with regards to problems of the school when contacted for comments.