‘Here we study engineering, there they do engineering’
Etim had the rare opportunity of representing Nigeria at the Engineering Education Conference held at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, South Africa. But stuck to Etim’s mind is how other students who represented their countries unleashed their creativity, something that seemed alien to the rather ‘bookish’ culture in this part of the world.
“Here we study engineering, there they do engineering,” Etim said while sharing his interaction with students at CUT.
“Over there, it’s less of books and studying; it’s about improving the way engineering studies are being done, the manner research works are conducted, and innovations and creativity unleashed rather than the theoretical aspect we often emphasise here.”
EEC is organised by Deans of Faculties of Engineering in Africa, with participants cutting across students and lecturers on the continent and the Diaspora.
The week-long event held in September opened Etim’s eyes to how South Africa leverages on solar to generate power, while at the same time keeping its industries running 24/7.
According to him, a Nigerian graduate can match his contemporary anywhere strength for strength, the missing link is that at the home front, they are less engaged, especially with respect to letting loose their innate talents.
“As I said before,” Etim continued, “We study engineering in Nigeria, but we get to the outside world and it looks as if we are starting another school again. A Nigerian (graduate) goes outside the country and emerges the best out there despite the poor education climate at the home front. It’s not that we don’t have the capacity; it’s about the Nigerian environment.
“At Central University of Technology, it’s more of practical engineering. For instance the Electrical and Electronic Department (of CUT), really conserves energy. There is uninterrupted power supply there. (When) You come inside there, you don’t need to put on the switch because there is a sensor that detects your presence and the light switches on and when you leave it switches off. Once you step into their rest room, the sensor detects your presence and water flushes before and immediately after you use the toilet.
“If there is power outage just for five minutes, that means every operation in Free State is down at that moment. The hotel I was staying had no gates, I was my own security. The hotel management only gave every guest a remote, when you want to leave, you press the power button and the gate opens, and again you press and the gate closes.”
Etim noted that from his interaction with students across Africa and Diaspora, most tertiary institution and industries play down on the phenomenon of geniuses; but rather students that can meet specific needs through their creativity and skills.
“It’s about time; our institutions began to challenge us about what we can do.
“There, they are really engaging their students! But here in Nigeria, it’s all about studying and studying. Over there, it’s not about the best student in this or that course; it’s about the best in creativity, and skills, best in students’ ability to think out of the box and all that.
“I also realise that there, project work begins from your first year. You don’t just get into final year and get a project topic that is new. You get your project work from your first year and you get used to it until when you finish, and eventually the project gets published. But in Nigeria, most of our projects end in the library.
“Second, they don’t just generate a research topic; they approach industries and enquire from them what their challenges are. Let’s say Coca Cola has a problem, and I am able to solve it as a student, why will Coca Cola not employ me upon graduation? Truth is, the relationship between our institution and industries is very poor,” Etim concluded.