I remember how enthusiastic I was about studying engineering in the University. I remember how I kept telling myself that God had answered my prayers by fulfilling my dreams. In earnest, I thought going to study engineering was a dream come true.
I remember asking a colleague why we had to spend 5 years studying in the University instead of 4, like the other undergraduates; and he replied: “because Engineering is a professional course”.
I spent 5 years with hard labour. I gave out my best, I even studied under the sun because I wanted to be an Engineer.
I studied, went for extra classes (tutorials), acquired almost all necessary textbooks some of these I did with my personal income but I did not mind.
When things went too tough, we tried to complain but our lecturers reminded us that we were Engineering students and deserved what we got.
I remember a particular lecturer of mine who often told us that there is no mercy in Engineering because the lives of many people lie eventually in our hands. We accepted and persevered because we thought he meant it.
During my Industrial attachment (at setraco Nigeria limited), I chose to work very hard like a roadside mechanic in order to get a first class knowledge about machines and workshop equipment. This earned me a good record from my expatriate boss.
I don’t want to bore you with stories of how I attached myself during my long holidays with roadside mechanics because I wanted to acquire skills.
But just when I thought I was through with school to come and practise my profession in the outside world, I saw something different.
Already, I began to suspect a fowl play when my medical counterparts graduated from medical schools and went for their housemanship, my law counterparts graduated and went to law schools and I graduated and was pushed for NYSC. But I didn’t panic because I felt I was being faster than them.
I was wrong.
In the NYSC camp, you needed to see how the doctors, nurses and other health personnel were treated preferentially, even the lawyers were honoured and called barristers wherever they went but as Engineering graduates, we were as good as the crop scientists and fish farmers-if not worse.
To add salt to the injury, an official of the NSE visited us at the camp and told us a lot of challenges facing the NSE and then reminded us that we were not Engineers yet until after about 4 years of attachments and COREN examinations in addition to the five years we spent in school. Most of us would have lynched him that day if not for the law and order guiding the orientation camp.
Well, I am currently serving Nigeria and as a mechanical engineer in the making, I am posted to a secondary school to teach maths and physics, While the doctors and nurses are in the hospitals practising their professions.
Perhaps, after my NYSC, I shall become a Maths engineer or a physics Engineer or even a master in classroom Engineering.
I do not blame the Government or the NYSC so much for this mishap. All I wonder is what the NSE leaders at the top are doing. NSE officials, what stops you from coming from time to time to inspect engineering workshops in the Universities and polytechnics?
What about compelling the federal government to equally erect schools of engineering (just like we have Law schools and medical colleges) where graduate / student engineers would go and master in a particular field such as plumbing, automobile, design, refrigeration, air conditioning etc. And thereby become Engineers before going for NYSC?
What about Fixing all certified engineers on a minimum wage and ensuring that Engineers are part of the labour force in the production industries and factories in Nigeria? Go to Nigerian schools and see that 90% of the maths and physics teachers there are Engineers.
Why did you let us spend 5 years in the first place studying engineering if there were no plans for us?
I am disappointed!
I don’t know about the others but I am losing interest already in my beloved call. And I will not even allow my children, nephews, nieces and junior friends to suffer what I suffered in the name of studying engineering.
Dear NSE officials, you may be working wherever you are right now, but I want to tell you without mincing words that the people are yet to see any positive results.
And please if you can, stop Nigerian Universities and polytechnics from admitting Engineering students till further notice.
Long Live Nigeria Society of Engineers
Ugochukwu Okafor (B-Eng)
(Graduate member, NSE)
(That’s me in the picture still trying to acquire skills while waiting for NYSC call-up)