At JIIMATECH, blend of theory, practical in education – Fr Enyosiobi
St John Innovation Institute of Management and Technology (JIIMATECH) will be officially commissioned on Saturday at Neni, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. In this interview with IJEOMA EKWOWUSI, the Rector of the institute, Rev. Fr. Francis Michael Enyosiobi, popularly known as Jesu Nwannaa traced the origin of the institute, what they do and its value to society. Excerpts:
GIVE us an insight on how JIIMATECH started. What kind of businesses do you operate here?
The St John Innovation Institute of Management and Technology (JIIMATECH) was initiated by the current and substantive Bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor when he was the parish priest of St John’s Catholic Church, Neni, as far back as late 80s.
Then, Neni had only one parish, this St John. The then Fr Paulinus Ezeokafor organised a reception for His Excellency, the then military administrator of Anambra State and an indigene of the Neni community, Col Robert Nnaemeka Akanobi.
In the course of the reception, the governor was very elated that neither the then old Njikoka norhis community received him but the parish priest.
He asked the parish priest to request for a favour and he requested for a vocational institute. That’s how this place was birthed. Akanobi used his influence to organise a luncheon to build the only mega structure as at then, the only two storey building under the
Chairmanship of Chief (Sir) JO Nwankwu (Onwa Abagana), the father of erstwhile Commissioner of Utilities during the Peter Obi regime, Sir Emeka Nwankwo (Onwa Junior).
After that, they started this project and built a vocational institute from 1989 and was completed around 1998. Then in September 1999, Most RevJonas Benson Okoye, the then parish priest of St John, currently the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese started this place as vocational institute and got the approval from the Anambra State Ministry of Education in August 2000. And then, the school had been going on as a vocational institute.
Unfortunately, the educational system of Nigeria is not something to write home about. Vocational and technical education are the hub and cradle of civilisation and the hinge of civilisation in Europe, but the Nigerian system of education never savoured it.
What we see is paper certificate; people brandishing paper certificates. We need Theory Into Practice (TIP) system of education.
We need education that is creative and innovative and in the course of time, the vocational institute started wobbling. The problem is that the graduates of vocational institutes in Nigeria are very much underestimated.
They are looked down upon and are not valued. We value people that graduate from the university even if the person graduates in shuttle or okada administration. That was how the institute began but gradually faded away and then what happened?
In October 2012, the bishop asked me to come here; that the Neni community wants to shut down this place and want to turn it to a Secondary school, St John International Secondary School.
He told me that this a legacy that is to turn around the society and therefore, he doesn’t want it to be shut down and he sent me here. I could recall what he said to the community: “You are old enough and you have prominent people and you are good enough to have something better than a secondary school”.
There are too many secondary schools around Anaocha Local Government Area, even in Neni. There is the Flora Azikiwe Secondary School, also built by the Catholic Church in the early 60s.
I saw a document dated 10th February 1962 from the Archbishop’s House in Onitsha for the approval to open up the secondary school. The idea of naming the secondary school was political as they have to name the school Flora Azikiwe after Nnamdi Azikiwe’s wife to get approval for the school to function.
Actually, Flora Azikiwe was conceived by the Neni indigenes because they wanted to have a high technical institute as at that time, it was becoming too difficult to give approvals for schools in eastern region because there were insinuations that Catholics already had many schools.
So the community reasoned that instead of losing the secondary school, let them name the school Flora Azikiwe so that it will easily get approval.
That was the political ingenuity of the founding fathers of the Flora Azikiwe Secondary School, led by Messrs Peter Ezeani and MC Ezeani, a medical doctor who came in from the United States then. They went to Lagos and met Zik and then the approval to open the school was given.
I started the rebuilding of the efforts of the founding founders. The first thing I did was to ask for a day from the bishop to organise the Founder’s Day celebration and then, we scheduled the celebration for 5th May, 2013. I planned to have a Founders Day celebration.
That day, His Excellency, Mr Peter Greg Obi was unavoidably present. Chief VC Obianodo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Young Shall Grow Motors was the chairman of the occasion. I never wanted to do a launching.
What I planned then was to recognisethose that were contributory to the vocational institute and also, to create the awareness that a new priest has come to manage this place as the director of theinstitute.
My plan was to do the function and then afterwards, weorganise a dinner a meeting for stakeholders and further have a discussion for a way forward. Eventually, Mr Peter Obi surprisingly initiated the donations and the event turned out to become a bazaar.
Precisely, I came here in October 7, 2012 and by May 5, 2013, I had commissioned my office complex, administrative quarters, students’ convenience- a storey building housing 38 toilets and bathrooms. When I came here, the students had only four toilets and no source of water supply in the compound.
Currently, Ibuilt the students convenience, the admin quarters, the ground floor building, bungalow housing the Rector’s office, the registrar’s office, the boardroom, the deputy rector’s office, the secretary’s office. I also had to sink the 780 feet deep borehole with 10 horse power sumo (10 “).
I have also built light house and power house. Peter Obi built and donated a generator house and a generator to the institute. While also, I built a generator house and bought about three generators added to an existing one before my advent here.
I did the fencing of the institute, securing it from intruders and passersby, built the school main gate which was chiefly sponsored by my friend who has been with us all this while, Hon Chief Ferdinand Dozie Nwankwo, representing the good people of Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia Federal Constituency. Since he built that gate, he has not left us.
The borehole was sponsored solely by Chief Pat Chidolue, the proprietor of Chelsea Group (Nnabuenyi Neni). The fencing was sponsored by Engr Chinedu Okoye from Enugwu-Uwkwu (Aguluonu n’ Enugwu-Ukwu).
Since then, I have started putting the place in shape. I renovated the old building by the bishop; I removed the louvers, replacing it with Alumaco. I discarded the wavery, roofed it and painted it. There was an abandoned federal government MDG project here- the ICT centre.
I completed it through the efforts and financial support of Chief O.Mmodilim, an indigene of Neni. I got N30 million support from Mr Peter Obi when he was in office, 18 seater bus, 30 Kva sound proof generator and 30 HP branded laptops and Mr Obi said to me, “Fr Francis, I am leaving office but I am not leaving you.
You will be seeing me as Peter Obi” and he has kept that promise till date. In fact, he is one of our chief principal awardees on September 17, 2022.
After Obi’s administration came in His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano (Akpokuedike Global) who aided us with the completion of our academic/auditorium complex to the tune of N35million which is soon to be commissioned.
He sponsored the roofing of the structure – a gigantic iron roof.He gave us N30million, an 18 seater bus and a transformer which we requested for. It is here now yet to be installed.
Together with my team, we have been able to do a whole lot of transformation in the institute. There are people who has assisted us in the progress of JIIMATECH. Their names will be unveiled on the D- day, on Saturday, September 17, 2022.
Also, there were lots and lots of provisions, machines, sewing machines both electrical and industrial ones. We did the renovation of the library and that was why it was named after the erstwhile First Lady of Anambra State, Her Excellency, Chief Dr(Mrs) Ebelechukwu Obiano (Osodieme).
She was very much frontal in the renovation and upgrading of the school library. Another supportive force to the institute is Very Rev Fr Mike Steve, a priest from AdaziEnu.
The thing is that the past APGA governments in the state have done tremendously well in partnering with this institution. First on the list was Peter Obi who did excellently well when he was the governor of Anambra State and he is still doing well and that’s why the institute is obedient to Mr Obi, obedient to APGA and obedient to the people of goodwill.
On the D-day, I will tell you what the indigenes of this community have done individually; those who are here with us and my friends from outside the community – both from Catholic and Anglican faiths have done. All our donors have been good to us because we do what they see.
In fact, Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano came here with the perfumes she brought from Dubai and carried the ones we produced locally here in our institute back to Government House.
During the Willie Obiano administration, I have been an adviser and anchored the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative programmes, producing both cutting and making machines for them. We do all that in the school. What I pray for is continuity.
After the Willie administration comes Prof Charles Soludo (Charlie Nwamgbafor) administration. I will not disclose what he had done even before he became the governor now. I will say that on the day of the official commissioning of the institute.
It is worthy to note that he has been part of this institute unknowingly, through Hon Dozie Nwankwo who was his campaign DG in charge of Anambra Central before the election. So his name is already in the annals of history.
What are the various departments here and when did you hold the first graduation for pioneer students?
We have not done our first graduation because we are still in the accreditation process with NBTE. We have received our approval. It’s this academic complex that is holding them back. They have been here before in an unofficial visit.
They have given us their advice and we are in the course of accreditation with them. We have gotten our approval from the Federal Ministry of Education and NBTE, Federal Ministry of Justice and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. We have since been running our programmes. What we are doing now is to accredit our course programmes to be National Innovative Diploma (NID) certified. Again, we got approval as St John Innovation Institute of Management and Technology.
We have been operating as vocational institute and then, I upgraded it to vocational and technical before we went to the federal ministries.
We have departments like Computer Software Engineering, Hospitality Studies and Catering and Electrical Engineering. We also have fashion and merchandise which includes among others, fashion and modeling, cosmetology and applied chemistry and computer hardware.
In the list of programmes needed to be accredited which we have submitted to NBTE include early child care education and management and then banking operations. These are the courses we have placed in our business plan.
How has students that graduated from this institution fared in the society?
We have a beauty studio which is operated by the Department of Cosmetology and Applied Chemistry. Beauty Therapy is a course under the Cosmetology Department. It may interest you to know that the Head of our Beauty Department used to be our student here.
She graduated from here with an excellent result both in theory and practical and management has to retain her.
Actually, the Head of the Fashion Department here used to be our student. The Auxiliary HOD in the Hospitality Department was also our student who attended various shows and had gone for trainings in Calabar and other parts of the country.
That’s why I want to use this medium to thank His Lordship, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, who has been giving me paternal supports and encouragement.