In an exclusive interview with GATMASH BLOG, the Head of Department (HOD), Domestic Plumbing of the foremost construction trades academy, Universal Learn Direct Academia (ULDA), Dr. Adeyemi Oresanya Sakiru, talks about major issues facing the plumbing sector, why they profession is yet to have females, challenges and more. Excerpts…
Can we meet you?
I’m Dr. Adeyemi Oresanya Sakiru, HOD, Domestic Plumbing of the foremost construction trades academy, Universal Learn Direct Academia (ULDA). Am a builder, plumber and member, world plumbing council. Had MSc in construction management at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), studied Architecture at Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Building at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
World Plumbing Day: How has Nigeria feared?
March 11 every year is world plumbing day, it’s a global celebration to celebrate activities and appreciate the plumber in our society because hardly in any system, both human, house as a machine need plumbing. Nigeria is a peculiar nation that we have huge problem in our plumbing. From simple dwelling housing to a mansion, there’s a problem already in it. In lieu of that there’s an organization called world plumbing council, they regulate plumbing activities all over the world and I happened to be a member from Nigeria, am a Nigerian representative. We celebrate the day in so many ways, community by community visit, going to schools to educate the younger ones about plumbing activities etc. Its better they know part of these things from the primary school even from washing of hands. Remember Ebola outbreak, we start doing the fire bridged approach, hand wash and hand sanitizers and all that. That should be a daily routine but if you check the schools now you will find out it has been removed after the Ebola epidemic was resolve. But through constant orientation that from cleanliness you can save yourself from a lot of diseases because most of these germs, bacterial, viruses come through our fingers and as you touch others you are spreading it. Plumbing is a very very important aspect of building that cannot be left alone in the hands of non-professionals.
Has Nigeria done well in resolving plumbing issues?
We have not at all, if I put it in the scale of 100%, and I rate us 10% it means am generous in giving that mark. Starting from the technical know-how, we lack the people that will do these things. Most of our young plumbers get educated through informal sector and in informal sector, there’s what we call principle, they just believe that once you lay a pipe and that’s it but there’s a principle that guide laying of pipe. Until we go back to the technical line let people begin to appreciate that when I finish secondary school, if am not so gifted in terms of becoming a professor or doctor, there’s another line I can go into and well trained I can even get to the highest rank in the society. That look-down syndrome should be removed so that when I finished my secondary school, I can go to technical school, well trained for 3 years , get apprenticeship for another 2 years under a master plumber and after 5 years I become a plumber and can assist in all sorts of things. The governments itself have not been regulating that area because there’s a code that guide this profession and am sure most of plumbers doesn’t know there’s a code that exist. There’s a calculation, principle that guide against what so ever they put down in terms of the features, fittings etc. In terms of the material, a lot of inferior materials dominate the market giving that trade a big problem because inferior materials are not regulated through Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) couple with the economic situation that push you to go for lesser things instead of quality. All these things couple together is huge problems that affect the plumbing profession. Government, the people, society, the individual needs to come together. Government will have to do its own by regulating the sector through the association of the plumbers. South Africa has a standard code that regulates their plumbing activities, you cannot just get up, get trained at the informal sector and believe you’re a plumber, no; there’s a way you go through it. If these can be addressed, I tell you we have the human capital that can hold to these things so that in the shorts period of time we can get a result.
What effort has the association of plumbers made to get the attention of the government to solve problems faced?
I will tell you that it’s not so easy, even the professional associations are not even getting government attention. For example Nigerian Institute of building is a well-known organization and government has been foot dragging on building code not to talk of the sub-sector of that organization which is plumbing association. That association is dominated by semi-literate people, so sorry to use that language which is also a major factor because some of these plumber don’t know their rights, they believe association is for you to get together, put small money around and do one or two things, its more than that. There was a time I informed the association what plumbing activities are. There’s a brick wall because of who we are. We are peculiar people who don’t like innovation, as if you want to take over the association from them. But with our school, ULDA, our students will be coming together in one way or the other little by little to form that association and we start as little and we will get known and our voice will be heard.
What more should we expect from ULDA?
We need to give credit to whom credit is due to which is the ULDA team, from the visioner, president, co-members bringing that school around. In few years to come, there’s going to be a revolution because we discovered that we have many youths roaming about and there’s no job for these people to do. But indirectly there’s a job, that’s why the ULDA come together to establish a vocational training on any trade that you like. For you to go to any trade, passion is the first thing, because anything you do with your passion even if you find difficulties there, there won’t be any problem, that passion will drive you. By the time we put people into training in job facility management, the existing housing need maintenance so there’s already job and by Nigerian standard today, there’s a huge job opportunities in plumbing area in Nigeria alone not to mention outside Nigeria. There’s a huge plumbing job. It’s a good thing that the school was established to focus on that vocational training and it’s going to boost the economy of the nation and make the youths be self-reliance, become entrepreneur on their own and not depend on any government job because its work and you earn. Work and you earn has a fantastic pay structure than the 30-days salary structure. I think ULDA has done a great thing, though we are struggling because there’s no financial muscle to push up more grounds but with the vision we have, money is not everything but we are getting it little by little. In a short while it’s going to be a kind of revolution. But in honesty, ULDA have really tried and others should emulate them because one person cannot do it. More people should come in so that we can liberate our youths from the poverty level.
Plumbing is a male dominated trade, what effort is being made to encourage women to join this profession?
I think we the practitioner has a blame for that. For now there’s no record that there’s a female plumber unlike female mechanics. There’s no difficulty in this job, its indoor, we should try and educate and encourage more women into that area. Especially in merchant and technical know-how of fixing the WC, washing hand basin, the bath; because these facilities are used by both male and female. We should try and create more awareness for more women to join the trade. In South Africa there are female plumbers and they are doing fantastic well and earning much more money. We need to make more awareness for females getting the skills to excel. We will do our best to create that awareness, encourage them by giving them some incentives that will motivate them to join. By the time we have one, two or three and they earn money and no much difficulty, others will join. One of the challenges running a vocational school is finance and the resource is not there. Most of the things we use in training are a recurrent thing; you want to talk of pipe when you cut it its gone so you need to restock. It’s a consumable thing. Our youths are not well exposed that through plumbing or artisan you can become somebody great in life. For example the fame I’ve gotten in the plumbing trade visa vice as a builder for 20 years practicing, but since I majored in plumbing about 4 years now, I’ve break ground than the years I spent in building. If I’ve been well educated on this, I don’t think going to the university would have been a great deal, I would have done this and still go to the university and become whatever I want to become. Educating and creating awareness about vocational studies to our youths is the only way out for the Nigerian youths. Nigeria is huge in infrastructural deficit and for us to fix this infrastructural deficit, we need man power and who are the manpower, the youths. The Nigerian population has a high percentage of youths, so we should tap into that. Government has to do it, the university, human aspect and the media also has to do it. That’s the only way to get out of the situation we find ourselves.
If you happen to be a minister of education, what will you advice?
I will advise we make it a national law, after your secondary school, by 16 years of age; you will venture into technical vocational training for 2 years and get acquainted with it before you choose any field you want to study in the university. For example if you want to become a mechanical engineer, and you have taken a vocational training in plumbing HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) for 2 years, you would have known most of the integrity of that course and it will help you in building your brain. When you get into the university and they are talking, you won’t be abstract because our university system is more of abstract while vocational is for what you can do with your hands and what you do with your hands can be retained in your memory for long than what somebody read in the book. We should take it as a priority that vocational education must be given priority, it will help this nation.
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