Raymond Uwameiye / Ede O. S Iyamu

This research study sought to investigate the training orientation given to apprentices; common training techniques employed by the master-craftsmen; and how the apprentices are evaluated to ascertain their mastery. A questionnaire made up of 25 items was used to gather data for the study. Master craftsmen, journeymen and apprentice from two neighbouring states (Delta and Edo) were used for this study. Among the findings of this study are that there is no formal curriculum in use for training, and customers help to determine the mastery of apprentices. Dr Raymond Uwameiye works at the Department of Vocational and Technical Education, and Dr Ede O. S. Iyamu at the Faculty of Education, of the University of Benin.

Training Methodology Used by the Nigerian Indigenous Apprenticeship System

Background and Problem

Apprenticeship is a contractual agreement undertaken by the master-craftsman and the apprentice through which the apprentice is trained for a prescribed work process through practical experience under the supervision of the master-craftsman. It is a form of workplace learning, which enables the apprentice to have on-the-job training.

In Nigeria and all over Africa, apprenticeship has been an age-long method used in training young people in trades and crafts, agriculture, business, and catering. During the pre-colonial days, apprenticeship was the mode of training. It is a common feature of the traditional setting to see people engage in a vocation such as farming, fishing, hunting, carving, carpentry, sculpting, painting, building, decorating, smithing, catering, boat-making, mat-making, dyeing and so on. The apprenticeship system was an institution that was jealously guarded by customs, lineage and rituals. Every male born into a family was expected to learn his patrilineal craft, and it was easy to identify a young male child as a member of a lineage found to be proficient in the lineage craft.

During the colonial era, the main interest of the missionary was evangelization of the Africans. In order to achieve this purpose, it was thought that literary education was deemed adequate for the purpose since it was least expensive, and equipment for technical and agricultural training was costly in men and money (Coleman, 1963). However Fafunwa (1974) noted that “some of the mission schools included bricklaying, farming and carpentry as part of their curriculum, but these skills were not seriously regarded by pupils and parents as an integral part of western education”.

With the introduction of the system of education in 1982, literary education was de-emphasized. Vocational education was given pride of place in the schools’ curriculum. While the number of schools was increasing, roadside apprenticeship, which provides opportunities for training adolescents who dropped out of schools, and those who cannot afford the secondary school fees, increased. Roadside apprenticeship is characterized by a contract agreement between a wayside craftsman (e.g. motor mechanic, vulcanizer, auto-electrician, wheel alignment and balancing practitioner) and his apprentice. In the contract a fixed fee is made payable by the apprentice to the master, and in return, the apprentice is attached to the master’s shop for a stipulated training period. The set-up for a training workshop is made up of the master (skilled), journeyman (semi-skilled), and the apprentice (unskilled). The master has full control of the training without any input from the government. Although the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1981), states that “the question of accreditation for roadside mechanics and others who complete training programmes through non-formal education will be undertaken by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)”, government has not accredited any roadside workshop for such training for almost twenty years, since the policy was promulgated. This has left much to be desired in roadside apprenticeship, hence this study to investigate the methods used by roadside apprenticeship in training. However, roadside apprenticeship has contributed immensely to the growth of the Nigerian economy. The informal vocational training system has been serving as an indispensable complement since enormous demands have been placed on it.

For ages, roadside small-scale enterprises have provided opportunities for training young apprentices in Nigeria. In most urban areas, roadside workshops such as tailoring institutes and mechanics’ workshops are common sites in every street. The numerous indigenous small-scale establishments in urban cities are due to rural-urban migration of young people looking for employment believed to be in abundance in urban areas. Such unrealistic beliefs soon come to light, as the government establishments are unable to absorb the migrants. The young migrants soon find it convenient to attach themselves to apprenticeship workshops to acquire skills. Realizing the contributions of these roadside small-scale enterprises to the national economy, and the needs of the young school leavers being trained in these set–ups, the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1981) envisaged that these roadside apprenticeship centres would be accredited for training by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE): a policy that has never seen the light of the day. The problem in implementing this policy is that it will be very difficult to have any centre accredited for the following reasons:

1. The educational level of master-craftsman and journeymen is very low. In fact the majority of them are primary school-leaving certificate holders.

2. Most workshops do not have the required tools and machines. They are able to carry out repairs due to adaptations to tools and machinery.

3. The rudiments of teaching are essentially lacking in these master-craftsmen.

In order to provide relevant practical vocational training, the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in consultation with other bodies envisaged setting up a National Apprenticeship Scheme. It was envisaged under this scheme that vocational training centres would be established to provide a base and skill up-grading training for both minors (14 years) and employed adults (Federal Ministry of National Planning, 1975). Among the objectives of this programme are:

a) to provide trainers with occupational skills and technical knowledge

b) to foster the necessary work attitude and proper discipline among trainees and develop them as competent skilled workers and

c) to insist in the trainees a sense of pride in their trades

It was envisaged that only five vocational training centres would be built before 1985 throughout the country. These vocational training centres were to be models. It seemed that these centres were too few to be meaningful for the number of intending students.

There seem to be numerous lapses in the indigenous roadside apprenticeship, which forms the focus of this study. However, these lapses cannot undermine the importance of apprenticeship to national economy. Therefore, the need to reform roadside apprenticeship along the lines of modern apprenticeship, which combines the learning of theory and practice, cannot be over-emphasized. The nature of the roadside indigenous apprenticeship, which is unorganized and unstructured, calls for reform. A reform in this direction calls for high training on the part of the master craftsman to meet industrial needs, and deliver quality vocational education courses which are based on industry competency standards and involve workplace learning (Velde et al.,1999).

Research Questions

1. What is the training orientation given to the apprentice by the roadside trades and crafts?

2. What are the common training techniques employed by the master-craftsmen in imparting skills to apprentices?

3. How are the apprentices evaluated to ascertain their mastery of the trade?


Population for this Study

The population for this study comprised master-craftsmen, journeymen and apprentices from mid-western Nigeria. Mid-western Nigeria is made up of two states, Edo and Delta. These states were at one time only one state (Bendel), until 1991 when it was divided into the two states. These states are dominated by Christians and have many things in common.

Sample for This Study

In each of the two states (Delta and Edo), one urban city (Warri in Delta State; and Benin City in Edo State) was selected for this study. The choice of these towns was based on their cosmopolitan nature,which has made them very attractive to young people migrating into them. A list of trades and crafts that were registered with the Ministry of Trades and Labour in the respective states was obtained from the ministry. The population was stratified to unique trades. Overall, 16 trades and crafts were used for the study. In each trade, 20 master-craftsmen, 20 journeymen and 20 apprentices were randomly sampled through the use of a random number system. Overall 320 master-craftsmen, 320 journeymen and 320 apprentices were used for the study.

Instrument for this Study

The instrument used in the study for data gathering was the modified Ugonabo and Ogwo (1991). The questionnaire was made up of 25 questions.

The sample used has very low educational attainment; most of the master-craftsmen were primary school-leaving certificate and standard six certificate holders. Experts in vocational education from the University of Benin helped in validating the questionnaires. The experts added more questions and restructured some of the questions.

Respondents were expected to react to the questionnaire by either agreeing or disagreeing with them. Whereas ‘4’ represented a strong agreement, ‘1’ represented a strong disagreement. The researcher trained 50 research assistants who were used in administering the questions. Where a respondent could not read or write the researcher or research assistant interpreted the questions and helped to fill in their responses on the questionnaire.

Summary of Findings

1. Training orientation

Training orientation given to apprentices includes:

a) Introduction to names and uses of tools found in each trade

b) Parts of machines in use and their functions

c) Code of conduct (highly emphasized)

d) Good customer relationship

e) Training period of between 3 and 5 years

2. Training method

a) In the training of apprentices, there is no formal curriculum in use. Jobs at hand/problems/faults at the material time determine the content of material taught.

b) Learning through observation is the major method adopted in the learning process;

c) Principles of operations are not explained.

d) Safety in workshops is taught during orientation.

3. Evaluation

a) Customers determine the mastery of apprentices through consistent approval of services rendered by the apprentices.

b) Consistency in successful diagnosis of faults/demonstration of skills shows mastery.

c) The expiration of the contract agreement does not mean that the apprentice is qualified.


The list above indicates that the training orientation given to apprentices includes: (1) the introduction to names and use of tools found in the trades and (2) parts of machines in use and their functions. Whereas this seems good, the teaching of these items to the apprentice is carried out only when the job or jobs entailing them is at hand. The list also shows that the code of conduct, which is highly emphasized in the early part of the training, includes no fighting, no stealing, and respect for customers. In addition, the list indicates that the period of training varies between three and five years. It is also revealed that the dropout rate among apprentices is high, which results in the termination of the contract agreement.

The list also reveals that indigenous apprenticeship as currently practiced, lacks formal orientation. The respondents agree that there is no curriculum used in the teaching of apprentices; what is taught is dependent on jobs available and faults or problems at hand. There does not seem to be any structure and organisation of content in this approach; what is taught seems arbitrary and haphazard. The mode of instruction is observation, practice, and explanation (if questions are asked). This is learning by imitation. It is also shown that teaching of theoretical principles is non-existent. The mode of training does not prepare apprentices for opportunities to judge situations based on available theoretical principles. The apprentice is trained to be like his master. Among the defects of the local apprenticeship system are lack of any theoretical base for the skill acquired, the haphazard nature of the method of instruction and evaluation, and the possibility of poor skill formation under ill-equipped craftsmen. Considering these lapses, little or no learning may be expected from roadside apprenticeship. Lewis and Greene (1982) state “that learning is not an innate and largely fixed mental ability related to levels of intelligence, but a series of skills that have been mastered and perfected if learning is to take place”. Lewis and Greene (1982) add:

“That so many learn poorly when confronted by formal studying is not surprising, if you consider the haphazard manner in which the skills have been acquired. We are never taught in any systematic way to learn, but have to pick up the necessary techniques as a result of experience, from watching others performing certain tasks, by following rules for rote memorizing, and out of the mistakes we make. Such methods are not merely inefficient, they are frequently extremely damaging to performance. The child who, simply because learning skills have been poorly developed, consistently makes mistakes and receives reprimands is very likely to become anxious about all learning activities and develop negative attitudes to intellectual activities” (Lewis & Greene, 1982: 148-49).

This is the case also with roadside apprenticeship, where skills are presented in a haphazard manner and the order of learning is informal, and content is unstructured and unorganized, and under an ill-equipped master-craftsman with no curriculum to guide what is to be learnt. The apprentice merely observes what the master does, and then imitates him.

In addition, the list indicates that evaluation of trained apprentices is dependent on two factors: (1) customers help to determine mastery of apprentices, through consistent approval of services rendered to customers, and (2) apprentices’ consistency in diagnosis of faults and demonstration of skills shows mastery. The halo effect can hardly be ruled out as major flaw in this haphazard evaluation method adopted by the master-craftsmen. The respondents’ agreement that there is no formal examination given to the apprentices at the end of their training to ascertain mastery leaves much room for manipulation. Examination forms an important tool for evaluating mastery. The procedure used by roadside apprenticeship for evaluating mastery falls below educational norms. It may turn out that these graduating apprentices do not posses the required skills to make their contributions to the national economy. To be able to provide useful contributions to the national economy, these apprentices require a strong updating in technology. It is only when this is done that meaningful contributions can be expected.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Although Nigerian indigenous roadside apprenticeship has contributed to the growth of the economy, the training provided falls below modern training procedures. Roadside apprenticeship is unstructured and unorganized. Towards solving the problems of roadside apprenticeship, the researcher recommends the following:

1. The technical skills of master-craftsmen and journeymen should be improved upon through short courses at part-time evening schools. Mobile workshops may also be considered for use.

2. For those who do not have formal education at all, adult evening schools should be organised.

3. The Industrial Training Fund (ITF)’s National Apprenticeship scheme should be made functional by establishing one model vocational training centre in each local government area.

4. Efforts should be directed towards evolving the new apprenticeship programme, which provides students with on-the-job training in the workplace while they are still in school, towards theoretical principles and laboratory exposure. Day release can be organised in such a way that students may spend three days in the school while they are released for the remaining days for the workplace. In this respect, the roadside small-scale enterprise can serve as an outlet for on-the-job training.


Coleman, J.S. (1963): Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Fafunwa, B. (1994): History of Education in Nigeria. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.

Federal Ministry of National Planning.(1975): Guidelines to the Fourth National Development plan. Lagos: Federal Ministry of National Planning.

Federal Republic of Nigeria (1981): National Policy on Education. Lagos: NERC.

Lewis,D. & Greene, J. (1982): Thinking Better. Berkeley: Rawson Wade Publishers, Inc.

Velde, C., Cooper, T. J., Harrington, S. & Mailler, E. (1999): Vocational Educator’s Perspectives of Workplace Learning. A case study on senior education. Journal of Vocational Education and Training 51(1), 39-60.