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This study focused on the identification of competency improvement needs of secondary school graduates for employment in plantain production enterprise in Cross River State. Four research questions guided the study while three hypotheses were formulated and tested at probability of 0.05 level of significance. The study adopted survey research design. The study was carried out in Cross River State, made up of three educational zones of Ogoja, Ikom and Calabar. The population of study was 619 made up of 159 Teachers of Agricultural Science, 365 Secondary School Graduates and 95 Registered Plantain Farmers. There was no sampling since the population was manageable. The entire population constituted the sample. Three sets of questionnaire item were used to obtain data from respondents in the three enterprises in plantain production. Three experts validated the questionnaire items, two lecturers from the Department of Vocational Teacher Education University of Nigeria, Nsukka and one lecturer from the Department of Vocational Education Federal College of Education Obudu. The questionnaire items were tested for reliability using Cronbach’s alpha method which yielded coefficients of 0.90, 0.85 and  0.87 for the three enterprises respectively. Six Research Assistants helped in administering 619 copies of the questionnaire to the respondents. They were all retrieved and analyzed using weighted mean and improvement needed index (INI) to  answer research questions and analysis of variance (ANOVA) to test the hypothesis
of no significant difference. It was found that 209 competencies were required by Secondary School Graduates in the three plantain enterprises. 48 competencies were required by secondary school graduates for improvement in nursery enterprise, 85 competencies in plantain plantation management enterprise, and 76 competencies in plantain processing and marketing enterprises. The hypothesis tested revealed that there was no significant difference in the mean ratings of Teachers of Agricultural Science, Plantain Nursery Farmers and Secondary School Graduates on 43 out of 48 competency items while there was a significant difference in 5 out of 48 competency items in plantain nursery. In plantation management there was no significant difference in 79 out 85 competency items, while there was a significant difference in 6 out 85 competency items. In processing and marketing there was no significant difference in 65 out 76 competency items while there was a significant difference in 11 out 76 competency item. Based on the findings, it was recommended that Cross River State Government should direct skill acquisition centres to integrate the identified competencies in plantain production into their training programs and use it to retrain Secondary School Graduates and other interested individuals in plantain production enterprise.


Background of the Study

Plantain (Musa Paradisiaca) is an important staple food grown in many communities in Cross River State. In the report of Food and Agricultural Organization FAO (2004) plantain is a starchy food that is consumed by over 70 million people in different parts of Nigeria in different form. The report maintained that plantain is considered a delicacy in most States of Nigeria including Cross River State and is accepted and enjoyed by many at meal time by both children and adult. 

According to Blomme and Ortiz (2000) plantain is a herbaceous plant of the genus Musa belonging to the order of the zingiberales and family of musaceae and specie of paradisiacal. The authors described that plantain plant is a large perennial herbs with an underground stem called a corm, which is the true stem of plantain plant. The corm produces aerial shoots which arises from the lateral buds that develop into eyes and later suckers. The authors further stated that the continuous vegetative growth of suckers perpetuates the corm’s life and hence the perennial status of plantain plant. In the view of shamrock, Horry and Frison (2001) plantain plant forms average of 40 leaves (within 8 to 18 months) and the terminal bud develops into inflorescent which carries both female and male spike flowers arranged in group. The female inflorescence develops into fingers that constitute the bunch of plantain.
In this study, plantain is a herbaceous perennial plant that produces edible fingers in a form of bunch cultivated in Cross River State for food and fibre for the people of the state and beyond within the period of eighteen (18) months.. Plantain is important in many ways. In the view of Simond (1987) plantain foods is not only most economic source of dietary energy but also a source of vitamins and minerals particularly iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A, ascorbic acid etc. Robinson (1996) reported that plantain has a lot of medical value, as it has been useful in the treatment of diarrhea, ulcer, throat infection, asthma, and low libido in men and as a diet for diabetic patient.
In the view of Frison and Shamrock (1999) plantain contributes significantly to income security of the people who engaged in its production. Plantain production provides employment opportunities to youth and unemployed adult, through diverse means among those in rural and urban areas. As a result of the above importance, plantain production could serve as a means of livelihood.
Anyanwuocha (2006) defined production as the creation of wealth in the form of goods and the provision of services which are capable of satisfying human wants. The author stated that production refers to any activity involving human effort leading to the satisfaction of human wants. In the view of Hanson (1996) production refers to the transformation of an item or product into another. It is the art of manufacturing goods in the amounts and at the time that the consumer wants them while attempting to build up his profits. In the context of this study, production refers to the process by which a Secondary School Graduate creates wealth in plantain production enterprise for a sustainable livelihood, through the application of human effort in managing resources effectively.
An enterprise in the opinion of Christenson in Ibrahim (2007) is an organization with partly over lapping objective working together with the rules and regulations guiding them for some period of time in order to achieve stated objectives. According to Enome (2003), enterprise is any farm activity (or identifiable sector of the farm business) for which there are specific returns. Thoreau (2005) stated that an enterprise is a systematic activity especially when directed toward profit making in a business.

The author further explained that it is the willingness of a person to undertake new ventures, initiative through the buying and selling and spending his live in order to make a living. In the context of this study, enterprise is a business outfit that involves new ventures and initiative activities systematically carried out in plantain production, which requires certain competencies for success. Competency in the view of Cooper and Graham (2001) refers to knowledge skills and attitude needed for performing a task.

The authors explained that competency serves as a motivated pattern of knowledge, skills and abilities deployed to undertake a valued job. International Labour Organization Report (ILO) in Dimelu (2010) stated that competency is the knowledge, skill and behaviour which someone exhibits in doing his job which are factors in achieving the result pertinent to the teaching strategies. Olaitan (2003) stated that competency involves the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitude by an individual to perform successfully at a specified proficiency level in a given task. In this study, competency refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skill, and attitude by Secondary School Graduates in plantain production for success in the enterprise.

This implies that competency is a measure of potentials that reflect what a secondary school graduate can do in plantain production activities like pre planting operation which include: site selection, clearing land preparation, planting operation and post planting operation that include fertilizer application, mulching, thinning, disease control, harvesting, storage, processing and marketing of
plantain. The skills acquired by Secondary Schools Graduates in the operation of plantain production should earn them employment in the enterprise.
Employment in the report of the International Labour Organization ILO (2002) is defined as the act of providing opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity in order to earn a living. In the ILO Report (2003), obtaining a decent and productive work applies to all workers, not just workers in the organized sector or wage engagement but also to home workers and self engaged people in the society. In this study employment is the act of engaging Secondary School Graduates either through self or paid employment in plantain production for the purpose of earning a living that is sustainable. Graduate as defined by Hornby (2005) refers to a person who has completed a course of study at any level of education.
Secondary School Graduates in the view of Elizabeth (2008) are individuals that have completed their Secondary School Education and have been declared passed in required subjects. Okafor, Okere and Oketoobo (2010) stated that Secondary School Graduates are individuals who have passed through the two levels of Secondary Education with some basic skills in certain areas of human endeavours. In the context of this study, Secondary School Graduates are youths that have completed a three years Senior Secondary School Education in arts or sciences withudimentary competency in plantain production but are neither employed in any job for a sustainable living nor are admitted into a tertiary institution for higher studies. 

In respect to this study, Secondary School Graduates have a fair knowledge in Agricultural Science but are not gainfully employed. In other words they are jobless. These graduates have rudimentary knowledge in plantain production in the Secondary School level before graduating but refused to implement this knowledge acquired rather they migrate to urban centres in search of other unrelated white color jobs, they are used as political assistant and pose as society nuisances. In Cross River State, plantain is a delicacy, yet it has not reach the enterprise level due to lack of manpower into its production.

Therefore the State Government  intended to create job for the idle Secondary School Graduates in plantain enterprise and directed that schools should make the study of plantain compulsory in Agricultural Science curriculum in the State. This is in line with the provision of the National Curriculum for Senior Secondary Schools in Ibrahim (2007) which stated that any student offering Agricultural Science should study how to grow two crops relevant to his environment.

Therefore plantain production is a favoured crop and relevant to the environment of many communities in Cross River State as a result of the type of weather, rainfall and soil requirement. Olaitan and Mama(2001) stated that many students record success in external examination in Agricultural Science by studying the subject theoretically but without the technical know-how.
Secondary School Graduate possesses rudimentary knowledge in plantain production but it is not enough to go into plantain enterprise such as becoming a plantain nursery farmer, plantain plantation manager, plantain processor/marketer. A plantain nursery farmer in the context of this study refers to an individual that specializes in the propagation of plantain suckers, nurturing them in other to maximize profit. When the nurseries are matured, they are planted in the field, where they are to be managed and maintained by a plantation manager. In the context of this study, plantation manager refers to an individual that posses skill in coordinating, directing and harmonizing human and material resources in a plantation through a set of management functions in order to accomplish a set goal of harvesting healthy bunches. These healthy bunches are processed by a processor.

 In the view of Dazie and Orchard (1997), a processor is one who transforms harvested crops into different food edible by man. In this study plantain processor refers to someone who transforms harvested plantain into different edible products by man and animals and markets them to make profit. Secondary School Graduates do not posses such competency therefore they needed improvement for employment
opportunities in plantain production enterprises. Improvement in the view of Zae, Cale, Aaron, Tom (2006) is the act of introducing new ideas or innovation into a body for resultant change in behaviour and attitude.

Olaitan, Alaribe and Ellah (2010) viewed improvement as the process of helping instructors in School of Agriculture in the area of study to acquire a high proficiency level, knowledge, skills and attitudes. In this study improvement refers to the process of helping Secondary School Graduates acquire knowledge, skill and right attitude needed for high proficiency level in plantain production. Needs in the view of  Hornby (2001) are usually things required by an individual in order to live in a comfortable way or achieve what he or she wants.

Odunkwe in Onuka (2003) explained that in the needs theory of McClelland, needs are learned through coping relevant behaviour, which tends to recur more often. Therefore in the context of this study, improvement needs refers to the process of introducing profitable skills into Secondary School Graduates in order to enhance their already known knowledge in plantain production so as to gain employment for a sustainable life. In this study the researcher observed that Secondary School Graduates do not engage themselves in plantain production on their own rather they prefer to be political assistants, roam about the streets and constituting nuisance to the society.

In order to identify the improvement needs of Secondary School Graduates in plantain production, the level of skill, they possessed must be known through assessment. Assessment in the view of Angelo and Cross (1993) is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop deep understanding of what students know, understand and can do with their knowledge as a result of their experiences. Palomba and Banta (1999) stated that assessment is a systematic collection of review and use of information about programmes undertaken for the purpose of improving learning and development. In this study, assessment refers to the process of gathering information in order to determine the worth and performance of Secondary School Graduates in plantain production.
Performance as define by Quick in Olaitan, Lawal and Onipede (2010) is the process of carrying out a piece of work. Hornby (2005) stated that performance refers to how well or badly an individual carries out an activity. Performance in this  study refers to how well the Secondary School Graduate carries out the activities involved in plantain production enterprise.
The activities involved in plantain production are taught theoretically by Teachers of Agriculture in Secondary Schools. Ifeanyi Eze and Ukonze (2007) stated that Secondary School Teachers do not teach basic competency in Secondary School Agriculture. They concentrate their teachings more on theory as the curriculum does not make provision for it.

What the Secondary School Graduate possess after school about plantain is only introductory aspect like origin of plantain, types, soil requirement and uses. For success in plantain production, Secondary School Graduates are expected to posseses all skills needed in plantain production such as skills in nursery, plantation management, plantain processing and marketing. These differences bridge the gaps that exist in this study. Therefore, there is need to identified required improvement needs by Secondary School Graduates for improving their performance in plantain production to be introduced and taught in schools and also be integrated into skill acquisition centre in Cross River State.


Statement of the Problem

In Cross River State, plantain is produced by farmers who are mostly peasant in nature. Majority of the farmers produced the crop through intercrop. This method of production of the crop results to low yield because when the main crop is harvested, the plantain which is an intercrop is abandoned in the bush at the mercy of wild animals and wild fire resulting from bush burning. This action further reduces the yield of the crop. Despite its delicacy, medicinal function and steady flow of income, plantain production in the State is still low due to lack of man power; yet
many unemployed Secondary Schools Graduates roam the streets looking for white color jobs.

When they failed to secure jobs, they resulted into unacceptable behaviours and activities for survival. These activities include prostituting, drug addiction, stealing and to some extent kidnapping. These unemployed Secondary School Graduates could be helped to live a more meaningful and acceptable life through skill development in plantain production enterprises and help to increase the low level of plantain production by farmers.
Cross River State Government is interested in the expansion of plantain production to meet human needs and create employment opportunities for idle youths, therefore makes concerted efforts to help farmers to improve their holdings by making resources available and providing Extension Services to the farmers through the Agricultural Development Programmes (ADP) in the State.

The Government also extended to farmers micro finance facilities to increase their capital investment in agricultural production but most of the farmers favoured investing more in crops like yam, rice, oil palm, cassava and groundnut which to the farmers require more independent effort at the expense of plantain that are grown as intercrop like melon. Farmers do not view plantain production as a sole crop plantation enterprise like cassava, groundnut, oil palm and rice.
The investment practices of these farmers appeared not to favour large scale plantain production. Therefore, a search for alternative to improve plantain production in the State becomes necessary hence the Government considered involving Secondary School Graduates that flock the streets of cities and towns idling about doing nothing in order to create job opportunities. The Government then directed Skill Acquisition Centres to accommodate the training of interested Secondary School Graduates in plantain production enterprise since they had acquire some rudimentary knowledge in crop production including plantain while in Secondary Schools.
A visit by the researcher to some of the Skill Acquisition Centres in the plantain production areas of the State such as Ikom, Akamkpa, Biase, Obudu and Boki Local Government Areas revealed that the Centres had no training programmes in plantain production that would help retrain Secondary School Graduates in the step by step skills in plantain production.

Therefore the researcher became interested to identify the competencies in plantain production enterprise that could be used in Skill Acquisition Centres to improve the competencies of Secondary School Graduates and other interested individuals in plantain production enterprises for employment. The researcher is interested in identifying the skills required in each plantain enterprise and also to determine the retraining needs of unemployed Secondary School Graduates who are interested in any of the plantain production enterprises. 

This led the researcher to identify through a pilot study unemployed Secondary School Graduates with rudimentary knowledge in plantain production who are interested in each of the plantain production enterprises. The pilot study covered areas that are noted for plantain production in Cross River state. Some of these areas are Ikom, Akamkpa, Biase, Obudu, Ogoja and Boki Local Government Areas. A paid radio announcement through the State Radio Corperation was made requesting those interested in plantain production to report for documentation at the headquarters of their Local Government Areas.

The Supervisory Councilor of Agriculture for each Local Government Areas was requested to assist in the documentation. The following results were obtain: nursery enterprise—–82, plantain plantation management enterprise and processing and marketing enterprise— 120 (see Appendix I).The researcher considered this number reasonable for training at the skill acquisition centre after their participation in the study.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the study was to identify competency- improvement needs of Secondary School Graduates for employment in plantain production enterprise in Cross River State Nigeria. Specifically the study sought to:
1. Identify competency needed by Secondary School Graduates for employment in plantain nursery, plantation, processing and marketing in
plantain production;
2. Identify competency in plantain nursery where Secondary School Graduates requires improvement for employment;
3. Identify competency in plantain plantation management where Secondary School Graduates require improvement for employment; and
4. Identify competency in plantain processing and marketing where Secondary School Graduates required improvement for employment.


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