Senate on Monday moved to address the existing discrimination between Bachelor of Science Degree (B.Sc) and Higher National Diploma (HND) in employment and promotion in Nigeria.
During a public hearing on “A Bill for an Act to abolish and prohibit discrimination between First Degree and Higher National Diploma (HND) for the purpose of employment and other matters connected therewith”, organised by the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, stakeholders took turns to vent their anger on the issue of discrimination in the public domain.
The chairman of the Committee, Ahmad Babba Kaita said the current efforts is the third time a bill like this has come to the Senate, but none had reached public hearing.
Kaita said the bill is not controversial as the Committee received “no single memorandum is opposing it”.
The bill which is sponsored by Senator Ayo Akinyelure (Ondo Central) is seeking to address the dichotomy that exists between B.Sc and HND that has affected a significant number of people in a way considered undesirable.
Senator Tolu Odebiyi, standing in for the sponsor of the bill, stated that both B.Sc and HND holders spent four years after secondary education, adding that this dichotomy is unnecessary.
Comrade Ibiyemi Nwokama, President, National Association of Academic Technologists stated that they have been in the struggle to abolish this discrimination for years.
According to him individuals who should be at the forefront of our technology development are sidelined.
The Coalition of HND Stakeholders, who spoke in support of the bill, said that they conducted research and came up with a 45 pages document that reveals that this discrimination is a mere colonial legacy that is upheld in the public domain.
“HND can’t go beyond Grade Level (GL) 14 and can’t handle certain schedules even though we have the same entry qualification and do the same duties.
“This bill is in tandem with government policies. Discrimination is against International Convention and the Nigerian Constitution”, Nwokama stated.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan in his address commended the leadership and members of the committees for their support towards the actualization of improved quality of education.
Lawan said the HND/degree dichotomy has really affected significant number of people in a way considered undesirable.
He called for greater inputs from stakeholders in the education sector to proffer the most needed solutions
Representatives of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Forum of Nigeria Polytechnic Alumni Associations (FONPAA), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Committee of Federal Polytechnic Rectors, all spoke against the discrimination against polytechnic graduates.
The National Chairman of polytechnic alumni association, Obialor Ibebuike, said if Nigerian government was serious about its technological development, the dichotomy should be abolished and polytechnics be well funded.
“China recently converted six hundred (600) universities to well-funded, researched based Polytechnics to further boost their industrial and economic growth. The same strategy had earlier been adopted by South Korea.
“This, we believe, is the way to go in our country, if we are really serious in catching up with the developed world,” he said.
The Committee of Federal Polytechnic Rectors, said abolishing the dichotomy between HND and degree holders would end the ill-treatment melted out on the polytechnic graduates in the labour market.
However, Permanent Secretary service policies and strategies in the office of the Head of service of the Federation, Mr. Emmanuel Meribole, who represented the Head of service, presented what he said were the facts about the controversy.
”We have been receiving series of petitions and appeals on this dichotomy. It would be good for us to make the position of the National Council of Establishment very clear on the matter.
“As you are aware the National Council of Establishment was established in 1957 and the essence of that council of establishment is to avoid disparity between Federal and State Governments in respect of conditions of work of all officers in the public service.
”For us to look at this dichotomy well it will be important for us to speak the fact on the face.
“You need to know that for us to place officers in different cadres are dependent on one the qualification of the officer, secondly years spent in the university, the kind of disciple of the individual and the basic qualification in the disciplines is also crucial.
”The last speaker had alluded to the fact that for HND holders and the national Diploma level that they enter the institution with 4 credit as against the 5 credits of Universities.
According to him, “Also in the universities you have people that have different courses curriculum different from what you have in the polytechnic.
He acknowledged the fact that the head of service has been inundated with a lot of memos, appeals and petitions.” I might also remind us that we have commissions set up by the federal Government which is the Longe commission of 1990, we also had the Shonekan Commission or committee of 2006.
“Based on all these there was a white paper released by the head of civil service by 2013/ 2014 when she had a meeting with all stakeholders and based on that a memo was presented by the ministry of education and the national council of establishment at its 39th last meeting in Minna Niger State.”
Certain resolutions were taken; disparities between degree holders and HND on placement at entry point was removed. So HND has the same placement at grade level 08 like the degree holders but for the HND holders to move above level 14 the resolution also stated that they need to do a bridging program which is the PGD.”
He said there is what is called the schemes of service, which are statutory documents for conditions of service, “These are there and for you to move from one level to the other there is what we call conversion from one particular cadre to the other.
There was another uproar in the hall indicating their displeasure but the Senate committee chairman on Tertiary Education and TETFUND Ahmad Babba Kaita cuts in,”It is not fair, you had your chance to speak, he is giving you the true position and you are obstructing, after all you need their support, so allow him to make his case nobody should interrupt him again.
Continuing the permanent secretary said, ”That conversion stipulates for HND holders to do a bridging program called Post Graduate Diploma before Masters that is what is obtainable now.
“Again I also want us to understand the fact that this issue of dichotomy has been severally discussed in the federal ministry of education and the last council decision on it was that the ministry of Education, National Board of Technical Education and National Universities commission should all come together with a view to reviewing the curriculum of HND holders to make it the same with Bachelor’s Degree.
He said the decision was taken as far back as 2018 and we are still on it. He said, “For us to realistically address this position we need to go back and ensure the right things are done.
”Ensure that the appropriate resolutions of the National Council on establishment is adhered on the matter which is for NUC, NBTE should come together and develope a curriculum that will be up to date and the same instead of reinventing the will.”