By Iyabo Lawal
The announcement that the dichotomy between Higher National Diploma (HND) and Bachelors Degree is about to be repealed elicited muffled jubilation among those who endured the discrimination over the years. In this report, IYABO LAWAL explains that it is not uhuru for the victims yet.
The Senate had recently passed a bill prohibiting employers in the country from discriminating between first degree and HND holders. Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, said the passage of the bill would serve as a motivation to HND holders from polytechnics.
The passage of the bill followed the consideration of a report by the Joint Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters as well as Tertiary institutions and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
Chairman of the Joint Committee, Ibrahim Shekarau, said the development would free holders of HND from stagnation and ensure balanced treatment with their counterparts from other higher tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
He added that the scrapping of the dichotomy would meet the huge manpower needs of Nigerians, ensure social justice and enhanced corporate governance, as well as encourage patriotic contributions among HND employees in both public and private sectors.
The practice in the civil service was that while entry level graduate with Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) start on salary grade level 8, the HND counterpart had to go a level lower; in security service, a B.Sc holder would be a commissioned officer, while an HND holder would remain a step lower; an HND graduate was not expected to go higher than GL 13 (jam bar), while a B.Sc graduate has no limit.
In July 2016, the Federal Government had expressed its intention to end the dichotomy between HND and B.Sc holders – when the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, spoke at the 32nd combined convocation and diamond jubilee celebration of Kaduna Polytechnic.
Abolishing the dichotomy has been a subject of constant demand, particularly from Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP).
ASUP Chairman, Yaba College of Technology, Mr Remi Ajiboye, who expressed delight at the bill’s passage, said the dichotomy ought not to be there at all.
He said: “I do not understand the basis for the dichotomy in the first place; if it has been scrapped, it is a welcome development.”
On his part, a former National President of ASUP, Mr Chibuzo Asomugha, said the passage of the bill was a step in the right direction. He added that the focus should be on the capabilities of certificate holders.
Asomugha said the removal of the dichotomy would require revisiting the curriculum of HND programmes to address lapses. He appealed that the quality of education in polytechnics should justify the gesture.
Public Relations Officer, The Polytechnic Ibadan, Alhaji Soladoye Adewole, said there was no basis for the dichotomy in the first place.
Adewole said the nation’s educational system was copied from United Kingdom, which had since reviewed its system when discrimination set in between polytechnic and university graduates.
“I commend those behind this move but I also want to advise that polytechnic graduates should not rest on their oars. They should strive to get the necessary additional certificates to make them relevant in whatever field they are.
“Add value and upgrade yourself on your job as development is a continuum. The ball is now in the court of the President to assent to the bill, once this is done, nobody would be able to contravene the law and go free,” Adewole said.
A lecturer at Osun State Polytechnic, Thomas Ijiola, said the bill would not necessarily solve the challenges of underdevelopment and skills gap in the workplace in Nigeria.
Ijiola noted that converting polytechnic to university would not solve the myriads of problems confronting the country; rather each tertiary institution is expected to deliver on the mandate establishing it.
He stated that issues such as functionality and capabilities of the various institutions and their faculties should be brought to bear in improving the quality of education.
If government can regulate the dichotomy in its establishments first, then every other sector of the economy can then do the same.
“There are various government agencies and parastatals with different degrees of emoluments paid to workers and so harmonisation of salary scales is needed if dichotomy is to be addressed.
“There are other bills such as this one, which stated the percentage of the physically challenged people that should be employed but is it being followed? So, the issue is not passage of the bill but critically looking at how to bridge the skills gap and provide equal platform for workers to earn their pay. Most employers now pay you for what you can do. That is the value you brought to bear in the workplace and not your certificate,” Ijiola added.
An employer of labour, Fidelis Agbim, said the dichotomy had been an issue for a long time as degree holders have an edge over their HND counterparts. He said employers of labour give priority to university graduates because they are seen as more qualified in the work place.
Agbim said the general belief is that polytechnic education was designed to train middle level management manpower as its highest manpower level, while universities train manpower for higher management positions.
With the scrapping of the dichotomy, Agbim said it would take some time for companies ad organisations to adapt, as polytechnic graduates are seen as less qualified.
“This is evident in the fact that polytechnic graduates cannot proceed directly on a master’s degree programme whether of distinction grade or not. He / She had to be subjected to a minimum of another one year of post-graduate diploma course before proceeding for a master’s degree programme, as against the university holder proceeding directly to master’s degree.
He, however, expressed readiness to give polytechnic graduates the opportunity to prove themselves in the world of work. A lecturer, Cletus Abang, said: “In the UK, I am aware that the people with probably what I can call HND are rated and enumerated better or higher. Because what we need now is technological development and not theory.”
According to him, this is not the first time government has been issuing circulars on the issue but was not implemented.
“Now that it is coming by way of the law, it would encourage more people to attend polytechnics and colleges of technology because many students who filled their JAMB forms picked universities as a result of the dichotomy. For two to three years, students who are unable to secure university admission shun polytechnics and roam the streets until they are able to get admission to the university.
”That will change if they now know that either way, they can get to the highest level in the public service,” Abang said. A polytechnic graduate, Anderson Peters, said one of the effects of the discrimination against them by employers of labour and society at large is emotional trauma as well as loss of self-confidence. With the removal of the dichotomy, Peters said employers would come to realise that HND graduates are as competent as their counterparts from universities.
He however pointed out that the curriculum and courses taught should be checked and reviewed from time to time to meet the present technological needs and realities.
A polytechnic student, Kemi Olaofe, who faulted the deplorable attitude of employers and the general public towards polytechnic graduates, said with the development, HND holders would no longer be treated as second fiddle to university graduates.
According to her, employers relegate polytechnic graduates so much that it had started to affect their technological advancement.
“Employers believe polytechnic education is for those who are not intelligent enough to do academic work. Moreover, lower salaries are paid to HND holders as against higher salaries for university graduates.
“Besides, we are made to work under university graduates as head of departments or units as the case may be. Even from institutions we graduated from, we cannot head a department where there is an equivalent degree holder, let alone becoming rector of such institutions, except after further studies in a university. This alone leaves a big “why” question to be answered. It means even in our own supposed “home”, we are not still accepted. This kind of ill- treatment to polytechnic graduates can dampen our morale and in turn, pose serious danger for national development.”
Coordinator, ASUP, Zone C, (South West), Mr Nureni Yekini, also hailed the National Assembly for the action. He said HND graduates passed through a more rigorous process than university degree holders.
MEANWHILE, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) has urged the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to release the enabling circular, saying this would ensure the commencement of the implementation and enable HND and BSc holders to receive same treatment and ratings.
The Rector, Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti, Dr. Dayo Oladebeye, commended the Senate over its handling of the dichotomy, saying time has come for the country to place premium priority on the acquisition of technical education.
Oladebeye said the fact that one is a polytechnic graduate does not make him/her inferior academically and in competence to degree holders.
On his part, Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano State said polytechnic education is key to the efforts of Federal and state Governments to fight unemployment in the country.
He said his administration had removed the dichotomy and taken far more reaching steps like proper funding of Kano-owned polytechnics, to be veritable training grounds for those desirous of skills and vocations.
Chelsea Nze, a prospective undergraduate, said she chose university because university graduates can proceed for masters’ degree while their polytechnic counterparts have to undergo a one-year refresher programme before being admitted in the university.
Besides, she noted that since employers prefer university graduates to HND holders, going to polytechnic might not pay off at the long run.
She said: “I didn’t willingly choose to attend a polytechnic; my dream was to study in a university. I finished secondary school in 2018 and started writing Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). After trying unsuccessfully for three years, I got tired and decided to choose Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) this year.
“I want to appeal to government to scrap the dichotomy and discrimination against polytechnic graduates. It is not healthy for the system,” Nze said.
On his part, Tobilola Adaramola, a UTME candidate, who applied to study Civil Engineering at University of Lagos (UNILAG), said the society has a mindset that university graduates are better than their polytechnic counterparts, hence they get more job opportunities than HND holders.
Another prospective undergraduate, Ayodele Oladare said going to polytechnic has never crossed his mind, considering the value Nigerians, particularly employers, attach to HND certificate.
“My sister once told me that based on the current state of unemployment in the country, going to polytechnic may not be the best as a university degree is preferrable, even if it means studying in the north. I am 17 years old and applying to Bayero University, Kano (BUK).”
On his part, Nadabo Yussuf said: “During registration, I applied to a polytechnic but I did that to complete my registration. I have no intention of going to a polytechnic because Nigerians have no regard for HND holders. With what I have observed, institutions give special consideration to northern students, using catchment area as criteria.
A candidate, Victoria Akpa, said she applied to University of Jos, as the thought of polytechnic never crossed her mind following the discrimination against polytechnic products.
Adewole Anifat, who sat for the recently held UTME said: “I prefer the university because it is more acceptable compared to Polytechnic and College of Education. If I should go to polytechnic, I will need to get a university degree to back it up.
Asked if she will still prefer university to polytechnic since the senate has abolished the disparity between holders of HND and BSc, she said: “I will still choose university.
On her part, Ada Lucy said: “My course, Medical Laboratory, is only offered in the university, but I can go to polytechnic if I don’t have the requirements to study in the university, and I will switch in my second year.”