The discrimination against the holders of Higher National Diploma in the nation’s civil service will continue despite the pronouncement of the federal government that polytechnic graduates will be awarded Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) instead of Higher National Diploma (HND). UJI ABDULLAHI ILIYASU underscores the reasons the dichotomy will persist in the labour market.
Emphasis on pecuniary benefits misplaced
Nigerian policy makers tend to look at the discrimination against polytechnic’s Higher National Diploma and university degree only as it affects pecuniary benefits of those concerned in the labour market and in the civil service. But the fundamental factors that give rise to the discrimination has been overlooked, which lies in the entry point of the two schools and experiences gained thereof.
In civil service and in the paramilitary agencies, holders of degrees, obtained in the universities or in the campuses of colleges of education or polytechnics, are usually given preferences in terms of financial claims. But like most Nigerian burning issues, the stakeholders prescribe drugs without diagnosing the ailments, and the sickness continues because the prescription is not right.
Some times in 2018, the federal government through the minister of education, said the dichotomy between degree and HND was no more, and directed the nation’s polytechnics to award Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) to their graduates instead of HND henceforth.
But it is not in the nomenclature of the certificates that the discrimination originates. It is the entrance gate that leads to the award of these two certificates; it is the level of quality teachers in the two institutions that award them; it is the level of scholarly of the students in the institutions and the universality of their courses and programmes.
HND holders as lecturers
In polytechnics, holders of HND are qualified lecturers. In universities, degree holders are lecturers in probation or graduate assistants. In polytechnics, these HND holders, usually taken from among their former students, teach students up to HND II, sometimes, up to HND III. Meanwhile in the universities, a holder of first class honour degree is not even regarded as a lecturer. Sometimes he is attached to a professor who impacts in him the rudiments of lecturing, while he enrols in the institution for his master’s after which he becomes an assistant lecturers.
In some polytechnics, one hardly finds one or two professors on the staff list and where they are found, they serve as administrators not lecturers. In their constituency, they are overqualified to teach, a case of one-eyed man leading the blind.
Head of Service’s directive
The Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, in a circular dated March 26, 2018, passed the decision of the National Council on Establishment (NCE) to all concerned. In the circular, HND holders will enjoy Salary Grade Level 08 (SGL08) in the civil service at entry point like their colleagues with university degrees. It also encouraged serving officers who hold HND to fulfill all specified conditions as contained in the scheme of service and extant rules for career progression beyond SGL 14.
The dichotomy before now had restricted the HND holders to a particular SGL in the civil service before the NCE intervention.
Technologists in Engineering
President of the Nigerian Association of Technologists in Engineering (NATE), Ahmad Yabagi, told journalists at a press conference in Abuja that the decision had opened a great career door which no adversary could shut.
“We are glad that this monster called dichotomy, which has been a big threat to the development of technology in Nigeria has been defeated.
“NATE has, therefore, resolved to support and partner the federal government in its quest to bequeath entrepreneurial skills to Nigerian youths as a means to turn around the economic fortune of Nigeria,” he stated.
Also last month, The Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Board (CDFIPB) has approved the abolition of dichotomy between holders of bachelor’s degree and HND in the services under the ministry of interior.
The secretary of the board, Malam Al-Hassan Yakmut, said the chairman of CDFIPB and former minister of interior, Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), gave the approval at the board’s meeting held on May 10 in Abuja.
Yakmut said after the board’s meeting, a technical committee was immediately set up to work out modalities for the implementation, “including the harmonisation of ranks in accordance with the abolition”.
B.Tech to replace B.Sc.
Last year, the federal government scrapped the award of Higher National Diploma by polytechnics in the country, and said Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) would replace it.
The decision was reached at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) where the approval of a comprehensive reform of Nigeria’s tertiary education system was made.
In effect, the award of HND will be limited to only the students currently admitted to the programmes.
Also, all the programmes currently being run by polytechnics, which are not technology-based, will be scrapped. Under the new rule, the polytechnics will now become campuses of the proximate universities with the vice chancellors of those universities investing in the power to appoint rectors for the polytechnics, subject to the ratification of the universities’ governing councils.
The polytechnics will now be limited to the award of National Diploma (ND), while students who desire to further their education will be awarded the Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) by the proximate university.
To begin the new policy, the nation’s two foremost polytechnics, Yaba College of Technology, and Kaduna Polytechnic, will henceforth be known as City University of Technology, Yaba, and City University of Technology, Kaduna. To give legal backing to these approvals, the FEC approved the submission of two executive Bills to the National Assembly for enactment.
The first bill will concretise the setting up of the two city universities while the second will approve the preparation and consolidation of all federal polytechnics and colleges of education as campuses of proximate universities. The Ministry of Justice will do the preparation and submission of the two bills to the National Assembly.
Former Minister of Education Adamu Adamu, told journalists after the weekly meeting of the council then that under the new measures, his ministry would, however, continue to license private polytechnics and colleges of education for the award of ND and Nigeria Certificate of Education (NCE).
“There will be no more award of HND. After we have exhausted the current students under the programme, there will be no more award of HND. This means that there will be no fresh admission for HND programmes. And in addition, any programme that is not technical will be out of the polytechnics. About 70 per cent of polytechnic graduates are in the non-technical courses. It is going to be a rigorous implementation programme.”
“The HND certificate will remain a legal tender in Nigeria and holders of such certificate will continue to be recognised as the equivalent of first degree holders without discriminatory remunerations and limit to progression in the work place.
“The NCE certificate will be retained as the minimum teaching qualification at the basic level of education. Any higher qualifications by these private or state-owned polytechnics will be only affiliation with a university. So, HND is no longer in existence, but existing HND will be respected and considered legal tender,” he said.
Origin of discrimination
Good as the federal government’s statement seems to stakeholders, it still missed the point. The discrimination is not originated only in financial claims to the holders of HND but in the admission policies of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
If the universities have recommended cut-off point for university admission as high as 160 and polytechnics and colleges of education as low as 110 to 120, as released Tuesday, what do you expect employers of labour for whom profit is the motive of their outfits to do? You want them to recruit and pay the never-do-well from polytechnics and colleges of education remunerations equal to the always-do-well from the universities?
You want polytechnic graduates who had been rejected from the universities because of underachievement in entrance examination into university, but who later found solace in polytechnics and colleges of education to come out on the same level with their highly intelligent university counterparts? If the government wants certificates to be a part of its social service, would the private sector also think that way, especially in a democracy and free capitalist economy where most players believe in the cardinal theory of higher price means higher quality?
Reps legislating HND/BSc parity
In May 22, it was reported that the House of Representatives passed a bill abolishing HND B.Sc.
The legislation sponsored by Ali Isa and Edward Pwajok from Gombe and Plateau states respectively, seeks to end perceived discrimination against polytechnic graduates and remove the challenges they face, especially those in the public service.
Pwajok in his lead debate said the “discrimination” against the polytechnic graduates “had no moral justification”.
The lawmaker said there was segregation when it came to employment issues because “those having first degrees (university graduates) are placed on Grade level 8, while those having HND are placed on grade level 6 or 7”.
He said the discrimination reflects in salaries as some organisations pay degree holders N100,000 at entry level, while HND holders are paid N70,000.
The big question
Now the question is who leads who when a degree holder and HND holder are employed same day in an organisation. The federal government’s circular did not address this salient issue, so the lawmakers should overlook the point. What happens to Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) before master’s by HND holders?
Definitely the answers to the questions are self-evident. The employer would want to entrust his business to one who has higher intelligence quotient as the JAMB’s cut-off marks for university and polytechnics guides him, and also as entry requirements into university and polytechnic directs him. University requires five credits while polytechnics accept four credits or less.
And what makes advanced countries leading in technology? Is it by changing HND to B.Sc?