There is more to degree disparity than FG salary for HND holders
The disparity that has consigned HND holders to job discriminations is said to have sprouted from the visions with which polytechnic education was set up.
In a recent meeting chaired by the Minister of Interior, Lt Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, a board approved for all officers with Higher National Diploma (HND) to be upgraded to COMPASS 08, the salary grade level for BSC holders at the entry point.
And to authenticate the regularisation of the salary, “the board directed that all officers with HND to be upgraded to COMPASS 08, which is the salary grade level for holders of degree certificates at the entry point.
“While the nomenclature for the HND holders will start with the rank of Senior Inspector, the degree holders are with the rank of Assistant Superintendent II.”
That sounds like a good news that should put an end to the lingering discrimination between University and Polytechnic graduates since they now take home same salary.
Well, it appears so, but there is more to this disparity between University and Polytechnic graduates.
Perhaps the decision would have been the best thing to happen to Nigerian educational system if the board had been patient enough to look at other bone of contentions in the unending HND/BSc debacle.
This policy may soon diffuse to other government agencies and parastatals to make it a merry-go-round policy as Federal Government has always promised to end the dichotomy.
In July 2016, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu announced at Kaduna Polytechnic Convocation that the Federal Government is planning to take all required steps to put an end to the issue of dichotomy between Higher National Diploma (HND) and the Bachelor’s degree holders.
Few days after, precisely, Monday, August 1, 2016, news broke that the Federal Government had scrapped HND and set to merge polytechnics with Universities.
The news tickles the hearts of many Polytechnic undergraduates, who thought turning polytechnics to university would earn them BSc, but their hope turned out to be the usual promise and fail attitude of our government.
Since then, turning polytechnics into universities has been made to look like a pipe dream for polytechnics. Although, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic has reportedly been approved by Nigerian University Commission to become an Ivory tower.
Now, the Federal Government thought awarding same salary structure and rank for both University and polytechnic graduates in the para-military would end the problem.
The HND/BSc dichotomy is much more than what salary can solve and some Nigerians even those in Polytechnics think the Federal Government effort may not neutralise the disparity between Polytechnic and University graduates.
Even some University and Polytechnic lecturers do not totally agree with the Federal Government's move to use salary and rank to stop the discrimination some polytechnic graduates have suffered in the labour market.
Dr Tunde Akanni, a development consultant and senior lecturer in Lagos State University School of Communication predicated the genesis of the disparity on the visions with which polytechnics were established.
He said "When you are creating an institution or any establishment at all, you must have had a vision. The Vision behind the creation of Polytechnics in Nigeria is to provide middle-level manpower for the Nigerian society. But those in the University were envisioned to become elite professionals.
When we were admitted into the University, what we were made to understand is that when you are graduating, you graduate as an elite professional whereas, the guys in polytechnics graduate at best a top level technician."
Sharing the same sentiment, Oluwafemi Onifade, a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi believes that the 'original sin' that cosigned Polytechnics to discrimination stemmed from the vision with which it was established.
"We all know that the ways they set up the university and polytechnics are very different. Polytechnics are meant to provide middle-level manpower while Universities are to provide top level man power. So because of this most people do not want to go to polytechnic anymore, they all want to go to universities."
The government might have had good intentions with their visions for polytechnics but the certificates they award, fraught by dearth of jobs and poor educational system has marred the visions for polytechnics. This is why the disparity becomes more pronounced because the top level manager, the middle level and the low-level managers are now competing to have the same job in which the man with BSc is the employers' favourite.
It is also from this vision that discrimination sprouted and this has culminated to seeing Polytechnic graduates as inferior to their university counterparts.
A Polytechnic graduate in the civil service at entry level and top level is always placed a step below a BSc holder. This explains the reason why an HND holder in the country cannot become a Permanent Secretary, which is the highest rank in civil service.
While many Nigerian discusses the disparity in the context of segregation and discrimination, the Polytechnic lecturer, who spoke with Pulse argues that the disparate treatment the HND holders suffer in work places and elsewhere is not a discrimination but inequality that has legal backings.
"I don't really think it is a discrimination because it has legal backings. Should we remove the law and somebody is still saying you have an HND and you cannot get to certain levels then, it becomes a problem, it becomes illegal. But now it is not illegal because they are only following the laid down laws by denying them promotions.
"Where I have a problem is where somebody has an HND first, the PGD, the masters and the PHD and someone still says you cannot rise to a certain level because you came in with HND first, when someone who has just BSc becomes a Permanent Secretary or Head of Service without masters or any other qualification. It is annoying. But if after your HND and PGD and you become at par with someone with BA or BSc, fine it is okay. But, generally speaking, the standard is poor."
The Lagos State Lecturer also shares similar views that since Polytechnic and University have different laws and visions setting them up, polytechnic graduates should be made to go through some refinement to enjoy same privilege with BSc holders, rather than just putting them on the same salary scale.
"If you want to close the gap, you may say for those of you who went to Polytechnic, after fulfilling certain conditions, you may be deemed considered for so and so privileges. There must be conditions to fulfil"
Dr. Akanni also pointed out the disparity in admission requirements Polytechnic and University in Nigeria.
"We have Universities and Polytechnics in the country and entry requirement are different. Why did they lower requirements for a set of people and high it for another and when they finish the race you expect them to have same ratings irrespective of the disparity at the onset?" He queried.
Moreover, the Federal Government had made attempt to convert some Polytechnic to Universities in the country to put a stop the dichotomy. Yaba College of Technology and Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) are on the verge of becoming universities, yet some still believe that upgrading the school and not the lecturers would still not solve the problem.
Dr. Akanni is one of those positing this argument and in his opinion, awarding Btech in Polytechnic-turn- universities is a clear example of putting the cart before the horse.
"MAPOLY, Yabatech and others might become universities but then they have to strengthen the personnel, the work force. Go and do a survey of the lecturers in Polytechnics now, how many PhD holders do they have there? If they want to undertake any research, who are the people that'll ascertain that the work is good enough? The United Nations realise this better. If the UN is giving out any research contract, the minimum requirement for a qualified research is masters degree, so what that means is that regular requirement is PhD."
He continues, "One important thing for which Universities are most known is research, and if we don't have people who can conduct research, what is in that University? So, awarding B.Tech may still not solve the problem if the personnel are not strengthened academic wise"
Before now, Nigerians employers of labour, both government and private often measure job seekers competence by their certificate. University graduates are often adjudged to be better than their Polytechnic counterparts irrespective of what they can do.
Though, this narrative is gradually changing from certificate to talent based competence. A lot of employers of labour now consider the CV and the quality of the graduate first before looking at the academic degree the certificate carries.
It is against this background that the Bauchi Polytechnic lecturer thinks even if all Polytechnics begin to award Btech, it may not change the perception of public about HND holders if they do not re-train themselves to be fit and qualified for the job they want.
Onifade said "even if they (FG) enact the laws and those who go to polytechnics do not re-train themselves, what you hold would not matter. This is why it is all about what you can do on the job. In other words, it is the graduate, not the certificate."
In the face of these many issues, the Federal Government has thought it wise to pay both HND and BSc holders in civil service same salary but state governments across the country are yet to domesticate this policy.
Again, it is yet to be seen if Polytechnic-turn-University would, in the long run, have same academic and social standing with University in Nigeria given the public perception of Higher National Degree award our polytechnics issue their graduates.
Finally, the Federal Government policy to stop discrimination through salary and rank in paramilitary (and by extension agencies and parastatals) may partly solve the problem for the few in its payroll. Those in private sector and state government may have to endure till the Federal Government comes up with another law or policy that will exterminate the disparity and discrimination that have refused to go since Yabatech was established.
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