Many graduates who pass through the polytechnic education usually suffer discrimination from their university graduate counterparts leading to lamentations among many of them. This demarcation is unnecessary and anomalous, especially when employers of labour (government and private alike) tend to buy into it. This may have done more harm than good to the nation’s economy and the educational system as a whole. In spite of calls from several quarters for the abrogation of this dichotomy, it is yet to be seen if employers are ready to heed them, writes Gabriel Chy Alonta.
One of the prerequisites of being gainfully employed in various institutions in Nigeria, whether government or private owned, remains the presentation of Bachelor of Science certificate and Higher National Diploma for university and polytechnic graduates, as the case may be.
However, there is a lingering dichotomy between the two classes of graduates, each claiming superiority and this has generated rifts across the society. Some of the polytechnic graduates complain of bitter experiences they suffer in the hands of employers who, in discriminating against them, do not hesitate to throw overboard all elements in the principle of merit in their employment.
Since Nigeria’s system of education accommodates or recognises the study of relevant/approved courses in various tertiary institutions, it will be unjust that Nigerian governments at all levels aid or connive at this dichotomy between products of these institutions.
The reason is not far-fetched: The federal government, through the ministries of education and other relevant stakeholders, draw up curricula for those institutions. Why then, the discrimination, if that is the case?
It is no wonder that the quest for tertiary education tends more towards the universities than polytechnics. Probably to assuage the desire of prospective students, some of the polytechnics are known to have wrought some collaborative affiliation with universities. This seems to be working for such polytechnics, going by the influx of admission seekers, obviously attracted by the affiliation, annually.
Apart from different stakeholders who have fought to stop this anomaly, the labour unions of polytechnics in the country, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), recently hinted that it may formally challenge the dichotomy in court.
According to ASUP president, Usman Dutse, “Let there be a law passed by the National Assembly against anybody that violates it. Many organisations that have gotten used to the dichotomy are finding it difficult to abolish it.
“For some, it is because of their interest in using workers without paying them well, so they hinged on it to exploit people.”
Dutse lamented that the dichotomy was discouraging students from acquiring polytechnic education and expressed concern that the fear had negatively affected such students; hence their preference for universities.
Orient Education findings are that HND holders are placed on Salary Grade Level 7 at the point of entry into the civil service, unlike their first degree counterparts who are placed on Salary Grade Level 08.
Similarly, career progression for HND holders ends at SGL 14, while that of first degree terminates at SGL 17.
The circular also encouraged serving HND officers to fulfill all specified conditions, as contained in the scheme of service and extant rules for career progression beyond SGL 14.
The president, Nigerian Association of Technologists in Engineering (NATE), Ahmad Yabagi, had, at a press conference in Abuja, said, “We are glad that this monster called dichotomy which has been a big threat to the development of technology in Nigeria has been defeated.
He said NATE had, therefore, resolved to partner the federal government in its quest to bequeath entrepreneurial skills to Nigerian youths, as a means of turning around the economic fortune of the country.
Yabagi appealed to the government to strengthen its monitoring system to ensure that the circular is implemented by all agencies.
Also, the registrar, College of Education, Zuba, Abuja, Dr. Grace Tyoden told the media press that the condition of service in colleges was in line with approved National Council of Establishment (NCE).
Deputy Controller and the Nigeria Custom Service’s Public Relations Officer, Joseph-Attah disclosed that the NCS had abrogated the dichotomy since 2016, and urged all stakeholders to comply.
It was learnt that the head of service of the federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, had issued the circular on March 26, 2018, directing government establishments to bridge the gap, which many agencies are yet to comply with.
However, amidst the crisis, the federal government has said the controversial dichotomy in the placement of the two types of graduates in the federal civil service cadres had not been abolished.
This was against the backdrop of the widely held belief that it had.
The head of the civil service of the federation in Abuja, where she presented her three-year scorecard, regretted that Nigerians have grossly misunderstood the pronouncement made by the Federal Executive Council on the controversial HND and BSc dichotomy.
She said the government had not completely resolved the dichotomy as polytechnic graduates in the civil service may have to get additional degree or certificate before they can be moved to level 17 like their university degree counterparts.
“I think the issue of this HND and BSc dichotomy came up at the last Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. It is something a lot of people are still confused about and it should not be so.
“What was approved at FEC is that henceforth HND graduate who entered at the same level as degree holders will be on the same level at entry point in the civil service.
“The issue of where they stop will still remain at Grade Level 14 unless they are able to acquire additional relevant degrees that can now covert them to officer cadre. We have explained this severally, but when people hear that BSC–HND dichotomy has been cancelled, everyone was jumping for joy as if it is automatically that HND will get up to Grade Level 17 in the public service.
“The issue still remains that HND still have to convert after having acquired relevant degrees, to the officer grade,” Oyo-Ita said.
Corroborating the assertion that HND holders must undergo conversion, as stated by the head of civil service of the federation (HoS) Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, the immediate past chairman of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Federal Polytechnic, Oko chapter, Anambra state, Comrade Godson Okeoma, described the policy as laudable, noting that it was a good initiative for HND holders who sought parity with their BSc. holding counterparts to enrol for further professional development training.
According to him, the starting point of SGL 8 for both BSc and HND holders was good. For civil servants to end at the terminal level 17, they have to improve themselves to make up for the deficiency by either getting PGDE in the profession or getting registered or both.
Okeoma, who advised that HND holders should all embrace the initiative, also said that no one should feel shortchanged about the policy.
Contributing, a former dean, faculty of education, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof. Ogochukwu Ibeneme, opined that any decision on such should be based on international best practices, noting that it was employers who determined salary levels for employees.
Noting that some based their judgement on the street perception of the quality of university education vis-a-vis polytechnic education, Ibeneme, who lectures in the department of technology and vocational education, UNIZIK, however, added that such dichotomy was usually associated with civil or public service, unlike in private firms.
“Personally, it is not about how much you earn or the salary grade level that you occupy. There are people who earn bulk some of money but are imprudent with funds. Such people will remain where they are.
“So, I think any salary payment should also be based on how productive a person is”, Ibeneme suggested.
The debate may go on and on, but the fact remains that it is only those who wear a shoe who will tell where it pinches. Until we learn to order our priorities in education, health and other sectors of the economy, Nigeria might remain stagnated.