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HND/B.SC Dichotomy: Polytechnic Graduates Lament Continuous Discrimination by Employers

When Ganiyat Odeyemi saw the Female Scholarship Award from Julius Berger, which was meant for engineering students,  she was quite happy and eager to apply. But her enthusiasm would soon disappear upon realising that only undergraduates from either state or federal universities were eligible to apply. 

“It’s disheartening that polytechnic students are marginalised from some opportunities,” Ganiyat, a student of the Engineering Department (Moshood Abiola Polytechnic), lamented in an interview. 

Stigma and discrimination affect polytechnic graduates in Nigeria, where policymakers and educationists continue discriminating against them. Despite spending four years in school and two years of internship in their respective fields,  polytechnic graduates are often not treated fairly in the job market.  

Multiple graduates of polytechnics who spoke to this medium said that social discrimination begins at the NYSC camp, where graduates with certain courses at the university are treated differently for job entry. Others claim that discrimination is common in the workplace, as polytechnic graduates argue that they get lower-level appointments compared to their university colleagues.

A graduate said that career growth and promotion are stunted for polytechnic graduates until they enrol in a conversion programme at a university to learn and rewrite similar examinations they must have passed in a polytechnic.  

All efforts by stakeholders of the polytechnic system in Nigeria, including the Academic Staff Union Of Polytechnic (ASUP), to ensure that polytechnic graduates are treated fairly have yielded little results. 

In October 2020, some polytechnic graduates alleged discrimination against professionals with polytechnic backgrounds within the Architect Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON). The disgruntled architects petitioned the court for legal recognition and sued the professional body for only recognising their university-educated counterparts.

Legal Conundrum

The ninth Senate, under the leadership of Ahmad Lawan, the previous Senate President, proposed a bill seeking “to grant freedom to HND holders and balance treatments with their counterparts from universities in the labour market, to enhance moderate relationships both in and out of work.” The Bill also pushed for an “Act to Abolish and Prohibit Dichotomy and Discrimination between First Degree and Higher National Diploma in the same profession or field for employment; and related matters.”

In 2021, the National Assembly presented former President Muhammadu Buhari with the bill for his signature before it could become law. The President, however, could not sign the bill into law amid uncertainties.

In a similar vein, the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) recently urged the Bola Tinubu administration to address the dichotomy and segregation between holders of the Higher National Diploma (HND) and the Bachelor of Science degree (BSc).

A civil servant who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation told this medium that “both sides were initially employed at the same level, but there is a difference in how each party is addressed.”

She added: “They address the BSc holder of level 8 as an accountant, while they call the HND holder an executive officer. The BSc holder will not have to take the exam for promotion after two years of service since they will be given free entrance to the full staff instead, but the HND holder must take an exam first.” 

He added that B.Sc holders usually have free access to union organisations like ICAN, ANA, and others, while HND holders must take some exams before they are considered eligible.

Another civil servant claimed that HND holders cannot advance beyond Grade Level 14 or 15 without getting further credentials, forcing HND holders to opt for ‘top-up’ programmes. In contrast, degree holders can advance in the service at Grade Level 17.

Way Forward

In a conversation with Mr Oyeyemi Ajibola, the Public Relations Officer of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, he explained that although the institution endeavoured to offer the B.Tech. to its students in recent years to ease the pain of discrimination, it has since become clear that nothing can be done without the passage of the bill into law. 

According to Mr Ajibola, “Despite the management’s efforts to begin awarding B.Tech degrees in 2021, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) stopped the process of awarding the degree for a variety of reasons, and the institution was unable to depart from the instruction given by the body.”

Mr Ayoola Idowu, a former PRO of the ANAN, Abuja (Association of National Accountants of Nigeria), served as PRO for 11 years and has both polytechnic and university certificates. He also shared his experience and opinion on the disparity.

He said: “I had a background in Mass Communication before I continued for my first degree (BA), followed by an MSc, Mass Communication, and a PhD.

“In my opinion, having attended both universities, I don’t see why those with a BSC and an HND should be treated differently. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have taken the university’s Direct Entry programme if it weren’t for the discrepancy. I think that both HND and BSc degree holders are astute.

“In reality, we had hands-on experiences when I was doing my three-month Industrial training program at one of the television stations. We used all we had learned in class, unlike in universities, where the majority of these chances weren’t accessible until quite recently when the majority of them were limited to having their own private TV stations.”

He argued further that there shouldn’t be any disparity given the quality of training and experience. “Someone who spent two years went for industrial training in the third year, went for two years of the HND programme, and served for one year as a youth corps ended up on the fringes of the job market while those in the universities who spent four years and went for service are favoured,” he lamented.

“I’m aware that there are now ‘top-up’ programmes for HNDs, but I believe that the present administration should pass the law to allow polytechnics to begin issuing B.Techs instead.”

Dr Shola Adeosun, a public affairs analyst, lecturer, and media expert in the field of communication, discussed his experiences lecturing in both institutions (polytechnics and universities) and how he is familiar with both schools’ standards.

In contrast to the academic foundation in universities, he explained, the polytechnic offers real-world experience and practical training.

“Countries like China and several other Asian nations are transforming the majority of their universities into polytechnics, which aids in their economic prosperity and technological development. The polytechnic standard creates pupils who are knowledgeable and skilled,” he opined.

For Dr. Wasiu Tejuosho, a lecturer and author, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) should put maximum pressure on governments to equip polytechnics to be qualified to produce manpower up to the doctorate level.

“Academic staffing and facilities that are appropriate for the polytechnic must be in place. 

“If allowed, many academics at the polytechnic are ready to compete with any professor from any Nigerian university in terms of competence, training, and teaching experience,” he said.

Newly-trained student reporters produced this story under the Campus Reporter project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development.

The following students from the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY) authored the story:

Adeniran Esther

Edun Olashile

Adekunle Daniel

Ashaye Aminat

Adeyemo Taiwo

Adejoke Adebiyi

Ogunwale Zainab

Binuyo Precious

Lawal Blessing

Akorede Oluwafeyikemi

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