Recently, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government (FG) abruptly introduced a new policy in Nigeria’s education sector.
The decision, which was unanimously reached at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held on Wednesday, 6th June 2018 where the approval of a comprehensive reform of the country’s tertiary education system was made, had it that the ongoing Higher National Diploma (HND) certificate invariably awarded by the Polytechnics would no longer be valid.
The resolution disclosed that the HND honour would, from date, be bestowed on only the students that had already been admitted for the programme in the country’s various polytechnics. Hence, the affected institutions would henceforth be limited to award of the National Diploma (ND).
Under the policy, the polytechnics would now become campuses of the proximate universities whereby the Vice-Chancellors (VCs) would be eligible to appoint the Provosts for their respective affiliate Polytechnics, subject to the ratification of the universities’ councils. In view of this, the students who are desirous of further education would be awarded a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) degree by the concerned proximate university.
In addition, all the programmes being run by polytechnics that aren’t technology-based or technically-inclined, which constitute over 70 per cent of the overall programmes currently offered by the institutions, would outrightly be scrapped by the mandate of the new policy.
The FEC further directed that to kick-start the policy, the nation’s two most prominent polytechnics – the Yaba College of Technology and Kaduna Polytechnic – would henceforth be known and addressed as City University of Technology, Yaba and City University of Technology, Kaduna, respectively.
With education being on the concurrent list, the states are enjoined to follow suit. And to give legal backing to the resolutions, the FEC approved the submission of two Executive Bills to the National Assembly (NASS) through the Attorney General of the Federation for onward enactment.
The first bill would concretize the setting-up of the two named city universities while the second one would approve the preparation and consolidation of all federal polytechnics as well as colleges of education as campuses of their proximate universities.
The Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu while briefing newsmen immediately after the meeting, further highlighted that “the HND certificate will remain a legal tender in Nigeria and holders of such certificate will continue to be recognized as the equivalent of first degree holders without discriminatory remunerations and limit to progression in the work place”. Similarly, the boss stated “the NCE certificate will be retained as the minimum teaching qualification at the basic level of education”.
When I received the entire content of the new policy, I didn’t cease to be worried owing to various pertinent factors that might in the long run pose a barrier to the progress of the policy, thereby bedevilling Nigeria’s education sector as well as the country’s labour market and the existing work places.
As at then, I stated that to aptly address – or better still avoid – the foreseen anomaly, the bill to be sent to the NASS must be well detailed and all-inclusive devout of any clause that may ensue a crisis in the future. Hence, all parties involved were meant to consider the interest of the country at large as priority.
First, I saw no reason granting the VCs of the proximate universities the immunity to appoint the heads (provosts) of their affiliated tertiary institutions. Rather, the emergence of such leaders ought to be strictly via election among the interested and qualified candidates who must be academic staff of the affected polytechnic or college of education, as may be the case.
Secondly, there was no need to rename the various polytechnics to ‘City University of Technology’ since they would all be recognized as campuses of their proximate universities. Rebranding them as city universities simply implies that there’s no further need to place them as affiliate institutions.
Thirdly, to introduce uniformity, the bill in question was expected to mandate all the state governments to key into the policy towards avoiding any conflicting situation. It would be abnormal for the federal polytechnics to stop awarding HND to their students whilst those of the states would continue to do so.
Inter alia, it was equally advised by me that, for the policy to be fully appreciated and adored, it would be ideal and wise to totally abolish the recognition and existence of the HND qualification in Nigeria.
This can be achieved by directing those who had already been honoured with the certificate to return to their respective alma-maters with a view to undergoing a one/two-year programme that would make them qualified to receive the B.Tech degree certificate.
The above suggestion was highly consequential because as the policy progresses, the labour market or employers of labour would be forced to abhor the HND certificate or see it as a worthless qualification. The HND has hitherto been discriminated against, let alone when the country’s polytechnics are prohibited from awarding it.
Meanwhile, four years down the line, absolutely nothing has been heard about the way forward of the said policy and no one is even talking about it. It suffices to say that the people are currently kept in the dark regarding the proposed law.
The honourable minister had in his speech stated that holders of such certificates would “continue” to be recognized as the equivalent of first degree holders as if the HND holders had ever in Nigeria been treated as equal to their university counterparts.