A Bill for an Act to Abolish and Prohibit the Dichotomy and Discrimination between University First Degrees and the Polytechnics Higher National Diploma (HND) in the same Profession/Field and related matters on Wednesday passed through second reading in the Senate after much heated debates.
Senate President, David Mark said that the bill was difficult to legislate upon considering that Polytechnics were not originally designed to be degree awarding institutions and that the solution will be to make polytechnics degree awarding institutions.
“The problem here is whether we can legislate on this. I think obviously that is not going to work for several reasons that we have all advanced here.
“We can’t legislate here and say you must employ an HND instead of employing somebody with B.SC.
“I think it is more of attitude than what we can legislate on but we can get an arrangement where the polytechnics begin to award degrees, in which case the polytechnics will no more be polytechnics; they will be universities,’’ he said.
He also advocated that the bill be sent to relevant stakeholders for input before the House legislate on it
“our attempt really to equate HND to a degree is not likely to work. Nobody who has done a degree has gone back to the polytechnic to do HND and you can’t blame that logic.
“The whole essence of allowing the bill to go through second reading and public reading is for us to get more ideas about how to get the way forward.
“That will be the only benefit that will come out it’’, he said.
The lead debate, presented by Patrick Akinyelure (PDP-Ondo), highlighted the need to abolish the discrimination between HND and First Degree.
Mr. Akinyelure said the continuing discrimination against HND holders was threatening to ruin the nation’s core policy thrust of evolving a technological and scientifically based society.
He said that findings had proved that some polytechnic graduates were in some cases better on the field than their university counterparts.
“To all intents and purposes, a government employment policy that places degree holders ahead of HND holders without recourse to skill and ability of the HND holder thereof does more harm than good to the nation’s development plans.
“Therefore, the aim of the bill is to promote the technological advancement of our great nation by encouraging many qualified candidates to pursue polytechnic and technological advancement,’’ he said.
Some lawmakers, however, argued that rather than seeking to abolish the dichotomy, efforts should be made to transform all polytechnics to degree awarding institutions.
In his statement,Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said that even if the bill does not succeed, it will help raise the awareness level of the people about the need to cut out the disparity.
“All we need now is to expand the knowledge base of our polytechnics, increase entry qualification and employ qualified teachers for the polytechnics.
“We should then make conscious effort to set up technical schools that would award only diploma to support our industries and help the system industrially.
“To say we will abolish the dichotomy is difficult. The committee to handle the bill should invite experts to look into harmonising the institutions,’’ he said.
While speaking, Ita Enang (PDP-Akwa Ibom) decried the poor standard of some polytechnics in the country.
He called on the regulatory body in charge of polytechnics to adequately regulate the establishment of the institution in the country.
“I have seen polytechnics operate in two bedroom flats and this is the situation that brings suspicion about the quality of our polytechnics.
“I have also seen standard polytechnics and the quality of their product compete favourably with universities.”
He called on relevant agencies to improve on the carrying capacity of universities to accommodate all those seeking admissions.
He also called for harmonisation of universities and polytechnics to help manage a situation where people went to polytechnics because they could not secure admission into universities.
“This bill should pass a second reading to find solution to the problem. I support this bill,’’ he said.
However Chris Ngige said outrightly that the bill should be dropped as it only evokes emotion and the law should not be based on emotions. He echoed the sentiments of Mark that polytechnics should be made degree awarding institutions.
“The bill evokes emotion but laws should not be made based on that to avoid mistakes. This has to do with fundamental structure of the education sector.
“Let us conserve the resources of the senate; it will not go through second reading,’’ he said.
Abubakar Bagudu (PDP-Kebbi), a member of Senate Committee Education, said if the dichotomy should be abolished, there would be standardisation of policy.
He argued that standardisation of policy was vital because universities and polytechnics had different structures.
“The university is theory and research oriented as compared to polytechnic which is supposed to turn out industrial ready graduates,’’ he said.
Similarly, Olusola Adeyeye (APC-Osun), the Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Education, canvassed for the harmonisation of the institutions to enable polytechnics to award degrees.
“I believe that for as long as there is difference in admission standard and training for both institutions of learning, there will be difference in employment.
“Let us go the U.S. way and equalise both polytechnics and universities and have specialised institutions to handle the technical aspect.’’
“We need to make the admission standard the same for polytechnics and universities; forget the dichotomy issue. It is a lie to say you need HND to run an industrial state,” he said.
The dichotomy between polytechnics and university graduates has raised several arguments with some saying that the polytechnics should be scrapped while others have called for upgrading the polytechnics to degree awarding institutions. Several mass protests have been carried out by the affected students and graduates of polytechnics.