“I am applying for a Master’s programme in the US but, although I have my PGD, the school insists if the HND is not recognised as BSc in my home country, I might not qualify for the scholarship programme,” said Bamidele, a Nigerian Higher National Diploma (HND) holder.
He said what the federal government makes HND graduates go through is demoralising and disappointing.
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“For how long will the discrimination persist? Several committees have been set up and meetings held, yet there is no headway. ” he said.
Bamidele said: “You spend five years in school, excluding NYSC, yet you are discriminated against. Government should just effect the needed change for the benefit of everyone, particularly those still in school.”
Bamidele is not the only one whose effort is being frustrated as an HND holder. The story of Happiness Emmanuel also carries the same discontent as she laments the discrimination against them, especially when it comes to employment opportunities.
She said HND graduates are barred from applying for most jobs thereby making it look as if attending polytechnic was a waste of time and resources.
“I am now a teacher because I couldn’t apply or get the kind of job I want. If you eventually get a job, you don’t get the opportunity to progress, so how do they expect one to build a career,” she said.
“Government has been paying lip service to the issue of removing the dichotomy between HND and BSc. They have been admitting people into polytechnics to study only to be humiliated and frustrated. I think they should scrap polytechnic so that we all can go to university,” she said.
The issue of removing the dichotomy between HND and BSc holders has lingered for long generating protest from those affected and government going forth and back.
Speaking on the issue, the President of Higher National Diploma Holders Association of Nigeria (HNDHAN), Comrade Sabastine Onyemaobi, said it was painful that an HND holder cannot progress beyond grade level 14 in workplace.
He said aside from that, there are other conditions, which he described as highly unjust and harsh.
Some of the conditions for progression by HND holders, according to him, include acquisition of PGD and Master’s Degree, compulsory demotion, salary with no increment within the period of demotion, and sluggish and reluctant conversion process that lingers for many years.
Others are denial/loss of many years of seniority in service and arbitrary placement on unsolicited strange cadres etc.
The federal government had in June 2006 set up a White Paper Drafting Committee on the Consolidation of Emoluments in the Public Sector to put an end to the dichotomy.
The committee, which was made up of 17 members, was chaired by Malam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, then Minister of FCT, with members that included Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ambassador Ahmed Al-Gazali and Mrs Esther Nenadi Usman among other personalities.
The committee submitted the white paper recommending that government accepts that the undue dichotomy and ceiling on the salary grade level/ rank attainable by HND holders should be removed.
“OND and its equivalent from any government recognised institution should be regarded as a new minimum point of entry and the current scheme of service should be reviewed to reflect the above recommendation,” the document reads.
On March 14, 2007, and June 6, 2008, respectively, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) reaffirmed that: “The HND certificate will remain a legal tender in Nigeria and holders of such certificate will continue to be recognised as an equivalent of First Degree holders without discriminatory remunerations and limit to progression in the workplace.”
This is 14 years ago and still counting as nothing has been done, with HND holders left to continue to grumble and lament over the discriminatory dichotomy.
Recently, a coalition of HND holders comprising public servants, unions, and others threatened to down tools and ground government activities.
The group said its members would occupy the office of the Head of Service Office (HOS), which is supposed to act on it if they failed to implement the white paper on the removal of dichotomy on the career progression of HND holders in public service within the expiration of four weeks, which has now expired.
The National President of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and a Visitor of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Chris Isiquzo Ikechukwu, said it was not proper that a certain group of people would be enjoying their promotion in service and another group retarded. “It is unacceptable to us.”
“We are not going to take this lying low; we are going to mobilize our students and members across Nigeria.
“We are going to occupy that office until they do the needful because we will not continue to keep quiet and things will continue to go wrong,” he said.
For Onyemaobi, the over 14 years wait for the implementation of the government white paper has exposed HND holders to discrimination, stigmatization and undue stagnation in their places of work.
He said their members are becoming restive and they may not be able to contain their agitation.
When contacted, the Director Communications, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHoSCF), Mrs Olawunmi Ogunmosunle, asked for a formal request for comment from the OHoSCF.
However, an official at the OHoSCF, who pleaded anonymity, told Daily Trust that the planned protest was unnecessary.
According to him, what the aggrieved persons should have done was to formally write to the Head of Service, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, especially as the resolution was formally adopted and ratified by the National Council on Establishment (NCE).
“Kindly observe that some of the MDAs are already implementing the removal of the dichotomy. I think what is left is for the presidential policy announcement,” he said.
Another top government official, who also does not want to be named, said there was more to the issue than what the protesters were agitating for.
He said many top government functionaries, including those that have retired, were opposed to total abolition of the disparity as they still saw polytechnic education and certificates as inferior to those of universities.