Two days ago, an unsung report announced that the Federal Government has directed polytechnics, mono-technic, and other allied institutions to stop awarding degrees. This was as the Federal Ministry of Education expressed dismay over the increasing number of tertiary institutions in the country offering programmes for which they were not originally designed. It gets more absurd as some of these poly and mono technics were found to be awarding Nigerian Certificates in Education which is ordinarily within the purview of Colleges of Education. Regrettably, this critical report was drowned by dominant political discourse in the country, including the DSS/CBN governor face-off.
The directive from the Federal Government, as desirable as it is, comes with a troubling note in that the same government had six years earlier approved some polytechnics and colleges of education as degree-awarding institutions. At the end of its August 2016 Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the federal government said polytechnics would become campuses of proximate universities. It added that the vice-chancellors of those universities appointing provosts for the polytechnics, subject to the ratification of the universities’ councils.
At the time, the federal government also said the polytechnics would be limited to the award of the National Diploma, while those desirous of further education would be awarded the Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech) by the proximate university. The sitting Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, told newsmen after that FEC: “There will be no more award of HND. After we have exhausted the current students under the programme, there will be no more award of HND. This means that there will be no fresh admission for HND programmes. And in addition, any programme that is not technical will be out of the polytechnics.”
He even encouraged the sub-national government to emulate the federal government, stressing that with education being on the concurrent list, “the states may wish to consolidate their tertiary institutions. But if they do not wish to follow the federal example, their programmes will continue to be regulated by the relevant agencies of the Federal Ministry of Education”. But in a volte-face in its twilight, the government is demanding that “Polytechnics and other technical institutions in the country should immediately stop admitting students into degree programmes.” The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), which conveyed the government’s decision to heads of the affected institutions in a circular marked TEB/PRO/E/12/Vol.11/132, gave the affected institutions four years to graduate the last set of students already admitted for such programmes.
There goes the sort of policy flip-flops and inconsistency that has brought the country to its knees, making Nigeria the butt of jokes. What sort of brainstorming and strategy goes into this government’s policy and programmes? Or has governance been reduced to a matter of trial and error? This policy reversal is one manifestation of such shoddiness. Regrettably, the same approach is applied to other critical sectors of the economy. The other day, it was the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, disclosing that it was no longer feasible for the Buhari government to deliver on the narrow-gauge Eastern railway corridor before May 2023, as promised by his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi. Nigeria needs serious-minded persons in governance.
One can only imagine what becomes of the degree certificates wielded by the alumni of the affected polytechnics, which the government had egged on ab initio. Of course, some students would have graduated in the intervening period. Will their employers now place them as a degree or HND holders? How about the supposed upgrade in facilities and curricula that these tertiary institutions already invested in? This is indeed an unnecessary confusion which would not have arisen if there were square pegs in square holes at the commanding heights of the country.
Notwithstanding the pains of this policy inconsistency, we are appeased by the fact that better reasoning eventually prevailed. The destination will always be illusory as long as one travels on a road. Course correction is, therefore, preferable to continuing with a journey that leads to nowhere. Of course, Naija News believes that the country will be best served when polytechnics stick to their raison d’être. An institution designed to impart practical knowledge and training has no business dabbling in theoretical education. The importance of skills development, which polytechnics guarantee, to the growth of any economy, cannot be overemphasized.
Indeed, countries have been transformed into production hubs on the back of the form of education provided by polytechnic and mono-technics. Skills, which this tertiary institution delivers, have become the currency of labour globally. Is it then a wonder that in 2019, the Chinese government converted some 600 universities in their country to polytechnics? Germany is toeing the same path as well. These countries are already reaping the benefits, what with their export of skilled manpower. It, therefore, amounts to retrogression for Nigeria to have continued with the initial policy of making local polytechnics become more like universities rather than doubling down on producing skilled manpower, which is sorely needed for national development. It even demeans the polytechnics to call such a move an “upgrade.” The point must be made clear that universities and polytechnics exist for different reasons.
The obsession with universities, even by those whose aptitudes are better harnessed at the polytechnics, perhaps explains for the increasing churn out of half-baked graduates who regrettably prove to be unemployable. We believe that with the hands-on teaching techniques of vocational institutions in conjunction with the mandatory industrial training, products of polytechnics are better equipped to be useful to themselves and the larger society. It’s unthinkable that a country with a high unemployment rate will ditch this for the theoretical which universities are known for. The need for the country’s polytechnics and mono-technics not to be neglected is even more expedient with the increasing migration of skilled Nigerians overseas in what has come to be known as the ‘Japa’ phenomenon.
Naija News calls on the government to go further by ending the dichotomy between degree and Higher National Diploma certificates. We are aware that it is this discrimination that fuels the passion for polytechnics to become degree-awarding schools. According to the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Anderson Ezeibe, “HND is no longer as attractive as it used to be to Nigerian youths because of the age-long dichotomy. Policymakers have made it a rule that once an individual has an HND, he cannot attain the peak of his/her career”.
This newspaper calls for the shattering of the glass ceiling that prevents holders of higher national diploma certificates from aspiring to head organizations or companies where they’ve built their careers. Polytechnic products should be equally able to enrol for Master’s programmes without having to undertake intermediate courses! Skilled Nigerians who still see HND as inferior should opt for any of the several universities of technology scattered across the country. In the main, Naija News also demands that universities of technology in the country remain within their remit and stop offering Law, Management, Social Sciences, or Business programmes. What they were established for is already a mouthful. Concentration, please!