The crisis of confidence in the tertiary sector, triggered by the discrimination between polytechnic graduates and their varsity counterparts on one hand and the marginalisation of polytechnic lecturers and their university teachers, have fuelled renewed clamour for the elevation of polytechnics into degree-awarding institutions. EMMANUEL OLADESU reports.
Many polytechnic graduates are not happy after leaving school. One of them, Bola, 25, a graduate of Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos – the pioneer tertiary institution in the country – complains that she is not proud of her Higher National Diploma (HND) certificate, which, in her view, is rated inferior to a varsity degree in the society.
She had toiled for five years before obtaining the certificate. But, to her consternation, the HND is now a stigma, a source of trauma and a tragedy of sort. She is bitter against the system that launched her into a nightmare and locked in a self-battle to erase from her memory what she now describes as the pains of a somehow fruitless academic labour.
Bola has an axe to grind with the society. Her grouse may not be misplaced. Those in her shoes believe that it is not without justification. “I and indeed, other polytechnic graduates suffer discrimination in three fronts in the employment market”, says the young graduate, who outlines the limitations and constraints of polytechnic education.
“We face a challenge in the civil service, which places us (polytechnic products) a step below our polytechnic counterparts in the cadre. The pompous varsity graduates, who are masters of theories and philosophies, deride us as products of Advanced Technical Colleges (ATCs), although we excel in practical applications than many of them.
“Also, the private sector, especially the top flight banks, other financial institutions and multi-nationals, often close their doors against polytechnic graduates in preference for bachelor degree holders as if we have defects.”
Another polytechnic product, Kemi, is in the same frame of mind. She laments the disparity between the HND and B.Sc certificates in the employment market. She contended that many polytechnic students are assailed by the fear of the future. According to Kemi, her experience after completing the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme has confirmed her fears.
When she was shortlisted for an interview after attempting an aptitude test by a bank on Victoria Island, Lagos, she was highly excited. But, her ego was bruised on the day of the interview. “We were many at the interview venue. But, shortly before the commencement of the interview, the HND holders were isolated by a bank official, who told us that we were selected for the interview in error. Our undoing was our HND certificates,” she lamented.
Another job applicant, Kayode Omoniyi, an English graduate from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, who witnessed the ordeals of the polytechnic graduates, said: “That day, I thanked my star for attending a university. When the official asked the HND graduates to leave the venue, they left hurriedly; very disappointed and bitter at the official, the bank, the polytechnics they attended, their certificates and themselves. It was an agonising experience.”
In Nigeria’s march of technological development, polytechnics are acclaimed technological institutions for breeding competent professionals, who are required to actualise the national dream. The scope of the polytechnic education include teaching, research, public service, and the production of technological manpower, new knowledge and innovations in technology for the technological advancement of the country. But, in the public perception, polytechnic engineering and science products are not at par with their university counterparts. This perceived low rating has drawn the ire of polytechnic-trained engineers and technologists, who decried the discriminatory policies, in terms of employment and conditions of ser