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HND / FIRST DEGREE PARITY: IN WHOSE INTEREST?

By NBF News

One of the burning issues that have dominated national discuss of recent is the controversies surrounding the status of the Higher National Diploma issued by the Polytechnics as against the first degree, obtainable from the University.

The Head of Service of the Federation Mr. Stephen Orosanye had stirred the hornet's nest when he commented that the HND was not an equivalent of the University degree. Different groups from various quarters have picked a hole in the utterance, especially those who were deeply touched and saw the comment as unwarranted because of the perceived underlining intention for making the statement.

Most of those who condemned the comment were largely moved because of the status of the personality and the timing of the comments. One of the groups that have been vociferous and saw the comment as being made in bad taste is the body of technology engineers, who are threatening fire and brimstone and calling for the head of Mr. Orosanye, for playing politics with such a sensitive matter that was already being tackled by the authorities.

Indeed, the Technology Engineering professionals who have petitioned President Goodluck Jonathan said HOS comments is politically divisive and should be sacked 'before he does incalculable damage to the civil service.' Their position, as polytechnic graduates was informed largely by their experience in the civil service as regards promotion and status appreciation.

According to them, the comment made by the HOS as the head of the civil service was like a deadly blow dealt a long time struggle to get polytechnic graduates given some leverages to rise to the pinnacle of their career within the civil service and other arms of public sector without discrimination and victimization.

Leader of the Engineers, Chief Leo Okereke, lamented that products of Polytechnics are known not to rise beyond level 14 in the civil service and many of them have been frustrated out of service when their juniors are promoted above them on account of their HND qualification.

He argued that government was worried about the hapless situation in 2005 under the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo and decided to set up machinery to right the wrong. His group, he pointed out was pained by the HOS remarks because while the moves were being made, he never opposed it. He was said to have supported the move, but were shocked to hear him to turn around and be in opposition because he is now the HOS.

Tracing the genesis of the struggle to have polytechnic graduates free from system inflicted oppression, Chief Okereke argued that President Obasanjo's administration appreciated much the plights of the Polytechnic graduates and caused to be commissioned various teams of experts and technical committees to come up with modalities on how the unpleasant fluster will be eliminated.

It was gathered that the agitation for parity of the two qualifications was bolstered by the recommendations of one of such committees, headed by former Interim Head of State, Ernest Shonekan. On completion of its assignment, one of the recommendations to the Federal government was that the disparity between B.Sc and HND be removed.

Documents available indicated that the government after studying the Shonekan Committee's report accepted the recommendation and issued a white paper directing that; the undue dichotomy and ceiling on salary grade level and rank attainable by HND holders be removed; that OND or its equivalent from any recognized institution should be regarded as the new minimum point of entry; that salary grade level 01-05 be phased out.

It was the white paper that triggered another stakeholders' meeting convened by the Federal Ministry of Education at the instance of the National Council on Establishment, which held in Abuja between June 15 and 16, 2009. The meeting was meant to arrive at how to discuss strategies for the implementation of the white paper.

The meeting attended by relevant stakeholders and key government functionaries, including officials from the office of the Head of Service, Permanent Secretaries of State Ministry of Establishment, National University Commission, Heads of Tertiary Institution.