By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
ON the educational front, there is a hot contest going on, it is a superiority fight between those who think the Higher National Diploma should be the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree. As it currently is holders of First Degrees are regarded more higher in the Civil Service than those with the Higher Diploma Certificates, in-fact, where both co-exist and even when they are graduates of same year, the one with Bachelor’s Degree would be the head and in terms of career progression, the one with Higher Diploma has his terminal point on level 14 and the Degree holder level 17. This has been a source of friction and discontent even before I finished secondary school in 1978. There are interesting things regarding this issue I can recollect now that happened in those my young days, I remember I had near and distance relations, children of residents, many of them handsome and very beautiful, at the point of admission, many got into different schools, some into universities and others into what was popularly known as colleges of technology.
Of-course, everyone knew from the universities you get a Degree and from the colleges of technologies even though higher institution, you get at first a National Diploma and subsequently a Higher Diploma, during holidays both parties boosted which of the certificates was superior. For all I know it was a debate based on ignorance, because from what I know now, none of the two groups had good grasp of what the issues involve were, there was no scientific basis to the claims, none made reference to course content, everyone just talked for the sake of talking, 39 years after, I had thought the issue had died down since it was based on ego, but I am surprised it has grown into a very big war to even attract the attention of the National Assembly who presently are working on a bill with the objective of achieving equalization. I believe dwindling economic fortunes and our penchant to do anything to grab an opportunity once money is involved is perhaps the driving force.
I listened to the debates a few times in the House of Representatives, it was lacking in details and bereft also of scientific data, I observed plenty of emotion, with the intention to do just do good for good sake, this is a serious issue and when viewed critically we would find out it is a matter that is both at the root of human capital development and national transformation, it is about the educational system, their products, career pursuit and actualization and not forgetting quality contribution for nation building. So is a very serious issue that should receive more than a passing interest.
Before I go into the meat of today’s discourse let me make it clear I don’t want to be misunderstood, as one who has been a social agent for positive change from my undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, I have always stood for the greatest good of the greatest majority, one of my demands on our nation especially the leaders is that we create an atmosphere which offers citizens and residents equal opportunity to strive and to achieve to the best of the ability. To that extent I am in empathy with higher diploma certificate holders and would have wished to support their quest to be at par with degree holders, but am unable to do so because experience and studies of developed nations make me know very clearly that the task of nation building is not a tea-party but a very tedious assignment require all seriousness. Building a nation is about processes, by this I mean processes that are outcomes of sound rationalization, experience, foresight and lessons, processes are so important that when you subvert them, you are left with far greater problems. This is one of the maladies plaguing this nation today.
In every nation there are tiers of education; 30/40 years ago our educational system was segmented to give the nation the necessary manpower for different tasks. At secondary school level we had technical education, it was designed to produced technical workers who could give services at the very low level, at the higher education level we had Technical Colleges and Colleges of Technology. Technical colleges gave out City and Guilds and the colleges of technology awarded National Diploma and subsequently Higher National Diploma. The truth about this setup was that technical colleges were never setup to be equal or produce graduates similar to those from the Universities; they were designed to train low and middle level manpower for the civil service and private organizations. I had the privilege of working in a factory and the organogram clearly shows what should be, a graduate engineer is the production manager and the polytechnic graduate is the supervisor, then other levels of craftsmen take their positions down the line. It is just that we are talking about fall in educational standard which I am not in a position to say if it is true or not, otherwise if things were properly done as they were in 60s and 70s, there are many things an engineer would do which the man with a diploma would never contemplate let alone doing.
The University product ought to be a mender and a creator and the polytechnic graduate a mender. Often times we seem to believe that the man at the site is the most knowledgeable, brilliant and hardworking but the truth is that the man with the mental asset is the key, and the by the way both the University and technology value are not competitors, they should be tailor made to complement each other. About disparity in the reward, there should be slight difference in the civil service but no bar should be placed on the level they can attain, there should be no limit to how far each can go. The private sector should be allowed to consider for themselves what is good for their business.
The other issue would be question of counseling and career choices; from primary school up to secondary there should be counselors on possible career choices, the same way managers of our education system should be able to come up with the standard education policy that is very well known to all. If these were available some of the controversies we experience would not be.