Addressing impediments on polytechnic autonomy

By Comrade AbdulRahman Agboola

The object of any government in peace or at war is not the glory of the races or the rulers, but the happiness of the common man. This maxim reminds one of a cardinal point in the Second National Developmental Plan that emphasizes the importance of EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL NIGERIANS since 1974. Its implementation suffered a great defeat in the Education Sector as a result of lopsided educational policy where the university is regarded as the apex and other higher institutions of learning are operated as subordinates, which impede greatly on the autonomy of these institutions in Nigeria.

The struggle for the advancement of polytechnic education by both the students and staff unions has not been successful due to the absence of consensus among the generality of stakeholders in the system as a result of sabotage by personalities at the top echelon of polytechnic affairs.
The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) established in 1977 serves as the regulatory body for polytechnics along other technical institutions till date.

The board is vested with mandate on accreditations and monitoring of programmes leading to the award of both National and Higher National Diploma,among other duties. The leadership of NBTE has shown serious opposition to the agitations of the unions for the autonomy of polytechnics to award degree and higher degree programmes premised on the wrong interpretation of the demands of the unions.
In 2003, polytechnics were confronted with serious lowering of standards among other rots at the expense of the good image and productivity sustained in most polytechnics over the years. ASUP as an affected group and vanguard for effective service delivery initiated an in-depth look at the operations of NBTE as the regulatory body and found NBTE licentious and lacking in merit on the ground of hanky-panky with managements of polytechnics on poor accreditation of programmes and over bearing enrolment of students against the structural capacities.
At the discovery of these shady activitiesand affirmation of the threat posed to the autonomy of polytechnics by the regulatory board, ASUP frowned at these unholy activities and demanded for the scrapping of NBTE. It was on that premise that ASUP intensified the advocacy for the establishment of National Commission for Polytechnics, but the shenanigans at NBTE with connivance of some apologetic rectors of polytechnics have been frustrating the actualisation of the autonomy of polytechnics and abolition of dichotomy between HND and BSc in Nigeria.
The stand of NBTE that the award of degree and higher degree programmes by polytechnics will derail the mandate to produce graduates with technical and practical knowledge is viewed by many as an alibi and bid to sustain their grip on polytechnics at the expense of the benefits of the autonomy. For the sake of clarity, the autonomy of polytechnics does not mandatorily lead to the scrapping of NBTE as the board is expected to continue with the regulations of Diploma Programmes, while the polytechnics with facilities to run degree and higher degree programmes are to fulfill the requirements and accreditation criteria of the National Universities Commission to run degree programmes.
For the record, the autonomy of polytechnics is long overdue and an attestation of this fact is the running of degree programmes by some reputable polytechnics in affiliation with reputable universities in Nigeria. These polytechnics have been operating these programmes successfully with their own facilities and resources for more than 20years without a hitch or lowering of standards, which queries the policy restricting polytechnics to the award of National and Higher National Diploma certificates alone.
It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that polytechnics are qualified to run and award degree certificates under the regulations of the NUC while running the ND and HND Programmesparipassu. The stakeholders in polytechnics are enjoined to collectively pursue everycourse of action that will lead to the advancement of polytechnic education, especially on the autonomy and dichotomy between HND and BSc.
There is urgent need for the government to abolish the dichotomy between HND and BSc as it impugns on the rights of the HND certificates holders to reach the peak of their careers. There is no argument on the fact that HND is an equivalent of BSc as the curriculum and tutelage undertaken by the holders of the two certificates are similar if not the same, especially in the fields of ACCOUNTANCY, STATISTICS, ESTATE MANAGEMENT and COMPUTER SCIENCE, to mention but few.
One of the foremost banks in Nigeria today, Guarantee Trust Bank, was founded by a polytechnic graduate, Chief Tajudeen Fola Adeola, an Accountancy Graduate of Yaba College of Technology, to mention just a case study. The success story, antecedents and records of a model par excellence, Chief Adeola in the private sector is enough to make a good case for the abolition of dichotomy between HND and BSc.
The oppression of the polytechnic graduates by the government policy that allows BSc graduates to reach Level 17 in the Civil Service and bars HND graduates at Level 14 coupled with other sentiments in terms of privileges and otherwise in the cause of career progression requires the condemnation of the general masses with a view to give equal opportunities to all Nigerians in their respective fields. The Federal Government has continued to openly celebrate their lack of will to address issues causing anxieties in the polytechnics and the nation at large as shown by the inability of government to consider the progressive demands of the polytechnics which has led to a strike action by the workforce since seven months ago.
ASUP, SSANIP, NASU, NAPS and Polytechnic Alumni Associations demand abolition of dichotomy between HND and BSc, autonomy of polytechnics to award degree and higher degrees, improved facilities and payment of salary arrears. The Federal Government should stop toying with the future of the helpless masses who are the victims of the disagreement between ASUP and Federal Government.
All hands must be on deck to ensure that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration turns a new leaf by becoming responsible to his duties and challenges of governance and resolve the polytechnic crises, in the overall interest of Nigeria.

Comrade AbdulRahman wrote from Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa, Nasarawa state. Email: [email protected]; 08032813279