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FG Justification of Mandatory Training for HND Holders in Civil Service Conversion: A Sinking Sand or A Soild Ground

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The dichotomy between HND and Bachelor’s degree holders has long been a subject of debate in Nigeria. This debate escalated significantly in 2021 when both the Senate and House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at abolishing discrimination against HND holders. The bill sought to establish equality between HND and Bachelor’s degree qualifications in professional fields across public and private sectors.

According to the bill, titled “A Bill for an Act to Abolish and Prohibit Dichotomy and Discrimination between First Degree and Higher National Diploma,” HND and Bachelor’s degrees were to be treated equivalently for employment and career progression purposes. However, despite passing through legislative channels, the bill faced a setback when former President Muhammadu Buhari declined to assent to it.

This decision left unresolved the disparity that continues to affect HND holders seeking career advancement in various sectors, including the civil service. His decision was quite disappointing, especially for a president who is trained in the military and not a formal university.

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In a recent interactive session in Abuja, the Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Folashade Yemi-Esan, clarified the government’s stance on the contentious issue of Higher National Diploma (HND) holders in the federal civil service.

Yemi-Esan’s explanation sheds light on the reasoning behind the mandatory one-year training requirement for HND holders seeking conversion to the Officer cadre.

Explaining the Mandatory Training Requirement

During the interactive session, Yemi-Esan highlighted the fundamental difference in curricula between HND and Bachelor’s degree programs as the rationale for the mandatory training requirement.

She emphasized that while both qualifications are valuable, the content and depth of learning vary significantly. This variation necessitates a transitional period to ensure that HND holders are adequately prepared for the responsibilities and expectations associated with the Officer cadre in the civil service.

“In our assessment,” Yemi-Esan stated, “the curriculum for HND and Bachelor’s degrees are not identical. Therefore, a structured training period becomes essential to bridge any potential gaps in knowledge and skills.”

This statement underscores the disparity that has historically disadvantaged HND holders in career progression. The statement also gives a possible inkling as to why the then-president did not consent to the bill.

Impact on Career Progression for HND Graduate

The mandatory training requirement impacts thousands of HND holders aspiring to advance their careers within the federal civil service. Adebayo Hassan, a Grade Level 14 officer who posed the question during the session, voiced concerns shared by many HND holders regarding the perceived barriers to career advancement.

The response from Yemi-Esan while elucidating the government’s effort to create a balance also strengthens dichotomy across all levels of civil service appointments.

HND BSc Dichotomy

Public and Private Sector Implications

Beyond the civil service, the debate over HND-Bachelor’s degree parity extends to the broader employment landscape of Nigeria. Private sector employers, influenced by prevailing government policies and legislative developments, also grapple with similar considerations in their hiring and promotion practices.

The decision-making process in both sectors reflects a nuanced approach aimed at optimizing workforce capabilities while adhering to regulatory frameworks that define qualification standards.

Future Prospects and Policy Considerations

Looking ahead, the unresolved dichotomy between HND and Bachelor’s degree holders remains a critical policy issue requiring legislative clarity and administrative oversight. The government’s stance on mandatory training questions the quality of polytechnic education and the need for application by prospective students.

However, the government will still be applauded for its commitment to addressing this issue within the framework of existing laws and regulations governing civil service appointments.

Advocates for HND holders continue to press for legislative reforms that ensure equal opportunities for career advancement without compromising the integrity of qualification standards.

If You Ask Me

The statement by the Yemi-Esan, tilts towards government preference of BSc holders over HND holders. As said, the curriculum is not the same begging the question of the action of the government to bring it closer.

This could also imply that as long as the curriculum remains different which cannot be the same, and not create a programme to bridge the gap, BSc Holders will always have the qualifications advantage over HND holders. To gain the same privilege as their BSc counterpart, HND holders will either need to take a conversation course for one year or enrol for a BSc programme.

However, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) recently introduced a programme that allows HND graduates convert to BSc/BA via an online one-year top-up with foreign accredited universities but that has also come under contest by the National University Commission (NUC).

For clarity, it is worth noting that HND and BSc graduates send a total of courses to study. They both partake in the youth services corps but are given different degrees and are treated differently. Also, HND holders cannot apply for a master’s degree without a postgraduate diploma whereas BSc graduates can.

This begs more questions as, to why we still need polytechnics if they cannot be regarded as proper graduates, or why not reduce the study period to create a clear-cut distinction like the NCE and BEd.

The federal government’s justification for the mandatory one-year training requirement for HND holders transitioning to Officer cadre in the civil service also exposes another critical factor why the universities are crowded beyond capacity.

The legislative efforts and debates surrounding HND-Bachelor’s degree parity underscore the complexity of policy-making in Nigeria’s evolving employment landscape. As stakeholders navigate these challenges, the imperative remains to uphold fairness while fostering an environment conducive to career growth and national development.

The HND-BSc dichotomy is just one of several certificate downgrades in the country

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