Stakeholders in the education sector have expressed divergent opinions on the discrimination between university graduates and their counterparts in polytechnics and colleges of education.
Many respondents, especially students, said there is apathy on the part of students seeking admission into polytechnics and colleges of education as a result of the discrimination.
Some of the stakeholders spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews in major cities and towns across the Nigeria.
The stakeholders are of the opinion that youths, parents and government officials gave preference to university education system above other tertiary education in the country.
Mrs Naomi Adisa, a civil servant, told NAN in Lagos that the disposition of many Nigerian parents towards the polytechnics and Colleges of Education (COE) system was also responsible for the drop in the enrolment into those institutions.
This, according to her, stems from the dichotomy that had existed between the Higher National Diploma (HND) certificate and the university degrees, which had shaped the belief of many parents.
“For that reason, they believe that university system is the best for their children,’’ Adisa said.
In his own submission, Mr Kehinde Olojede, the Deputy Provost, Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Lagos, said that average students in colleges of education today are those who could not meet up the university requirements.
“They often turn to colleges of education because they do not want to waste another year staying at home doing nothing,’’ he said.
Mr Usman Dutse, the President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, believed that the societal perception about polytechnic education was a factor discouraging youths from seeking admission into polytechnics and colleges of education.
Dutse told NAN that the societal belief and the educational system have placed superiority and preference on the university education above other tertiary institutions.
“During admission, JAMB did not specify that first choice must be university but because of the mindset of Nigerians, they feel university should come first before the polytechnic,’’ he said.
He said the dichotomy between the polytechnic graduates and their university counterparts was a major setback and discouragement for prospective students.
“Candidates go through the same admission process, but when it comes to employment, people with degrees are placed above those with diploma or NCE certificates.
“The polytechnic graduates are placed on a lower rank while the university graduates are placed higher.
“This policy remains unfair and discouraging to prospective students and their parents,’’ he said.
He said that out of more than 1.5 million candidates that sat for UTME in 2016, only 37,000 applied to the polytechnics, describing this as discouraging.
But some other stakeholders held contrary view, arguing that more candidates were actually seeking admission into the colleges of education and polytechnics.
Mrs Omotunde Lawson, the immediate past President, All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary School (ANCOPSS), Lagos State chapter, said that JAMB had help to improve admission seekers into Polytechnic and Colleges of Education.
Lawson told NAN that “contrary to held opinions, the enrolment into colleges of education has improved tremendously’’.
She attributed this to the UTME being conducted by JAMB that now places all tertiary institutions on the same pedestal.
The former ANCOPSS president said the enrolment into colleges of education was poor before JAMB introduced the modalities.
Also, Mr Odunayo Adebowale, the Public Relations Officer, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin, said that there had been an increase in the number of students admitted into college in the last two sessions.
According to him, while 1,250 students were admitted in 2015/2016 academic session, the figure rose to 1,875 in 2016/2017
“That is about 34 per cent increase,’’ Adebowale told NAN.
Speaking from the perspective of technical education is the Head, West African Examinations council (WAEC) in Nigeria, Mr Olu Adenipekun, said continuous sensitisation was key towards tackling the poor perception of the public about polytechnic and college of education systems.
He stressed the importance of technical educations and its graduates to the overall development of the country.
“I have also seen parents who advise their children to embrace polytechnic education,” he said.
According to the WAEC boss, the two system of education are meant to complement each other.
“The discrimination of graduates of polytechnic over their university counterparts by employers of labour, government officials and parents had not also encouraged the youth,’’ Olanipekun added.
The Public Relations Officer of JAMB, Dr Fabian Benjamin, said that addressing admission disparity into varsity, Polytechnic and Colleges of Education (COE), is a tall order.
Benjamin told NAN in Bwari, FCT, that although JAMB was established to conduct matriculation examination for entry into all Universities, Polytechnics and COE in Nigeria, it was limited by candidates choices.
“The Federal Government, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, will have to do something to remove the disparity and attract candidates to study in both polytechnics and COE.
“The issue of discrimination is not something we can eradicate, until government put a deliberate policy in place to address it,” he said.
The total number 47, 933 candidates applied for admission into Polytechnic from 2015 to date, while 17, 154 were offered admission.
Meanwhile, 36, 395 candidates had applied for admission into COE and the total of 13, 447 were offered admission in the last two years.
In Enugu, Prof. Sunny Udeze of Enugu State University of Science and Technology blamed drop on certificate disparity in the labour market on government policies and officials.
Udeze, former lecturer at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, said that the discrimination ought not to be as universities and polytechnics offer same theoretical curriculum and should complement each other.
“Whereas the polytechnic students study for five years with a year industrial attachment included as well as a lot of practical knowledge learnt.
“So, I do not see the basis for the discrimination in certificate at all,’’ he said.
He, however, called for the strengthening of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education system since the universities available in the country could not carry the teeming number of students seeking admission yearly.
Mr Onuchukwu Obini, the Public Relations Officer of Federal Polytechnic, Oko, disagreed, saying that the certificate disparity had not affected students’ intake.
According to him, rather than decreasing, the numbers of JAMB applicant seeking polytechnic education have increased recently leaving the institutions with no space.
“Just last JAMB, about 25,000 students had Federal Polytechnic, Oko, as their first choice; whereas the institution have 5,000 students as its carrying capacity and could not admit more than its capacity,’’ Obini said.
He, however, noted that the greatest challenge facing polytechnic was funding and infrastructure to provide modern facilities and procure equipment for practical sessions.
Obini also stressed the need for training and re-training of the teaching staff to upgrade to use of digital and computer technology in their lecture.
“There is a need for our lecturers and students to undertake exchange programmes with foreign institutions, especially those technologically ahead to learn more,’’ he added.
On his part, the Admission Officer of Enugu State College of Education (Technical), Mr Benjamin Eze, admitted that the numbers of student intake into certain programmes of the institution had significantly reduced.
Eze told NAN that the reduction was occasioned by the enforcement of the regulation on admission by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
He said that prior to the enforcement of the regulation by the admission body there was surge in the intake of students by the school.
The institution offers programmes in National Certificate on Education (NCE) as well as degree programmes in affiliation with Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
“The numbers of students we admit into our regular programmes are now regulated by JAMB, starting from the 2016/2017 academic session.
“For the degree programme our quota is 300 while the NCE programmes are 1,550 and we cannot exceed that as the students are sent to us by JAMB,” he said.
Prof. Ben Ujunwa of the Imo State University, Owerri, said candidates believe that after graduation, university graduates were given more preference.
“It is obvious that civil service placement put university certificate higher than the other,” he said.
Ujunwa added that while the number of intakes kept increasing in the university, that of the polytechnics kept decreasing.
He said that the problem must be addressed from the top to change the impression of candidates.
Also, the Provost of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Dr Blessing Ijeoma, told NAN that the problem was more pronounced in the Colleges of Education.
Ijeoma said the intakes had dropped from 3,500 to 1,800 in the last three years, and appealed for the urgent removal of the certificate disparities.
A lecturer in the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede in Owerri, Dr Frances Ebere, stressed the need for a total restructuring of the education system in the country.
“We are discriminated against and it will continue to play out if not addressed,” he said.
According to him, lecturers of polytechnics are not treated equally with their counterparts in the universities.
Prof. Olatunde Fawole, the Rector of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, said that there was no reason for the dichotomy between polytechnic and university education, they suppose to complete each other.
He said that in spite of the condemnation by different groups and institutions, government was still reluctant to take proactive measures to abolish the dichotomy between holders of Higher National Diploma and degrees.
“ This issue has continued to drag on for so long even when the Committee of Rectors in Nigeria has called on the government to finally address the issue,’’ he said.
He listed the challenges to include paucity of funds which had affected overhead cost and the current economic recession facing the country.
The don called for improvement in the funding of polytechnic and colleges of education.
But Olugbenga Adeyeye, the National President of National Association of Polytechnic Students, said that as a result of inequalities crated by policy makers, people view holders of HND and NCE as inferior to their university counterparts.
“Consequently parents and guardians would do anything possible to secure university admission for their wards,’’ he said.
Precious Adebare, a student of the College of Education in Ilorin said, “I never wanted to come to the College of Education, but I had waited for years for admission into the university without success.
“So you cannot blame people when they do not seek admission into COE or polytechnic,” she said.
Mr Musbau Abdulkareem, the Head of Political Science Department, College of Education, Oro, Kwara, said “every student now sees polytechnic and Colleges of Education as a last option as they are afraid of being discriminated against after graduation.’’
He called on government to ensure equal recognition to polytechnic and university graduates in the country.