By Isqil Najim
This country has destroyed so many talents in the name of paper qualifications, and I think people like you can help mount pressure on the system to stop wasting talents and destroying our productive workforce.
I was one of those whose talent and dream were eroded by the system. But in my own case, I changed direction when I saw the obstacle before me and I was not willing to subscribe to mediocrity.
I went to a polytechnic believing that having practical knowledge would stand me out as well as make me more productive and self-reliant. My vision was in robotics and my final year project was on a programmable logic controller. That was at a time when the Internet was still evolving and the knowledge of robotics was still far from us.
I graduated into a completely different world where I was expected to be a "servant" for life and answer “yes sir” to people just because I went to a polytechnic. HND holders are not only discriminated against but are also restricted in growth unless they return to universities to get a BSc or a postgraduate diploma.
I enrolled for one and was so sad at having to repeat every course that I took at HND all in the name of getting a paper certificate. What is more, a 9-month programme became 3 years, with us paying more tuition fees than master’s degree students. Worst still, my dream was never going to be achieved in the programme. There was no specialisation and what I wanted to specialise in was not available.
Most people just did it in order to be able to be graded along with their BSc counterparts. My life has never been about papers qualifications so I abandoned the programme and changed my direction. Instead of living to become an expert in robotics I opted for something I can learn. It was not fun but then I was lucky.
I left the programme and made a resolution that if I ever want to have a postgraduate certificate it would be to acquire specialist knowledge and never for the sake of accumulating paper qualifications.
A lot of people have resigned to their fate. I still intend to do a masters in Engineering Entrepreneurship with specialisation in research commercialisation and technology transfer with my HND one day. I know a lot of people that spend 4 to 5 extra years after getting their HND in order to either have a PGD or a BSc in Nigeria. Four years of an adult’s life is no joke, but the stress is worth it for them if they want to enjoy their career as civil servants or as workers in a company that discriminates against HND— and they are many.
I am impressed by the simple way things done abroad. The few Nigerians who are able to raise money to travel abroad are the ones who get to write positive stories. Not only do they get the best education that the whole of our professors can't produce in the last 50 years, they also are able to get their careers in the spotlight and achieve great things.
Dr. Ibrahim Waziri is one of those few. Think about the thousands who have given up because they can't even get money to take TOEFL and GRE. Or those who have been forced to embrace the mediocrity that the country's education system offers.
I have a young boy who has already mastered the art of building bridges but he has an HND. Now he is abandoning his promising career to go for a Nigerian BSc because the nation will never register him as a professional engineer with an HND. He is forever seen as inferior to people who have a bachelor’s degree, and will forever have to be at their beck and call even if they can't do half of what he knows.
This kind of system is what has destroyed Nigeria’s education standards and contributed to the making of unproductive citizens and, by extension, a nation in recession. Our recession was caused because we have no dollars to spend and no FDI to help shore up our foreign reserve when oil prices plummeted. We could not fund our extravagant projects and pay bogus salaries.
We import everything. Even things as simple as toothpicks. This is not a joke. Nigeria imports pencils as well as clothes, all of which we can produce at home.
The lack of production is borne out of the fact that the people who can and should produce are not motivated enough to do so. Polytechnic graduates were molded to produce but how can you enthusiastically be working hard when you know that someone else is going to reap the fruit of your labour because he has a BSc and you have an HND? Or when you know that your promotion has been pegged to a certain point, no matter how hard you work and no matter how innovative your work is?
At the root of our recession is a nation that was wired to consume and to discourage productivity.
People like you who have seen how things work in nations that are serious are the only hope of the millions of people back at home who are about to give up.
Is it not ironic that the students that were rejected at home are the ones who are breaking records abroad?
Thank you for that exposition. Hopefully, you would be motivated to do even more and probably support this group of graduates with enough information needed for them to break through the yoke of restrictions that their country has imposed on their abilities.
Isqil Najim wrote from Lagos and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org