Friday, January 15, 2010

Re: On the parity of esteem between polytechnics and universities

By Dr. M.S. Abubakar

I would like to congratulate Farooq Kperogi for his brilliant two-part essay on the Degree/HND dichotomy which appeared in the 19th and 26th December issues of the Weekly Trust.

By a fortunate coincidence, the illuminating expose is coming at a time the federal government is set to implement the Roadmap for the Education Sector which contains many excellent provisions to address the daunting challenges of the polytechnics and technical/vocational education generally.

The account of Mr. Kperogi’s American experience is most refreshing, especially for those of us associated with polytechnic education, even if it only confirms what many polytechnic lecturers have known all along, or were actually privileged to partake in the course of their careers.

The purpose of this write-up is mainly to thank the author for his incisive views which I share almost completely, and which I believe will be most enlightening to the general public, especially in view of the general low esteem accorded to technological education and the poor awareness of the international dimensions of technical/vocational institutions.

There are, however, a few areas where I entertain some reservations. The first is whether the writer’s suggestion for wholesale conversion of polytechnics to universities, as UK and a few other Commonwealth countries did, is indeed necessary or even desirable.

The second pertains to the feasibility of ‘consolidating’ the polytechnics with the contiguous universities. Now, the author did not use the word ‘consolidating’, which had come to assume some notoriety since the former Minister Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili, used the term for merging the Federal Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, with neighbouring universities, in her proposed ‘reform’.

But let me at the onset fully express my support for the columnist’s recommendation for the retention of the National Diploma (ND), to serve as foundational qualification into the bachelor’s degree, which is very much consistent with the views expressed at various times by the NBTE and the Council of Heads of Polytechnics and Technological Colleges in Nigeria (COHEADS).

The broad definition of polytechnic is an institution that teaches both academic and vocational subjects, with focus on applied education for work, and root concentrated on engineering and applied science. In the Nigerian context, polytechnics are post secondary institutions designed to produce career-ready graduates who combine practical competence with theoretical understanding.

They work closely with industry to enhance professional effectiveness and productivity. Nigerian polytechnics achieve this within the limits of enabling material resources and human capital.

Advocates of conversion or merger to universities tend to underestimate the difficulty of retaining the essence and character of polytechnics under the tutelage of universities. There will always be focal drift towards popular bookish studies in line with our penchant for easy paper qualification. Consequently, when polytechnics, or similar institutions like the South African technikons, are converted or merged with universities there is a backlash in the form of skill gaps. UK had of recent been experiencing skills gap, to the tune of 84% in some professional areas, necessitating a variety of intervention measures to increase workforce competence through intensification of National Vocational Qualifications and Apprenticeship training.

In Nigeria, there is quite often a tendency to speak of conversion or merger of polytechnics to universities without adequate attention to the differences between our educational system and that of other Commonwealth countries that have done so. In the first place, the UK polytechnics began to run degree programmes up to doctoral level, albeit under the supervision of CNAA, as far back as 1965. Thus by 1992 when they were converted to universities, as Mr. Kperogi observed, they had been running degree programmes for 27 years.

In South Africa, the technikons began offering degree programmes up to the doctoral level, following the 1993 Technikon Act. Their merger with universities came in January, 2005. But it should be noted that South African Higher Education Merger initiative was informed by the need to address gross social and educational imbalances, some dating back to the Apartheid era.

The South African Higher Education Mergers had been on for five years now and hardly anyone judges them as a great success. In fact, according to a comprehensive study by South African Technology Network, authored by Roy Du Pre, the merger initiative scored a very low grade. A major finding of the study is “that the transition of technikons to Universities of Technology presents many challenges… The development trajectory of the University of Technology sector was severely hampered by the advent of mergers in higher education.”

This reminds me of a visit to South Africa, late in 2004, when the mergers were about to come into effect. Speaking with one of the professors at Port Elizabeth Technikon, which was about to be merged with University of Port Elizabeth, to become Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, our Study Tour team asked him what he was expecting from the mergers, and his Socratic answer was, “ had there been any successful (school) mergers in history?” I am afraid none of us could venture any satisfactory response!

The Nigerian Polytechnic sector had over the last three decades developed a quality assurance system that is unequalled in the country. While the sector had languished for so long from the ‘parity of esteem’ that Mr. Kperogi described, it is necessary to note that considerable progress has been made lately towards resolving the inequities. The recent approval of CONTISS 15 for Chief Lecturers and Principal Officers of the Federal Polytechnics and Federal Colleges of Education is a landmark achievement of the Yar’adua administration, for which the Hon. Minister of Education should feel justifiably proud.

Similarly, the effort to eliminate the HND/Degree dichotomy has reached an advanced stage, just awaiting formalization by the National Council on Establishment. And to cap it all, there had been, as far back as 2007, a Presidential directive for the Award of Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) by polytechnics in their core competence fields. This directive has been fully integrated in the Roadmap for Education Sector approved by the National Council on Education and Federal Executive Council, since May, 2009. It may be deduced from the fore-going that the question of conversion or merger for polytechnics is now largely outdated.

Indeed, even from the perspective of quality assurance, there is a major difference between the ways university and polytechnic academic programmes are accredited. Furthermore, in some localities the polytechnics are far larger and better equipped than the neighbouring universities, and a merger would be a case of the tail wagging the dog.

The move to degree awarding status by Nigeria Polytechnics has taken a very long time. Things started to take shape with the Yabani Committee of 1998. The Committee was to look into the modalities for mounting degree programmes in selected Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.

After very exhaustive consultations within the sector and references to numerous documents, the Committee recommended, among others, that: Nigerian Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, with requisite human and instructional resources, be mandated to run degree programmes in their special areas of expertise, but the degree should be distinct in content to reflect their practical and professional nature. Moreover, the institutions should have autonomous status for awarding the degree and should continue to run their traditional programmes.

It is curious that no more was heard about this matter, after the submission of the Committee report in March 1999. It therefore came as a delightful surprise when President Umar Musa Yar’adua directed in 2007 that necessary arrangement be made for polytechnics to start awarding their degrees in their fields of core competence. This directive, which has since been integrated in the Roadmap for Education Sector, is to expand access to tertiary education by increasing the institutional base, and finally bring to an end to the perpetual HND/Degree dichotomy.

This unique presidential directive to enhance access and equity in education is an eloquent testimony to Mr. President’s keen interest in the development of skilled and competent workforce, which had been quite evident from the university he established, and from the unprecedented moral and material support he extended to his State Polytechnic as Governor of Katsina State.

I hope that these brief notes have provided a little elaboration to the excellent article of Mr. Farooq Kperogi, and would convince many a sceptic that Nigerian polytechnics need not be converted to universities or merged with contiguous universities to be able to award degrees in their fields of core competence.

I would also appeal to the National Assembly to amend the relevant educational laws so that Polytechnics and Colleges of Education with requisite human and material resources can start awarding their degrees as autonomous institutions.

Dr. M. S. Abubakar wrote from Liman Chiroma Close, Kaduna, Nigeria, and can be reached at

Readers' Reactions to My Language Articles

Re: 10 Most Annoying Nigerian Media English Expressions

Thanks so much. There are other annoying things that are obviously grammatically wrong and yet, people kept of repeating them, for instance the phrase 'media practitioners.' For goodness sake, how can one practice media?
Jamilu Bukar, Nigeria

My Comment
"Media practitioner" is a perfectly legitimate and correct expression. The phrase is also widely used in British and American English. I am aware, of course, that some language columnists in Nigeria think it’s wrong. But they are incorrect. They are guilty of the grammatical offense of “hypercorrection,” that is, a grammatical mistake caused by a false analogy. There is, in fact, a book published last year by Allyn & Bacon, a well-regarded American publishing company, titled Applied Mass Communication Theory: A Guide for Media Practitioners.

These are even advanced errors. You should pay a visit to Sokoto media house someday.
Murtala Abdulrahman (

Thanks for this beautiful essay. I see it as an exposé on the lack of creativity within the Nigerian journalism culture. I also view it as a veritable sign of intellectual laziness and a hallmark of everything that is wrong with our country.

The sardonic [sic] urge to run before we can walk and the insatiable appetite for cutting corners such as the much touted Vision 2020 - a mere jargon created to present an image of purpose in government when the basic infrastructure or plan to achieve this is not even in place.

Our journalists aptly reflect all that is good and bad in the nation's psyche. Frankly, I take more pleasure in reading articles by 'non-journalists' on websites such as the Nigerian Village Square as opposed to those from news media such as Punch, ThisDay, Sun, Tribune or whatever!

Seriously, I have often found myself wondering if the writers ever passed English Language at GCE O' Level. And the Editors; what Editors?
Kay Soyemi (Esq.)

I have reason to believe that Nigerian journalist and their writing style are a reflection of our national psychology.

I will even go as far as calling it inferiority complex which has been beaten into us Nigerians, Africans and peoples of African descent.

We have had to apologize for our mere existence, our languages and our expressions.
Only yesterday I watched and heard again, the indomitable Fela Anikulapo Kuti on tape… discussing our national fixation in colonial ways, colonial mentality.

Fela told of how it was “illegal” or against the rule to speak any Nigerian language in Nigerian schools, as Nigerian languages were referred to as vernaculars

Which meant that the mark of sophistication is to speak English, perhaps in the most pretentious way?

Having said of all the above, the most frustrating term employed by Nigerian journalists, almost on a daily basis, is the pejorative “the colonial masters” instead of colonialists, colonial power, colonial powers, or political usurpers, or illegal foreign regime, or occupation forces, etc.

Why are Nigerian journalists in 2009 in love with “master” or the idea of referring to a former invader and occupier-usurper of economic/political/cultural/and linguistic independence, etc a “master?” Master of whom?

In my ear, it is as if Nigeria is a lady who was a rape victim, who forever refers to the rapist in endearing terms … something like the powerful rapist or the handsome rapist… or worse, the muscular or the energetic man who demanded sex from a stranger.

Nigerians should wonder why any rape victim would feel the need to refer to a rapist in affectionate term of endearment or blissful bond? Stockholm Syndrome?

America was once colonized by the British and I am yet to meet an American who refers to Britain as colonial "master" I am yet to meet an Indian or practically any other colonized peoples who refer to the colonizers as "master"

Talk about mindsets! The master race, as in superior race.
Paul Adujie, New York, USA

Re: “In Defense of “Flashing” and Other Nigerianisms”

The most exciting thing about language is how it changes and evolves. I laugh at people who want to preserve a "pure" English language or "pure" French, Spanish or any other language because it simply won't happen. People will invent words, misuse words until they have another meaning, or make words that once had positive meanings turn negative and vice versa. And that's how language evolves! Language is a tool for people to use to express themselves and communicate, not some rarefied concept that should be "preserved" in one concrete form.

For example, a friend of mine thought there should be a word for transferring the laundry between the washing machine and the dryer, so she calls it "flip flopping" the laundry. That hasn't caught on outside her house, but hey, for them, it works perfectly.

Thanks, Farooq. Your posts always make me think.
Cracker, Atlanta, USA

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this intelligent expose on the Nigerianisms we hear everyday. The phenomenon of telephonic "flashing" is threatening to become as indecent as the random exposure of one's private parts, as it is now so rampant and intrusive. People who should know better and can afford not to are joining the poor and downtrodden in shamelessly and discourteously passing the cost of their calls to others. Those on the receiving end are fighting back - perhaps we can even coin a new term, to “flashignore”!
Ronke Makinde

Responses from My Readers

Below are a few of the several reactions I received from my readers on many of articles. I will publish the rest in due course.

Re: “What did you Miss about America while in Nigeria?

Hello Sir,

How is Atlanta today? Hope it’s as hot as I usually like it and expect it to be this time of the year! I really enjoyed your article. Studying abroad in the UK, I find myself faced with such questions and, even though I do no tell them, the answer is: I miss everything!

I was in Atlanta for the first time last year August. I loved it so much. I was there again in June this year. Next year, I plan to move there for grad school at GA Tech. I miss everywhere from Atlantic station, to Phipps and Lenox in Buckhead as well as the pedestrian-friendly streets of the downtown, the outlet malls in Dawsonville and the one at Sugarloaf Parkway, Snellville, the lovely highways :75, 85 and my fave the 285.

Next time I’m there, which insha Allah is December, I will rent a car so I can explore the city more, especially the southern parts like Henry and Clayton counties. Do you know Fogo de Chao? It’s ma fave restaurant: they serve steak right at the top of Piedmont, is within walking distance (for me that is, being a student in England) from where I lodge. I have missed it soo much and I do hope my application to GA Tech is accepted.

Well my regards to your family and a sha ruwa lafiya, I know how difficult Ramadan is there as the sun does not set till 8.30pm. I did 5 last year over there and, boy, was it hard?

Mohammad Hafiz Bayero (

RE: Nigerians Who Come to America to Have Babies (I)

The great debate on the reform of the American health care system has exposed the inherent weakness of the capitalist system even more than the economic crunch triggered by godless capitalist greed did.

What this means for those of us in the third world is to avoid wholesale copy of the democratic capitalist system-the crunch and now this debate, are an indictment of democracy, even as most may argue otherwise.

The ever expanding waist line of America is not welcome here. We, Africans and a good majority of third world countries, care too much for the extended family thereby dissuading us from gorging on junk food or any food for that matter while our relations sleep on empty stomachs.

One wishes the chase for the illusionary "good" American life will cease. We shall never be like them.

Goldoun, Kano, Nigeria

I just read your insightful article about Nigerians who go to America to deliver their babies. I believe in a world of inhumanity, war and terrorism, American citizenship is a very precious possession, it affords the rights that residents of other countries can only dream of particularly our long-dead Nigeria!

But, I also want to add to the fact that although most Nigerian parents wouldn’t know, the birth of their children in America may or may not make these children citizens. Section 1401 (a) of title 8 of the US Code defines a US citizen as “a person born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” Birth on US soil therefore does not mean an absolute claim to citizenship, hence one Esam Fouad Hamdi (see Hamdi Vs. Rumsfeld case), who was captured as an enemy combatant during the American military operation in Afghanistan, though born in Baton Rouge, (Louisiana) by Saudi Arabian parents was considered a non-citizen by American authorities because his parents never consented to be subject to the sovereignty of the United States, or sought to settle in the United States when he was born, they all retained allegiance to Saudi Arabia.

I would like to add also that American Indians would automatically have been American citizens since they were born on what is U.S. territory. But Indians who belong to tribes were not citizens until given that status by Congress. The logic of this decision applies with equal force to visitors or aliens who remain loyal to foreign powers. The Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution did not change this.

The extensive litigation concerning American Indians illustrates that “consent” rather than “place of birth” is what controls citizenship. Indians did not receive citizenship until conferred by congressional acts in 1887, 1901 and 1924, long after ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

It's not the physical location of birth that defines citizenship, but whether your parents are citizens, and the express or implied consent to jurisdiction of the sovereign. The facts and the law argue against American citizenship for Hamdi.

Mohammed Dahiru Aminu" (

Re: American Ponzi schemes vs. Nigerian 419 scams
Your piece with the above title was a good piece. The problem here is: don't we have an individual, media organizations or institutions that will come out and tell the Western world that "they are not holier than thou" and curtail some of their excesses in term of condemning other nations? You just presented a jaw-dropping statistics that is ordinarily unbelievable.

I never knew you were that patriotic because this is the first time I’ve read you mention the word. Maybe it’s time you write something about patriotic Nigerians just as you did with the scammers. May your pen never run dry, sir.

Mohammed Sani, Kaduna, Nigeria