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Experts seek review of quota system, advocate merit-driven policy for national development

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To promote equity and national development, stakeholders in the education sector and seasoned administrators have called for a review of the quota system. They noted that the quota system as presently operated is obsolete and calls to question the nation-building objective of the country.

While arguing that the principle promotes illiteracy in the so-called educationally less developed areas, the experts maintained that the quota system must be periodically reviewed to promote merit and excellence. Former vice-chancellors, Femi Mimiko, Ayodeji Olukoju, Adebayo Adeyemi as well as President and Chief Executive Officer, Postgraduate School of Credit and Financial Management Prof Chris Onalo lamented that the system has been misapplied and should be discarded.

Mimiko, erstwhile vice-chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba (AAUA) said while there is nothing wrong with the principle of the quota system, it must be implemented in such a way that it does not undermine merit, both specifically and holistically. Mimiko, a professor of political science at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife lamented that the quota system has been implemented in such a way that calls to question the nation-building objective of the country.

He said, “I do not think the government has done enough to educate the citizenry on the essence of the policy and what objectives it is meant to serve. And so, oftentimes, youths that are denied placement in public schools in spite of their high scores, are left wondering whether they belong to the same country with their colleagues that are given preferential treatment. The quota system is supposed to be a stop-gap measure; use it to bring up the disadvantaged and thereafter put a stop to it, and start treating everyone on the same standards.

“The space for quota must be a very small percentage of the total number of spaces available. Secondly, even in the listing of those to be accorded space through a quota system, the spaces should still go to the best in such groups. Thirdly, the quota system must be implemented in such a way as not to give the slightest hint that it is a policy meant to reward the lazy ones. Fourthly, it must be recognized as a temporary corrective measure, and not a permanent feature of the system.”

To address the lopsidedness, Mimiko called on government at all levels to invest massively in basic and secondary education, in the areas considered educationally disadvantaged. He said the investment would involve expanding access massively through investment in educational infrastructures; training and retraining teachers; mobilizing children of school age into school, and providing such education free.

“If we do all of this, the concept of quota system in education would be seem to have served its original purpose; and within 10 years, no state or people would remain truly educationally disadvantaged. You can then begin to put everybody on the same pedestal of competitiveness and merit.

On his part, Prof Adeyemi, former vice-chancellor of The Bells University of Technology, Ota, expressed regret that the quota system has been misapplied. To address the problem, the former university administrator canvassed the establishment of a national cut-off point for prospective students.“ I could recollect my serving as the admissions chairman (officer) for the Faculty of Technology at the OAU between 1986 and 1991; admissions were based on quota system. At that time, I think it was based on the following parameters; merit (40%), catchment (30%%), educationally disadvantaged states (20%) and discretion (10%). Pass mark at that time was 200 to gain admission into Nigerian universities. At no time did we go below the minimum pass mark regardless of the group a candidate belonged to.
 
‘My belief is that if and when proactive steps are taking, the so-called educationally disadvantaged states will rub shoulders with their counterparts, the ‘educationally advantaged states’.  A time there was when Lagos State and some other states in south were classified as ‘educationally disadvantaged states,” Adeyemi added.

While describing the intention as noble, Prof Olukoju expressed regret that the beneficiaries have taken what ordinarily should be a privilege as a right. Olukoju, a former VC of Caleb University, Imota said quota system has outlived its usefulness and should be phased out. According to him, the system is giving undue advantage to some people, promoting complacency and mediocrity on the part of the beneficiaries.


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