JAMB, post-UTME and question of credibility
Nigeria’s post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) tests seem to be from the sublime to the ridiculous at times, often tossed hither-thither like a ping-pong ball. Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL writes that with some House of Representatives lawmakers trying to throw the tests out of the nation’s tertiary education system, trouble may be brewing.
It seems easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for secondary school leavers to gain admission into Nigeria’s higher institutions. Little wonder then that the House of Representatives was recently divided over the motion to stop the conduct of examinations of post- UTME and JAMB into the country’s higher institutions.
To illustrate: only 30 per cent out of the 1.7 million candidates who sat for the UTME were admitted in 2017. That year, of the 199,500 candidates who sat for post-UTME in seven institutions, only 28,900 was estimated to be offered admissions and investigations revealed that some schools were not willing to admit more than 3,500 students or even less.
At the University of Ibadan (UI) for instance, of the 62,000 candidates that applied for the post-UTME, only 3,500 candidates were successful.At the University of Benin (UNIBEN), of the 30,000 candidates, the institution only had 10,000 carrying capacity. While 25,000 candidates sat for the post-UTME examination at the Lagos State University (LASU), the institution could only take 3,500 candidates. Similarly, at the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), of the 13,500 candidates, only 3,500 could be offered admission.
Therefore, in a recent motion, this year, moved by Ademorin Kuye, the lawmakers debated for and against the requirements of the motion.Kuye, in the motion, had asked the house to urge all higher institutions to stop the post-UTME/JAMB screening examinations.He also urged the House to mandate the committee on tertiary education and services to call for a joint meeting of the Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
The mandate was to develop an acceptable standard of JAMB examinations in conformity with the requirements of academic institutions in the country.JAMB, which was established in 1978, was saddled with the responsibility of conducting matriculation examinations for entry into tertiary institutions and Nigerian youths pay to obtain the UTME forms to qualify them to sit for the examination to gain admission into higher institutions of their choice.
“This is after payments and undergoing rigorous registration and examination processes, the said higher Institutions subject students to another internal examination/test called Post- UTME/Jamb on payment of yet another fee without any consideration for indigent parents and students,” said Kuye.
The lawmaker added that the payment of fees for the screening exercise conducted by the institutions was not backed by any law and the proceeds, therefore, unaccounted.“This leaves room for manipulation and exploitation and lack of acceptability of the fund generated,” Kuye argued.Supporting the motion, Benjamin Chinedu Obidigwe, said of the post-UTME examination, “Our education in the country has resolved to some form of extortion.
“The universities corner the funds from the screening exercises because they failed to account for such revenue during their budget defence. Post-UTME has no educational value for our system. I hope that the committee will look into this to put an end to it.Another lawmaker, Benjamin Kalu, believed there was the need to stop the conduct of such examinations because the universities could not account for the utilisation of funds.Kalu said, “Granted, there are leakages, but JAMB has to sit up. What we have overseas are interviews. When you pass the examinations you are invited over for an interview, not the way JAMB is going about it here.”
In 2017, the senate began moves to scrap the Post-UTME as it mandated the committee on tertiary education to meet with relevant stakeholders, especially JAMB to come up with recommendations on how to achieve the set goal.According to the senate, the move became necessary because the introduction of the post–UTME failed to remedy the problems associated with JAMB and that its existence poses more challenges for tertiary education.
In addition, the senate had called for the development of a strategy that would ensure the efficiency and integrity in the conduct of the examination.The Federal Government, in 2005, during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, introduced the policy of post-UME screening by universities, which made it compulsory for tertiary institutions to screen candidates after JAMB results and before offering admission.
While that policy was aimed at addressing the problem of quality of students entering the university, it re-introduced and entrenched many of the problems it sought to eliminate. It is also evident that the policy meant to be a remedy to the decay in higher institutions of learning became an avenue of extorting prospective students.
However, not all parliamentarians agreed with Kuye’s argument.Speaking against the motion, Samuel Chinedu, said that the post-UTME complemented the actual JAMB examinations.Chinedu said, “All they do is cross-check what JAMB has done. Admitting students who are not properly checked is rather worse than the financial implications.”
Also speaking against the test, Aniekan Umanah, explained that the universities were exploiting the “internal leakages” on what JAMB is doing.Umanah stated, “There is a need for this motion to be revisited so that we can have a common ground.”
The debate over the proprietary or otherwise of the post-UTME and JAMB exams, however, is expected to continue into December and possibly 2020 as the house resolved that the committee on tertiary education and services interface with JAMB on the conduct of the post-UTME by higher institutions and report back to it.
JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, had argued that there was no regulatory conflict between JAMB and the universities – claiming that the post-UTME is not peculiar to Nigeria.He, however, did not agree with the figure being bandied around.“It is not true that we have 1.7 million candidates that are ready to go into the Nigerian university system. Of the 1.7 million that took the exam I can say conveniently that not more than 30 percent of them are prepared for admission. They are just trying. They do not have the five O’level results required to go into the university,” Oloyede began.
The JAMB boss argued further, “Secondly, let me also let us realise that 10 per cent of the 1.7 million that we see or 1.9m as the case may be, are not what can be categorised as belonging to the net enrolment ratio for entering tertiary institution. They belong to the gross enrolment ratio. Eighty percent of candidates at the point of sitting do not have O’ level results at all. They are awaiting results. So, when we are building our theories and analysis, we need to be very cautious.
It was not strange in 2017, to read screaming headlines like ‘JAMB reinstates post-UTME’; ‘JAMB reduces cut-off marks, varsities kick’; and ‘New cut-off marks to favour of private varsities.There was a conundrum of claims and counterclaims; an example is the issue of the cut-off marks for the 2017/2018 session. Everyone –not a few vice-chancellors of public universities who also spoke up against it –was angry with Oloyede and the organisation he superintends over. Left for the universities, a requiem would have been conducted on JAMB, as there is no love lost between the former and the latter, especially when it comes to admission.
Many had thought that, perhaps, it is time the Federal Government reconsidered the usefulness of the examination body, which in most recent times was accused of formulating policies skewed in favour of private higher institutions.
In 2016, at a policy meeting on admissions, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, scrapped the post-UTME, arguing that such exercise was not only unnecessary but placed heavy burden on students and their parents – but that did not go down well with the universities that felt JAMB and the education ministry were being too meddlesome in their admission process.
The history of the education ministry, JAMB and that of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a chequered one. In 2016, the union had staged a protest condemning the decision of the ministry to scrap post-UTME. Precisely June 2016, Adamu, at a combined policy meeting on admissions to higher institutions, banned the examination.
That year, the lecturers breathed fire and brimstone and warned the Federal Government that the ministry ’s scrapping of the examination portended a serious danger for the quality of education in the country.
In the heat of that development, the union also pointed out that the decision undermined the autonomy and powers of universities’ Senates as the highest policy-making body on academic matters, particularly admission of students and award of degrees. ASUU was even more livid because the education minister did not consult the union on the matter.
“The argument of the Federal Government on the policy is unacceptable and potentially harmful to the future of the nation’s education system. “We call on the government to rescind its decision and convene genuine stakeholders‘ meeting on the issue before making any policy statement,” the union had said.
At a 2017 policy meeting on admissions, however, Adamu reversed the ban, asserting that the nation’s tertiary institutions should be independent in terms of the admission process and therefore, on August 22 that year, it was agreed that the institutions should determine their admission process and that cut-off marks should be fixed by each school’s senate, not JAMB –the government lifted the ban on the conduct of examinations usually organised by universities for admission seekers after the UTME.“We are going to allow universities to have some choice. Universities can now decide to organise post-UTME if they want.
We have asked them not to impose a huge financial burden on the parents. The burden should not be more than what they can bear,” the minister had said.Not everyone had agreed with the initial decision to scrap the examination – while some stakeholders appeared to support the ministry’s action, scrapping the post-UTME because of inherent abuses, others had censured the Buhari government for taking a decision that would make it easy for a number of unsuitable admission seekers to gain admission into the universities and similar institutions. To them, the post-UTME was vital to ensure that unqualified candidates did not slip into higher institutions of learning.
However, the post-UTME turned out, according to some education experts, to become a money-making venture for universities.So, the jury is still out as federal lawmakers have entered the fray and the nation can expect to witness another drama with a full cast of dramatis personae.
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