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Outrage over disparity in criteria for admission to unity schools

By Iyabo Lawal
20 April 2017   |   3:33 am
For Prof Ngozi Osarenren, the disparity in the admission criteria between the south and their northern counterpart showed that government is merely paying lip service to qualitative education.

Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu

Stakeholders in the nation’s education sector have faulted the disparity in admission criteria for unity schools; arguing that the policy is gradually destroying our educational system.

They warned that the use of differential cut off marks for admission process to the 104 unity schools in the country may destroy the future of youths.

But the government in justifying its action said the policy was introduced to address the issue of federal character in the schools.
Some education experts who spoke with The Guardian called on the government to scrap it to save the education sector from collapse.
The stakeholders urged northern governors to give priority attention to basic education and bridge the widening gap between the two regions on education and development.

For Prof Ngozi Osarenren, the disparity in the admission criteria between the south and their northern counterpart showed that government is merely paying lip service to qualitative education.

Osarenren who is the Head of Department of Educational Foundation, University of Lagos (UNILAG) maintained that if the students regardless of their states were given sound knowledge, they would effectively compete among themselves.

She insisted that the admission policy has only succeeded in sowing a seed of discord between parents and children from the two regions.

“Every child must be treated well, if you admit a child with a lower score, how would such a child compete equally with others? The disparity in the admission criteria to the 104 unity schools in the country showed that the government is merely paying lip service to qualitative education. If the students are adequately prepared, they can compete effectively with their counterparts from other states. Since education is on the concurrent list, government at the states and federal levels should take the sector as a priority. They must invest in human capital development, which is key to economic growth.

“Facilities and infrastructure should be put in place to ensure that our children get the best, if two friends from two different states scored 25 and 100 and the one with the lower mark is offered admission, what do you think has been done to the psyche of the other child, psychologically such a child would believe we are not equal.

A parent who has a child in one of the unity schools in the south, Mrs Aderonke Adejumo said the policy is gradually ‘killing’ the education sector and must be stopped in the interest of our future.

She lamented that the policy has a lot to do with the federal character principle, which has never done the country any good. “It is already destroying the sector, with the lower mark for northern students, how many of them are excelling. The problem is not just about lowering standard; they don’t have the intellectual know-how to run this course. It is really depriving brilliant students from the south the opportunity to achieve their goal, let every student regardless of state be on the same pedestal and compete equally.

Adejumo called on northern governors to pay greater attention to the Almajiri schools created by former president Goodluck Jonathan to build standard and quality education in the region.

“When the foundation is bad, how can the children from the region excel? The governors and northern leaders should look inwards and come up with plans to address the lopsidedness. Children must compete equally, the morale and psyche of a child is affected when disparity sets in.

On his part, an educationist, Nelson Ayodele who described the disparity as ‘too wide’ said government must do something to enhance the IQ level of children from the northern states.

Ayodele also canvassed the deployment of special teachers to the region to give the children extra tutorial. Besides, the educationist said in addressing the problem, causes of the disparity among the children from the two zones must be looked into.

“Why would a child with the same brain be disadvantaged over another? It could be as a result of the environment and system they pass through. Why is education so backward in the north? Why are children from the northern region not learning well?

To address the trend, Ayodele posited that there must be an improvement in teaching and learning; teachers must be well trained while students must be well trained.

But the federal government in its reaction premised its action on federal character policy. According to the Director Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs. Chinennye Ihuoma, the admission policy was aimed at fostering peace, unity and amicable coexistence among Nigerians and residents.

She said: “In the country, we have the federal character policy and it means that we have to pick students from all states of the federation. She clarified that using different cut-off marks was to equitably allocate admission spaces to states that are marginally ahead of others and those marginally behind others.

“Unity collages and federal universities should have students from all the states of the federation. It’s just the way we have minsters from all the state. To accomplish this, the ministry of education picks the best from each state. The best from Imo may not be the best from Lagos, but they are the best in their respective states.

Assuming that the unity schools need 20 candidates from the north and 20 from the south and we have about 500 students who took the examination, from the south and only 50 from the north; pupils who have higher scores from each zone would be considered starting from the highest until they reach the number of required students for the zone. The student that is in the 20th position from the south might score 150 while that of the north may be five.

She said it would require a constitutional review for the admission policy to be changed.