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The wicked policy called JAMB (2)



jamb-pictureContinued from yesterday

IT is unrealistic to expect foreign students to subject themselves to the madness of the convoluted JAMB admission processes when universities in other countries are offering open, transparent and easy admission processes.

I once recommended to a Ph.D student to do his research on the topic: “Spatial analysis of foreign students population trend in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions before and after JAMB and its impact on country’s education sector. I am convinced that the study will confirm the damage done by JAMB in terms of absence of foreign students in Nigeria.

JAMB is also a wicked policy for Nigeria because it promotes capital flight and negative balance of trade in international education market with other countries. Universities from USA, Canada, UK, China, South Africa, Ghana, Ukraine, etc with the support of their embassies regularly stage recruitment drives for Nigerian students with advertisements, education fairs, promotional seminars and other specialised events.

I am not aware that any Nigerian university has gone outside the country on similar drive for the simple reason of the JAMB decree prohibits them from doing so. The result is that Nigerian parents spend at least N500 billion each year on payment of school fees to foreign universities. A minimum of N10 billion goes to Ghana alone each year. Nothing comes back to Nigeria. The National Bureau of Statistics and the Central Bank can confirm this. So why has JAMB persisted? The answer lies in three words: Power; money; corruption. The policy initiative to scrap JAMB should ordinarily be championed by a patriotic Education Minister given all the facts outlined above. But the powers enjoyed by Education Ministers under the JAMB prove too enticing.

Section 6 of the decree states “the minister may give the Board directives of a general character or relating generally to particular matters with regard to the exercise by the Board of its actions under this Act and it shall be the duty of the board to comply with such directives”. The result is policy flip-flops and inconsistencies as each new Minister issues his or her own directives, sometimes selfish ones, to which JAMB must comply: yes to UME; replace UME with UTME; yes to post-UTME; no to post-UME; yes to PPT; no to PBT; charge N1000 only for post-UTME; increase it to N2000; sell standards scratch card; sell universal scratch card; etc, etc, etc.

Critical stakeholders who ordinarily should champion the scraping of JAMB refuse to do so because of benefits inherent in the power of demarcating the country into Educational Less Developed States (ELDS) and Educational More Developed States (EMDS). JAMB admissions are allocated based on 45 per cent merit, 35 per cent catchment area/locality and 20 per cent ELDS. In other words, candidates from ELDS states have a 20 per cent better chance (they get a bonus mark of 20 points for being disadvantaged!) of getting admitted than candidates from EMDS even when they live in the same state and take the exam at the same centre.

The power of JAMB to draw and re-draw education boundaries is pre-eminent and fundamental. I doubt that Mr. President or even the National Assembly can easily draw such inherently discriminating and unconstitutional boundaries without opposition. JAMB currently indentifies 23 states as educationally less developed and 13 states and FCT as educationally more developed with attendant implications for cut off marks of candidates. The educationally less developed states include: Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara. States categorized as educationally more developed by JAMB include: Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and FCT. Note the curious anomalies carefully. Some pointers: Akwa Ibom State is regarded as educationally more developed than Cross River State from which it is carved out in 1987; DeltaState with only four Federal educational institutions is regarded as educational more developed than Kaduna State with at least 13 Federal institutions. One of the puzzles I have not been able to resolve on the JAMB chessboard is why legislators from states categorised as EMDS by JAMB have not seriously challenged the concept.

Many of the powerful people in society who ought to champion the push for resolution of the JAMB anomaly are beneficiaries of the system. They relish the preferential treatment accorded to their wards who make special lists circulated to vice chancellors, provosts, rectors on special letter heads: President’s list, Vice President’s list, Governor’s list, Deputy Governor’s list, Senate President’s list, Speaker’s list, Minister’s list, Commissioner’s list, Senators list, Special Advisers list, etc, etc. A telephone call from the Education Minister to any stubborn VC, Rector or Provost will settle matters.

JAMB is also sustained by the power of money. JAMB is a monopolistic business conglomerate for whom the entire business of admissions into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions was cornered with a decree. What many people may know is that JAMB rakes in N15 billion each year through the sale of admission forms to all and sundry including market women. But what may not be obvious is the huge amount the board also earns through sale of scratch cards, fees for sighting results, fees for change of admission letters, fees for change of course letters, fees for late admission letters, etc. All these in addition to funds appropriated in the budget. When you observe the annual ritual of top government officials, legislators, security operatives, etc monitoring and endorsing “the smooth conduct of this year’s JAMB exams,” you are witnessing the power of money. For such leaders, they see nothing wrong with JAMB.

There is no way the process of admission will not suffer from corrupt processes under the UTME, post-UTME framework. When forms are sold to 1.5 million qualified and unqualified candidates with space for less than 30 per cent, the competition under the JAMB funnel contraption is bound to unleash serial extortions, scams, fraud, dishonesty and malpractices.

The only sustainable solution is to grant tertiary institutions in Nigeria full autonomy to conduct their own admission examinations in line with global best practices. 2000 jobs may be lost at JAMB. But 50,000 new jobs will be created in almost 500 tertiary institutions as they beef up their admissions staff. The institutions will also be liberated to fan out across the world in search of students. Standards will improve as they strive to create and sustain institutional brand names. By scraping JAMB, the President would have removed a major cause of corruption in Nigeria’s education sector and the country will be better for it.

• Concluded.
• Onyechere, MFR is Founding Chairman, Exam Ethics Marshals International.

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