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The University of Lagos is not unaware of the present press and public views on the yet to commence admission and registration exercises into the university for the 2019/2020 academic session.

It is true that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has conducted and released results of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), which to some people kicks off the process of admission into tertiary institutions; however, the universities are not yet in the picture.

University of Lagos has just been dragged in due to either lack of information or insufficient information. The Guardian Opinion of May 19, 2019 presented some disturbing matters about the admission and registration processes.

In what appeared partly like a plea and partly like a command, “UNILAG, admit UTME highest scorer,” The Guardian Newspaper opinion presented what it referred first as “insinuations” but later as truth, that UNILAG will not offer a place to Ekene Franklin, who purportedly came out with the highest score of 347 of 400 in the last UTME.

The reason, according to the opinion is age – his age is 15 years and that happens to be below matriculation age.

University of Lagos would have been in a very good position to give information to the general public on the matter, if it was clearly stated, rather than insinuated; if JAMB had forwarded Ekene Franklin’s scores and other particulars to the University and if the University had confirmed information about the candidate’s age.

Ordinarily, there will be no need for a reaction like this, but because of the long standing cordial relationship between the University of Lagos and the Press – The Guardian, included – it is necessary to advance some contraries, on the side of the truth, to the press opinion.

The insinuation that a 15 year old candidate is inadmissible is not unfounded. However, it will be unfortunate to use the laws, rules, regulations, norms of an institution, which have stood the test of time as instruments of blackmail against the institution. This is what The Guardian Newspaper appears to be doing. Criteria for admission and registration into courses of study at the University of Lagos, the University of First Choice and the nation’s pride, are clearly stated for all prospective candidates to note.

Here are the five admission requirements in UNILAG
1. Admission into FULL-TIME undergraduate programmes is ONLY through Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Direct Entry (DE).

2. Candidates must obtain a minimum of 200 points in Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Candidate’s details must have been forwarded to University of Lagos by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

3. Candidate must possess five (5) credits in O/Level or its equivalent as required by the Department of interest.

4. Candidate must sit for the University POST-UTME Screening and must obtain the required minimum score.

5. Candidate must have reached the AGE of sixteen (16) by the 31st day of October in the year of admission.

These requirements have never been subjected to challenges and pleas. The Institution is impersonal and may not change abruptly when put under emotional threats or blackmail. Decisions are end results of long procedural consideration of various panels, committees and either the senate or the governing council.

While it is natural to be sympathetic with the situation of Ekene Franklin, it will be strange if both Ekene Franklin and his parents/guardians will claim that they are unaware of the regulations governing admission and registration of candidates, not only into University of Lagos, but to Universities in Nigeria.

We suppose, the candidate in question would have chosen a course of study, and also consciously answered questions in subjects that are relevant and thus prescribed as prerequisites for admission into his choice. There is no doubt that the candidate is very intelligent and so would have observed all the other instructions given. If this be the case, the instruction governing matriculation age should not be ignored.

On a general note, there ought to be no problems with a national daily like the Guardian making her views on a possible rejection of the brilliant candidate by the “laws” of the institution known to the public, but resorting to statements which bother on insult, slander and defamation is unexpected of the revered newspaper.

The Guardian Newspaper is known and respected as a Broadsheet, which usually would stand out amongst mere Tabloids. We expect that it should strive to maintain its highly esteemed position through well thought out and objective positions on matters.

Matters of tertiary institutional admission are quite delicate in the country given Nigeria’s interest in education and manpower development. Parents as well as their wards are particularly eager to secure positions in the institutions and that makes it highly competitive.

For this reason, parents/guardians encourage their wards to test themselves at examinations ahead of time. They are well aware that sometimes, their wards may not be fully qualified for admission into institutions they seek to get into, should they succeed. For some, it is just for the candidates to gain some experience. But when the stage is upset and the casual candidates perform far above expectations, then a seemingly unmanageable case, like the one in hand evolves.

The Guardian should note that this is not the first time, and perhaps not going to be the last time for such a case.

For instance, in the early 1990s, the highest score in the then JAMB (now UTME) examination was one Chidi Ugonna, aged 15. Chidi Ugonna’s father was Prof Nnabuenyi Ugonna, (deceased) of the Department of Linguistics and African Studies, and his mother was the Deputy Librarian, all of the University of Lagos, which is also the candidate’s choice of institution.

The summary of the story is that Chidi Ugonna, by the standing regulation, forfeited the high score. So each time an under aged performs well, the tendency is for the public to agitate for either a waiver of the matriculation age restrictions or its total cancellation.

Equally, just 2018, the candidate who had the best result in the West African Examinations Council (Senior Secondary Examinations), Okorogheye David and who again scored 332 of 400 in the UTME, was under aged at the time of admission. For as long as parents and candidates will keep giving a trial to examinations, against the strict regulations, cases like this will continue.

The Guardian alleged that Unilag will be killing talent if she fails to renege and take whiz kid Ekene Franklin, but the Newspaper does not realize that the University is a highly disciplined institution, where structure and order prevail.

The system operated in this part of the world is not exactly like those in other parts of the world that The Guardian falls back on for its comparison.

For instance, here does not permit individual institutional recruitment of students and also does not give room for students to register for courses without being enrolled for a degree. Ours is thus different from other examples presented by The Guardian, where course registration is somehow more liberal and where autonomy is absolute and practical.

Nevertheless, it is unfair to associate Unilag with retrogression because it has kept to its statutes. May be it could help if at this point mention is made of the School of Foundation at the University of Lagos, which offers a preliminary course at the end of which candidates will be qualified for a direct entry admission into degree courses in the University. Very young candidates, like Ekene Franklin can explore such an opportunity because there is no age restriction since it is a pre-matriculation course.

Finally the great newspaper should be more careful so as to avoid being accused of ignorance because it has not taken consideration of a number of attendant facts to the story it carried on May 19, 2019.

Maduagwu is a Professor of English, University of Lagos


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