Though the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has asked universities not to charge more than N2,500 for screening, WINIFRED OGBEBO writes that many guardians and stakeholders are not comfortable with it.
Recently, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu announced the abolition of over a decade old post-UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination), a decision many believe would put an end to the business venture created by tertiary institutions in the country to extort money from desperate admission seekers. This decision immediately ignited controversy of different shades with divergent opinions on whether or not it was right for government to nullify the examination. Meanwhile, the Federal Government has reaffirmed its position on the matter, saying there is no going back since the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board remains the only body in Nigeria with the statutory powers to conduct examinations for those seeking admission into all higher institutions of learning, namely universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education.
Astonishingly, while the decision continues to generate heat among stakeholders, some tertiary institutions are already brewing strategies on how to subtly extort money from candidates in the name of screening despite government’s directives that such fees can only be charged after the institutions have ratified the provisional admission given to the candidates. Now, concerned Nigerians are asking if we are relapsing to the era of post-UTME.
The education minister, while justifying the scrapping of the post-UTME had said “as far as I am concerned, the nation has confidence in what JAMB is doing, the universities should not be holding another examinations and if the universities have any complaint against JAMB, let them bring it and then we address it.”
Not surprising, most Nigerians share same sentiments with the minister. One thing, JAMB, through its numerous innovative measures, such as the Computer-Based Test (CBT), has shown strong determination to boost confidence in the conduct of its examination. Recently, the registrar/chief executive officer of JAMB, Prof Dibu Ojerinde reiterated the commitment of the nation’s apex examination body to bolster confidence in the conduct of its examination, pointing out “JAMB appears to be the only examination body that is constantly making frantic efforts to restore sanity and confidence to the conduct of examinations in Nigeria. While the Nigerian media inundate people with the gory images of examination malpractices across all levels of education in the country, it seems stakeholders of this important sector of the economy are maniacally puzzled on the best possible ways to restore confidence to a system that is hugely battered and severed from excellence and distinction that epitomise academic achievements. JAMB has always showed strong determination to boost confidence in the conduct of its examination by putting innovative measures in place in order to curb fraud and malpractices that have been terrorising the educational sector.”
Many stakeholders have insisted Post-UTME is a business venture introduced by tertiary institutions to extort money from admission seekers under the guise of screening them for competence. According to a social critic and publisher of World Entourage Magazine, Haruna Abdullahi, scrapping Post-UTME could put an end to admission racketeering by cabals that are known for manipulating admission process in favour of their children and wards. “Some people have argued in the past that two examinations are not too many to sieve qualified candidates from those that cheat to pass. But I beg to differ. Two examinations are too many for one purpose, especially if the second exam is introduced in order to milk candidates of their hard-earned money.
“It is so sad that our citadels of learning have become citadels of corruption. If not, how can a university justify charging as high as seven thousand naira for a mere screening? Some of these institutions have become so used to extortion that they are finding it difficult to let go of post-UTME due to the juicy proceeds that come from it. I strongly believe that Adamu Adamu, the honourable minister of education would not stand aloof while tertiary institutions plunder our poor children and wards of their pennies. The federal government should be resolute and committed by making sure that her directives are not violated by any institutions. We learnt that some institutions are violating the order already. This violation has revealed the bare-faced extortion that has permeated our tertiary institutions,” Abdullahi posited.
Some advocates of post-UTME, though have argued that examinations conducted by JAMB had been riddled with fraud, hence post-UTME was a way to standardise JAMB results, Abdullahi vehemently countered such argument, describing it as “weak, unsubstantiated and unsustainable.”
“Standardizing JAMB result is not by organizing another exam by the universities, but by boosting its quality. If so, they should also call for reorganising SSCE to show how serious they are about education in Nigeria. We all know that anyone can pass SSCE nowadays. Post-UTME is a total abuse of the system and a means of making money for the top-heads of the universities, that’s why they’re sponsoring ASUU to help them push for it, even when we pretend not to know the brain behind ASUU’s complaints,” he further pointed out.
A public affairs analyst based in Lokoja, Kogi State, Israel Oguche contended that scrapping post-UTME was one of the most important moves by the current administration to cure the systemic disease in education sector. He asked: “What’s post-UTME? How did it start?” According to him, “a group of some intellectuals felt JAMB was no longer effective enough to meeting qualifications for admissions into Nigerian universities and we all were cowed into accepting it. And I say if JAMB has not been effective, have the universities been effective in the conduct of their own examinations? As a typical Nigerian born graduate, I understand the terrain of our universities and their system, such that the fight for in-house admissions only is used for selfish interest against the central role of JAMB”.
Oguche therefore described the call for scrapping of JAMB from some quarters as ridiculous. “If since 1978 JAMB has done it, I wonder why we started doubting their credibility overnight. Come to think of it, is that a way of solving a systemic problem by my respected professors? If JAMB must be replaced with post-UTME, then the laws establishing JAMB would have to be reviewed by the National Assembly and then ratified by the executive for subsequent implementation. It shouldn’t be done as if some people just want to swindle the whole of us since we don’t have right and who to speak for us. If ASUU says it’s against the university autonomy, let them tell us the advantages we’ve had from that sham over the years. May be I can mention one: incessant increase in school fees,” he said.
Although oguche was against scrapping of post-UTME, she maintains that since it has been scrapped by the government, it is unreasonable for tertiary institutions to maintain their fees. “No! No!! No!!! Not acceptable. That’s exploitation. If the government of the day says no post-UTME, so be it. The universities shouldn’t ask for any fees before verifying students being admitted by JAMB. Doing so is akin to taking laws into their hands. It’s even unfair!” she said.
“If JAMB is credible enough and recognised by law as the only national body capable of handling admissions, why should universities go on to “help” JAMB? Right now, so many universities are shying away from admission due to the new law. Before the law, Kwara State University had conducted a post-UTME where many students participated. But, there has been news that due to the recent cancellation of post-UTME, the process has also been cancelled and it was rumoured that money was returned to applicants.”
But it appears the tertiary institutions are bent on charging exorbitant fees against the directive of the Ministry of Education with the stakeholders calling on the minister to be firm and committed to making sure that government’s instructions are obeyed. “I suggest a special task force to probe the systems of our universities because in this era of Treasury Single Account (TSA), universities have gone haywire in extorting money from prospective students and students alike. Government must stop looking at professors as infallible. The people’s rights to education shouldn’t be taken for granted by these shenanigans in our education system. It baffles me that universities are some of the most corrupt institutions in Nigeria, yet the government hasn’t done so much to rid the universities of corruption” Theophilus suggested.