Post-UTME: Beyond The Grandstanding

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Government should stop playing games with Nigeria’s future

In complete disregard for the inclusive process that led to the introduction of the Post-Universities Tertiary Matriculation Examination (Post-UTME) examinations in 2003, the federal government recently announced that no tertiary institution may conduct any such examinations in future. “As far as I am concerned, the nation has confidence in what JAMB (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board) is doing. The universities should not be holding another examination and if the universities have any complaint against JAMB let them bring it and then we address it. If JAMB is qualified enough to conduct tests and they have conducted tests, then there will be no need to conduct another test for students to gain admission,” said the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.

We consider the minister`s declaration presumptuous and not guided by a full understanding of the issues involved. Besides, it is against the spirit of university autonomy, especially given that majority of the institutions concerned are not even owned by the federal government. But there are other more fundamental issues.

First, the minister is wrong in assuming that a unilateral declaration that is not backed by a modicum of evidence is enough to displace the post-UTME that was agreed upon through a process that involved the committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian universities and other critical stakeholders. Second, the minister assumes that by saying that “the nation has confidence in what JAMB is doing” he is indeed speaking for all Nigerians. Third, if the fiasco of the last examination, among other scandalous shortcomings, is part of “what JAMB is doing”, we fail to understand the basis for any vote of confidence.

It is obvious that the minister arrived at the latest position without consultations with the very Nigerians he claims to be speaking for. A recent anecdote by Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, founder and Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, bears out the continued relevance of the post-UTME examinations. Babalola related the case of a law candidate with very impressive results, but who failed one of the simplest tests administered. “Since English Literature was and is still central to the admission of students to study Law, he was asked if he knew a novel called “Things Fall Apart” and he answered in the affirmative. We then asked him if he knew the author. The hall was filled with consternation when the young man named the late General Sani Abacha as the author of ‘Things Fall Apart’”, said Babalola.

In case the minister is not aware, the introduction of the post-UTME has enabled our tertiary institutions to do a further and better sifting of candidates. The number of students that our universities and polytechnics have asked to withdraw because of their inability to defend their high SSCE grades, or cope academically upon admission, has also dropped dramatically. Unlike JAMB, the post-UTME has become one of the nation’s most reliable means of aborting the presumed gains of examination irregularities through which unscrupulous persons create “special centres” to aid and abet cheating and other forms of unethical examination practices.

Besides, the vote of confidence in JAMB is grossly misplaced. As we observed in a recent editorial, their last examinations were so incompetently organised and supervised that the names of some candidates appeared in states they did not apply to. Marks were also jumbled, with some candidates receiving results even before writing the examination.
JAMB was established to eliminate multiple applications, to provide a one-glance update on the various skills set developed across several disciplines by our tertiary institutions over the years and to also help monitor and enforce the recommended 60/40 ratio for science and arts courses in our tertiary institutions.

It has however performed less than creditably in these respects, in addition to not having done very well in strengthening national unity. And as the examination body’s relevance and performance has declined over the years the nation must ask whether JAMB is a success story when viewed against the background of the vision that led to its establishment
All factors considered, we believe the directive to stop post-UTME was not well thought out and it should not stand.

QUOTE: Unlike JAMB, the post-UTME has become one of the nation’s most reliable means of aborting the presumed gains of examination irregularities through which unscrupulous persons create ‘special centres’ to aid and abet cheating and other forms of unethical examination practices