University administrators have faulted the recently introduced admission guidelines by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, which prohibits any further screening by institutions. They maintained that inadequate pre-admission screening will further erode the quality of graduates from Nigerian Universities. Uchechukwu Nnaike and Funmi Ogundare report
Following the recent scrapping of the post-UTME screening, Nigerians were last week jolted by reports of the introduction of a new point system option for this year’s admission into Nigerian universities by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), but the board swiftly refuted the claims, saying that it was an illustration made by the Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde.
The examination body has now introduced new admission guidelines. The Head of Media and Information, Dr. Fabian Benjamin said in a statement that the federal government approved the re-enforcement of admission guideline by law and that all tertiary institutions have consequently been directed to adhere to the guidelines.
“Admission would be based on three pillars: merit, catchment and educationally disadvantaged states.”
Benjamin said the 2016 admission would not require the conduct of another test either written or oral, as candidates would only present their Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE)/Advanced Level results for verification and clearing purposes, adding that WAEC, NECO and NBTE results or their equivalent are acceptable as matriculation requirements.
To parents and students, the directive is a welcome development, as students will not be burdened with another round of test before securing admission, while parents will no longer be required to pay for post-UTME screening.
However, university administrator think it will take the country back to the era of malpractice, where students secured admission with scored they didn’t own.
Explaining the reason behind the introduction of post-UME screening in 2004, the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola, said it was introduced when it was discovered that undergraduates used to act as mercenaries for UME candidates, who then parade high scores they did not work for.
He said a vice-chancellor had approached him in 2002 and complained that a large percentage of his students impersonated UME candidates that year. When consulted, he said other vice-chancellors also confirmed it.
That he said underscored the need to introduce another layer of screening, not multiple choice test that would assess candidates’ spoken and written English.
Okebukola said the vice-chancellors and NUC went to the then president and the national assembly and it was agreed that the post-UME screening should consist of essay to test candidates’ written English, interview to test their oral English and to see how they are, if they are good enough to be admitted into the institution.
“It was also agreed then that no university should charge more than N1,000. We started it in 2004 and I was bold enough to tell President Obasanjo that by 2009, we started getting the dream graduates from our universities. In 2004, we discovered that about 25 per cent of those with high scores in UME did not show up for the post-UME screening because they used mercenaries, they didn’t earned the results.”
He regretted that when the set of vice-chancellors that worked with him left, the new ones that came changed things; “they started doing the multiple choice questions again, but that was not the agreement, the agreement was that let JAMB do that. They were not caring at all about essay type, they only wanted to collect money quickly and go so all the things we wanted to tackle; the oral and written English was no more. They were charging as much as they wanted.”
Okebukola, who is the current Chairman, Governing Council of Crawford University, Ogun State, said when the news came that universities should stop post-UTME, he was happy because he felt it would be temporary, “so that we can get it right again, make new ground rules and then move on from there.
“Until we are able to assess how candidates speak English, assess their logical expressions and assess their persons, we will be taking one step forward and several steps backwards.”
The Vice-Chancellor of Edwin Clark University, Prof. Timothy Olagbemiro, said oral interview of any sort would be a useful tool in assessing students for university admission, adding that if JAMB had adopted the point system, it would have been superfluous and discriminatory in status between those who achieve their five credits at one sitting and those who do it in two sittings.
“The point system would have been jacketory, not allowing universities to make other viable options such as oral or simple English test, syntax or written statements by applicants, to ensure they really understand and can write the English Language.”
He added that academic freedom is totally destroyed when JAMB hands down to the entire university system how they should admit their students. “It is just wrong in all ramifications.”
The Vice-Chancellor of Fountain University, Oshogbo, Osun State, Prof. Raji Bashir, said no examination can truly capture the inherent potential of any student; hence factoring previous examinations like WAEC is good. He said many universities will still conduct their own post-UTME screening in whatever name they may give it.
“Some do it for Internally Generated Revenue while many private universities do it to screen out possible miscreants before admission.”
He appealed to JAMB, ministry of education and NUC to allow university senates to decide modalities for admission into each institution, saying that over-regulation would only limit innovation.
The Vice-Chancellor of Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Prof. Dayo Alao, said there is need for JAMB to set an exam which will be used to evaluate the level of every candidate for every university, while expressing concern that the board has over the years been compromised.
“Is it the corruption that President Mohammadu Buhari is fighting? It has extended to the academics where they use fraudulent results to get admission. More recently, we discovered that people always have examination questions in advance. Parents too connive, aid and abet, most people even spend a lot of money to get question papers for their children. Sadly some have become contractors to helping people write exams, so at the end of the day, you are not getting a true evaluation of the performance of the students.
“Because of that lacuna and the gap that has been created, then they now decided to do post-UTME so that when you bring a very brilliant result from JAMB, there is a tendency that there may not be a continuity of that result when you write post-UTME. Some people will get 60 or 70 per cent, while some are getting 20 and other horrible marks, then you quickly discover that something has gone wrong.”
He said there should be a regulated exam JAMB will set with the standard of various universities, which is not too far away from what the board will give as an exam, adding that it is the reason the council of pro-chancellors and vice-chancellors decided that there should be sanity in the system.
“An average student is always an average student, a student who has performed creditably in UTME will also perform creditably in post-UTME, but ironically, that is not the case. If you can perform brilliantly in your school certificate exams, and perform brilliantly in JAMB, there is nothing that will stop you from not performing brilliantly in the post-UTME.”
Alao said there was a debate as to whether or not to do away with post-UTME. “It was so serious that JAMB and the ministry of education came into it to see what they could do, but at the end of the day, by popular vote, it was agreed that they should scrap post-UTME.
“There was a protest that people who cannot meet up with the university standard not should be brought into the university because it is going to erode the level of academics, but at the end of the day, they agreed on a mid-point which is that interview could be conducted rather than charging between N2,500 and N5,000 depending on the university.”
The vice-chancellor expressed delight about tertiary institutions conducting their own tests, saying, “if our children will go to school, we need to be very sure of their background. It is not necessarily someone spends six years in the university where he is supposed to spend only four years doing a course and some have gone to the extent of spending seven years, then something must be wrong.”
Alao expressed concern that people who are not interested in sitting for UTME are studying in countries like Ghana, Republic of Benin and Gabon. “That is why you see a lot of our student populating West African coast, because they will be free from JAMB. But that is not the best place to evaluate the standard of the students. I think the agreement is to meet it at the midpoint, the first leg towards sanitising education in this country is the best, instead of totally scrapping it.”
He said universities have been given the opportunity to now screen their candidates looking for merits, character, mode of behavior, adding that there have been instances where students just jump from one university to another to commit crime which will limit the institution with people of horrible character.
The VC stressed the need for candidates to be properly screened academically, morally and spiritually tested so that when they get a degree, they are not just getting a degree, but would have satisfied the academic aspect of it.
“Education should be total; it should be about the mind, physical, intellect not just book. People who are not morally okay hold degrees today and moral is part of education which could be gotten through the fear of God. When the fear of God is lacking in school, what are you coming out with? No matter the educational attainment, when there is no God in it, everything is not useful; the holder is not useful to the family and the society.”