JAMB As Undertaker

JAMB As Undertaker

Saturday, September 2, 2017 12:10 pm

Prof. Is-haq Oloyede: JAMB Registrar

By New Independence Group

The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board recently announced 120 and 100, as the minimum entry scores for universities and polytechnics respectively. This effectively, means that whereas these institutions are at liberty to raise the bar, those who made 30 percent and 25 percent scores are still eligible for consideration if the schools so desire. Not surprisingly, the drastically low point has generated public outrage, especially coming at a time the decline in the quality of education has become very worrying. 

JAMB has however made efforts to dismiss the public concern, noting that any applicant with the required O level result is prima facie qualified for university admission. The idea of JAMB conducting the examination is therefore for the purpose of ranking, seeing that there are limited spaces in the institutions to accommodate those who apply on a yearly basis. For the body, lowering the ranking bar opens more spaces for those who would have been denied opportunities into higher institutions of learning, reduce the number of those who go outside the country for lack of access, and in the same vein return the powers to determine actual cut off points to the institutions.

There is indeed great merit in the idea of returning the powers to regulate admissions to the institutions, operating under general standards known to all. That is the practice in many developed places. Yet, the arguments being offered by JAMB appear somewhat irrelevant and at worst contradictory. 

To begin with, the argument that lecturers are not fully engaged, as admission quotas are not fully filled, even if true, assumes that all that academics do is teach. Research and community service represent the other major planks of the occupation of academics. It must also be said that JAMB provided no factual data to back the claim of university spaces being under-subscribed, more so on account of high cut off points. 

The JAMB Chief Executive has also said the new low in cut off marks will stem the tide of Nigerians seeking tertiary education outside the country, especially in neighbouring African countries. However, the reason why Nigerians troop abroad has never been because of high cut off points. It is because our tertiary institutions have a very limited capacity, owing to a shortage of manpower and infrastructure, to accommodate a very large number of applicants. The National University Commission (NUC) allots carrying capacities to departments and programmes based on the resources available to maintain minimum standard. Yet, it needs to be said that substantial number of parents seek avenues for university education outside of shores of Nigeria for their children on account of lack of stability in the Nigeria university system  due, largely, to perennial closure of our universities on account of authorities’ mismanagement of labour-related and student- management crises

In March this year, the NIG, in its reaction to JAMB’s equally unpopular effort to restrict the options of public universities available to applicants, noted that out of about 1.5 million applications received annually, Nigerian universities admit an average of 400,000, while about the same number fail to meet the minimum score for consideration. What this means is that on the average, about 700 hundred thousand qualified applicants are rejected annually because of the limited carrying capacity of our tertiary institutions, especially the universities. Given this reality, what JAMB has done is likely to increase the number of  ’qualified’ but denied applicants, as it has no way of expanding the carrying capacity of the different programmes. 

In the same reaction, the NIG stressed the point that access to quality education is significant to the nation’s quest for true development. However, access, construed in this sense, is for those who truly have the capacity, mentally that is for university education, especially. While no Nigerian should miss out on the opportunity of being educated up to tertiary level on account of social or economic class, those who go to the universities must be applicants who have demonstrated the cognitive abilities needed to make the most of the education being sought. From the point of view of personal mental capacity, university education is not for everyone. In this wise, whatever requirements set up must be logical and persuasive to show that they are meant to harvest the best brains for university education. That threshold evidently cannot be met when JAMB says 25 and 30 percent would be the minimum marks to qualify for university admission. Indeed, there is no way the international university system would be persuaded that the Nigerian university system wants to operate on the basis of excellence when what is advertised is this new low for university admission.

The NIG is strongly persuaded that while university education must be affordable for all Nigerians, the entry requirements must take only the best. Others who are less capable can find spaces in the numerous vocational and technical schools, which themselves are in need of expansion, re-branding and rebuilding to meet the increasing demand for skilled practical labour. Masonry, plumbing, tiling, wiring amongst others, are professions that are highly regarded in societies where safety and finesse are considered important. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, they are regarded as jobs for misfits and dropouts. It is high time the nation formalised and began to regulate these professions in order to combine glamour, dignity and professionalism with technical know-how in order to make them attractive to an average young school leaver. Thus, the university will not be seen as the ‘next place’ available to go,  in seeking further opportunities to advance on the social ladder for ambitious young Nigerians.

On a last note, the NIG wishes to state its agreement with the JAMB Registrar that all candidates with O level results required for admission are prima facie qualified. It is true that in many other places, there are no equivalencies of JAMB. The body thus, is yet another bureaucratic obstacle on the path of admission seekers. It doubles the exploitation of admission seekers, as evidenced by the revenue kill it makes on a yearly basis. JAMB reportedly remitted N5 billion profit to the Federal Government for 2017 alone, leaving one to wonder whether the body is not a profit-making body for the government as well as some powerful individuals, given that past profits have often been kept secret.

Based on the foregoing, the NIG calls for the abolition of JAMB, and the return of the powers for admission to the universities and polytechnics. To ensure quality, an arm, no more than an office under a director, should be established in the NUC, NABTEB, as well as other bodies regulating the various strata of tertiary education in the country.
This way, applicants can access multiple institutions year in, year out, in search of placements, provided they have their O levels, in addition to meeting the other non-monetary, capacity-based criteria of the different institutions of choice. JAMB, as it is, has not only become increasingly irrelevant to tertiary education, it has actually transformed to a burden on a sector in need of serious reforms.With its new posturing on cut off point, it seems JAMB may well be the inglorious undertaker for university education, gasping, desperately, for a breadth of life in terms of quality of graduate outputs, many of whom are not only unemployed, but practically unemployable 

• Signed by Akinyemi Onigbinde, Convener

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