Recently, the Committee on Social Sector in the ongoing National Conference recommended that results obtained by candidates who write the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board should be valid for two years.
IN April this year, the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, Prof Dibu Ojerinde, accused universities of under-utilising their admission spaces by admitting less than their carrying capacity.
According to Prof Ojerinde, who spoke ahead of the commencement of this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), most universities do not utilise their prescribed carrying capacities, a situation responsible for low number of candidates being offered admission annually.
Ojerinde who frowned at the fact that only 35 per cent out of the 1, 735, 892 who sat for the 2013 UTME secured admissions into Nigerian universities, stressed that “most federal universities do not admit up to their carrying capacities. Government has opened up access but universities’ management chose not to utilise the spaces in their institution.
“For instance, some departments may have space for 250 students, but the school may admit only 180, thereby denying admission to 70 students. I have spoken to most of these institutions but if I am pushed to the wall, I will not hesitate to publish their names in the national dailies,” he threatened.
“I wanted to publish it in the papers to tell the world that this is what is happening in our institutions. The spaces are there but the universities refuse to take them and they are taking adequate fund to fund their institutions,” he added.
Not long after this exposé by the JAMB registrar, Education Minister, Ezenwo Nyesome Wike, whilst commissioning a project, urged the over 600, 000 admission seekers who are affected by the unfortunate action of federal universities, to actualise their dreams of acquiring tertiary education by embracing the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
Not many parents find it amusing that their wards, after recording great scores in the UTME, and failing to earn themselves a place in the institutions of their choice, have to resort to writing the examination the following year.
For this group of parents, the recommendation by the Committee on Social Sector in the ongoing National Conference, that results obtained by candidates who sit for the UTME conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board should be valid for two years, sounds like music to their ears and a good effort at expanding the chances of candidates gaining admission into the nation’s universities.
The committee also flayed the circumstance where over 1.5 million people jostle annually for about 500,000 available spaces, leaving the chunk of one million who are unable to secure admission because of low capacity of the institutions in the country at a gross disadvantage.
The committee chaired by a former Women Affairs Minister Mrs. Josephine Anenih and former Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i as Deputy, in coming up with the proposal said, “JAMB result should last for two years to enable the candidates have another trial to secure admission.”
The committee has also urged both federal and state governments to up their budgetary allocation to the education sector to 26 per cent, in line with the recommendation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommendation.
According to the Confab committee, “Federal and state governments should continue to finance education through adequate annual budgetary provision of at least 26 per cent funding, release of budgeted funds as first line charge and ensure that funds released are spent with attention to prudence and value for money.”
The committee report, which will still be tabled at the conference plenary, also recommended that the two per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund allocated to the Universal Basic Education Commission by the Federal Government should be increased to four per cent.
It also recommended that the two per cent Education Tax Fund, remitted to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund should be increased to four per cent, adding that this was in recognition of the importance of education to national development and the need to ensure proper funding of the sector.
As part of initiative to encourage more private sector participation in delivery of education in the country, the committee said there was the urgent need to stop the double taxation of private school proprietors by the Ministry of Education and the Board of Internal Revenue, a development it believe would help reduce the exorbitant fees charged by the private institutions while at the same time create incentive for more people to invest in the sector.
The report added, “There is basically nothing wrong with the current education policy. Faithful implementation is the major problems. If Nigeria is able to achieve 80 per cent implementation, most of the problems of the educational system will be taken care.”
However, since the two-year validity proposal became public knowledge, hordes of stakeholders have continued to view it from different prisms and offering their insights. Expectedly, they are pitched on different sides of the divide depending of course, on their perception of inherent merits and demerits. According to Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan and a federal delegate to the National Conference, Olawale Albert, “Like several of my colleagues at the conference, I find the recommendation to be very good. It takes a lot of hard work and anxiety to pass JAMB examination. I am a professor today, but I passed through the JAMB process before entering the University of Ibadan in 1982. JAMB candidates get traumatised when they are unable to use their good scores to gain admission into the university of their choice. Some candidates score as high as 250 but fail to gain admission into the university basically because the required score for their preferred courses is 260. Many of such candidates often fail to get their second choice admission and are forced to go back to JAMB the following year.”
He continued, “In some cases, these candidates taking JAMB the second time do not score as high they scored during their first trial. In the process, some of them become traumatised and start to embarrass their parents with all manners of anti-social behaviours. What some rich Nigerian parents do is to quickly send such students to foreign countries, where they do not have to take any entry examination before gaining admission into the university. Most Nigerian students in Ghana today went into the country for that singular reason.
“So, by giving such candidates the opportunity to use their JAMB scores twice, we would be reducing the stress around our young ones and empowering them to plan their future more constructively. But such candidates have to choose between their old scores or taking a fresh UTME. They should not be allowed to enjoy the two chances simultaneously otherwise they would be narrowing down the chances of other candidates getting admitted.”
On what would be the possible down side of the recommendation if it saw the light of day, he said, “The only one I can see is that it would reduce the revenue accruable to JAMB from sale of forms.”
For the immediate past executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, extending the validity period of the scores would not be totally alien as such obtains in some other countries of the world.
“There is no harm in making the “shelf life” of UTME scores to be for two years. Its equivalent in the United States, the SAT, has a validity period of five years, especially if the criteria remain stable over that period. A two-year validity for scores on the UTME will reduce financial pains to candidates and their parents and lower the overhead cost of running UTME by JAMB. It will also improve the study habit of candidates knowing that if they earn low scores, it will stick with them for 48 months. We can stretch the imagination to say that a two-year validity could reduce annual exposure of candidates to possible danger such as road accidents, abduction and loss of valuables as they travel to take the UTME even in centres close to them for the computer-based model. The obverse of the coin is that it will depress the internally generated revenue of JAMB and the universities through UTME and post-UTME respectively.
“I am aware of the thin line that JAMB has to walk to financially sustain itself on the UTME application fees. The two-year validity model will financially harm JAMB, but who says that TETFund cannot cough out a mite of the dizzying billions locked in its coffers to cushion this effect. The dynamism in nature suggests that we should shake off the stereotype of the one-year validity for UTME scores and try the two-year experiment on a pilot scale for eight years. Lessons learnt from the national pilot can then be basis for further refinement,” the former NUC helmsman stated.
Continuing, he said, “As Executive Secretary of NUC in the early 2000s, we used to have the then UME results released between four to six months of administration. Today, the Ojerinde-led JAMB releases results within 24 hours and now on a fast pace to implement the computer-based testing model nationally. So let the “magic” and transformation continue with the two-year validity for UTME scores. The Federal Government should provide financial resources to JAMB to implement this agenda. Within this 2-year validity agenda, it should be possible that any candidate who feels his or her score is low in a particular year, should be free to re-take the examination the following year with the hope of improving his or her score.” He added that, “A penalty is attached to the re-sit examination in some countries such as finding the average of the two successive scores. For Nigerians during the pilot phase, such penalty should be waived.”
In the view of Professor of Business Administration and Strategic Management at the Lagos State University, Ade Oyedijo, if the validity is extended, “Candidates with acceptable scores may loose interest or zeal in furthering their education. They may get involved too early in menial activities that offer immediate income such as street trading and low income retailing activities. Such activities that offer little or no opportunity for long term personal growth may lure such candidates away from the pursuit of higher and more prosperous future and a more productive contribution to the economy permanently.
Secondly, “The propensity for social vices and crime among the youths may increase. Again, some waiting candidates may be lost to crime forever.
Thirdly, “Where a waiting candidate eventually registers as a student in a higher education institution, the performance of such a candidate may be jeopardised and disappointing. The waiting time may create a break and decline in the learning power of such a candidate. Without a proper management of the transition phase, many of the candidates may eventually be withdrawn from their institutions.”
In addition to this, “ Where some candidates with good scores are admitted but eventually fail to register as a result of the intervening circumstances created by the waiting time of two years, their places will ultimately be wasted.”
Asked to sum up his impression of the proposal and take a definite stand, he went thus: “I don’t really see any strong point in support of this proposal except that it will give the candidates the freedom and opportunity to choose when to start their programmes.” (Guardian)
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