Before Post-UTME is buried

THE  Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu recently stirred the hornet’s nest when he announced the cancellation of Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in all the universities, saying the only legally recognized body to conduct university admission examination was Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB). The Minister also cited the way some universities had turned the Post-UTME to money-making venture as part of the reasons for his position.

Adamu’s directive which was initially seen as a mere kite flying,  for it carried the element of dejavu, was later reinforced with a threat by him, saying he would deal with any university which flouts the order. Since then, the issue of Post-UTME has become a subject of heated hullaballo, thus polarizing stakeholders  into either supporters or opponents. As a worker in the industry,  this writer feels it is not quite right to be quiet in this contentious matter, hence this write up.  Let me humbly disagree with the Minister, without disrespecting his personality that, Post-UTME constitutes additional burden to candidates and drains the parents financially, thereby necessitating the need to scrap it. I respectfully disagree sir.

These are for too insignificant demerits of Post-UTME, compared to the valuable academic improvements the exercise has brought to bear on the system. I have confidence of my truth that, Post-UTME has transparently reconstructed admission template to the extent that the children of the poor who passed the quality-control test needed no assistance from anybody before being admitted.

For instance, at the University of Ibadan, once a candidate’s score was up to the cut-off mark of his or her department of choice, such a candidate got admitted automatically. Such a successful candidate required no note from any quarter before being admitted. This is the reason no one has ever complained about admission fraud in the last 10 years. No candidate has ever alleged that he was shortchanged because the process was, and still is, very transparent. Every candidate was made to understand all the stages leading to the final step of admission.

More importantly, since 2003 when the Post-UTME was introduced in UI, the rate at which matriculated students were being withdrawn from the university as a result of poor academic performance after the first year, has gone down drastically. Conversely, the university has turned out more first class graduates than before the advent of Post-UTME. This was because those who were admitted were the best as they went through meticulous and tough process. Again , when last has anyone heard of cultism in UI? Almost all the students who came in through Post UTME had no time for frivolities and cultism. They were and still are serious minded scholars because they were rigorously screened before being admitted.

Now, the Minister, with due respect, has triggered trouble in the system by insisting that the quality assurance mechanism that has brought sanity into our academic matrix must die. However, if the Minister insists that this rigorous, quality-control measure should be buried, let it be on record that he has deliberately placed higher education in the country on a gymnastic maneuvering. The Minister has brought again the dreaded monster called policy summersault. Nigeria today wallows in the straits of horrendous backwardness as a result of consistent policy summersaults . We have become so much inured to policy inconsistency that we don’t even know what to retain and what to discard!

In more ways than we will like to admit, this attempt to cancel Post-UTME is deleterious to our educational development. Without sarcastic hyperbole, the scrapping ministers nothing but strife, and achieves nothing but distraction. The cancellation seems to be motivated by some subterranean interests. We must therefore not yield to this visceral policy!

If the cancellation was not meant to achieve ulterior motive, why is the Minister insisting that the universities should not have a say in the quality of the candidates they are going to train? As Luke Onyekayeyah noted in his column, “there is no country in the world where all universities have the same standard. Otherwise, we would not have the Ivy-league institutions that are world acclaimed. Setting the same cut – off mark for University of Lagos for instance and the newly established private polytechnic in one village is senseless.”

Indeed, this current attempt to bury Post-UTME is a major infraction on the universities’ autonomy. This is where Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities should take up the gauntlet. Post-UTME represents integrity  check in our academic process. And, no serious nation plays game with the demand of integrity. Certainly , the plan to cancel Post-UTME is an attempt to substitute placebo for an effective therapy. It is like taking a deadly plunge for the worst.

A few guesses may be useful here, once the only requirement to gain admission is to pass JAMB examination by scoring 180, then, lists from influential people and groups would begin to fly from Abuja to all the federal universities that these students must be admitted to study Medice, Law and other prestigious courses.  The children of the poor who have nobody in Abuja are excluded from the game because they are not connected.

Last year, the cut-off mark to study medicine in UI was 74 in UI conducted Post UTME. I know many brilliant children of the farmers who passed and got admitted. Yet, I know children of the governors and ministers who could not get in because they failed the transparent post UTME. This is probably what this coming cancellation is coming to correct. Therefore, the planned cancellation of post UTME is not only a trivialization of a process which was designed to be rigorous and methodical in order to get the best, but also a coup   against the children of the poor.

The Minister created an impression that he was protecting JAMB which was legally set up to distribute candidates to various universities. Again, with due respect, I beg to disagree! JAMB was created in 1978 when Nigeria had only 13 federal universities. The vision was to ensure that no candidate secured more than one admission slot. But today, there are 40 federal universities, 41 state universities and 61 private universities totaling 142. Technically, JAMB has outlived its usefulness and relevance.

By the way, is it not the same JAMB which caused national uproar last year when it started distributing candidates to private universities the candidates never applied to? JAMB has lost its verve, relevance and seriousness over the years.

  • Saanu writes from the University of Ibadan.