The last may not have been heard on the current status of post-UTME: whether it remains extant or extinct as the babel of words on the contentious, foggy and purported cancellation of that important part of the qualifying procedure for admission into Nigerian Universities introduced in 2003 by the Committee of Pro Chancellors of Nigerian Universities under the Chairmanship of the frontline legal icon, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, continues unabated.
That this may remain the position, at least for some time to come, came to the fore again, when Babalola called on the Governing Councils, Pro Chancellors and Senate of Nigerian Universities to rise up in unison to challenge the much touted cancellation of the post-UTME in the overall interest of quality of education in the country.
The setting was the 21st Convocation Lecture of the University of Ado-Ekiti (EKSU), where Babalola, the Founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), who spoke on “University Administration: The Role of Stakeholders”, set the tone and agenda for the day by saying “the unconstitutional and illegal violation of University Laws by successive governments, Federal and State, Ministers and Officers of Government makes it imperative that we should examine the role of stakeholders in University Administration”.
With a reasonable dose of bile in his duct, Babalola, the Convocation Speaker at EKSU, played back to the combined Policy Meeting of Administrators of Higher Institutions in Nigeria in Abuja on June 2, 2016 on the alleged scrapping of the post-UTME when the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, was alleged to have made the pronouncement as to the cancellation of the post-UTME.
The Minister was reported to have declared that the Federal Government and other stakeholders had absolute confidence in the examinations conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and to that extent, that there was no need for other examinations to be conducted by universities after JAMB examination.
Adamu was quoted to have stated that: “As far as I am concerned, the nation has confidence in what JAMB 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.”
But the inaudible ovation that greeted the Minister’s pronouncement had hardly settled down when the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, countered that post-UTME has not been scrapped and that the universities would still be free to “screen” prospective students.
Babalola endorsed Ojerinde’s stand on the issue when he said: “This, to me, is the rational thing to do as it is done in other climes. Otherwise how will a university be able to screen a student who seeks admission without some form of testing? Is the said screening supposed to take the form of oral interviews alone?”
He added: “There is no doubt that the establishment of post-UTME examination has rendered the jumbo marks hitherto obtained by unscrupulous student from JAMB useless, adding that I can predict with 100% assurance that its revocation will pave way for the return of the abominable practice that damaged the image of JAMB”.
According to the proponent and protagonist of quality and functional education, the Post UTME screening exercise had afforded the universities in the country the opportunity of identifying students who have been rusticated from other universities, those who forged their JAMB results, those who have been involved in criminal activities such as cultism, rape, stealing, armed robbery, ritual killings, drug and alcohol addictions, kidnapping and other illegal activities and those who do not have the requisite competence to study the courses they applied for as well as those who are not interested in their courses but are pushed into such courses by their parents. “Obviously the above are not matters which JAMB can identify,” he asserted.
Underscoring the place and import of the post- UTME, Babalola had at an earlier forum cited the case during the first Post UTME the University of Lagos conducted in 2003 where a student, with a very impressive JAMB result and had applied to study Law, was asked whether he knew the popular novel “Things Fall Apart” and he answered in the affirmative. When he was asked if he knew the author, the hall was filled with consternation when the young man named the late General Sanni Abacha as the author of Things Fall Apart!
There is no doubt that the establishment of post-UTME examination has rendered the jumbo marks hitherto obtained by some unscrupulous students from JAMB useless, adding that “I can predict with 100% assurance that its revocation will pave way for the return of the abominable practice that damaged the image of JAMB”.
With the above carrots inherent in the post-UTME, he wondered why anyone will be fanning the embers of the scrapping of the otherwise very useful tool in the hand of quality and functional education in the country.
Going into the statute books, Babalola pointed out that the combined effect of Section 5(1), (a) and 5 (1) (c) (ii) of the JAMB Act is that JAMB is statutorily empowered to set and conduct examinations, appoint examiners and other invigilators for the purpose of the examination set by the Board adding that it could also be gleaned from the JAMB Act that the guidelines approved by the Proprietor of each university are essential factors in the placement of students
He then returned a verdict, to wit: “Clearly, the universities are not meant to be mere on-lookers in the admission process”.
He continued: “But the pertinent questions to ask are: Should there be a cancellation of post-UTME and does the pronouncement by the Minister take away the right of individual universities to screen candidates for admission?
“The answers are simple and straight forward. There cannot be a cancellation of post-UTME because no one has asked for it. Assuming, but not conceding, that the Hon. Minister can on his own propose the cancellation of post-UTME, the matter must be fully discussed by all the stakeholders including the Founders of the universities, the Pro-Chancellors, the Council, the Vice Chancellors, the Senate and others.
“Furthermore, their decision must be presented to the Federal Executive Council for consideration as it was done in 2003 before the Post UTME was established. It is beyond the powers of a single individual, no matter how highly placed, to single-handedly set aside the post-UTME particularly in circumstances in which a chorus acclamation was procured.
“In my view, the June 2, 2016 pronouncement by the Minister of Education is at best his personal opinion and not that of the government. A cancellation of the post-UTME will unfairly and illegally obliterate the statutory right of each university to screen the candidates it wants to admit and deal a fatal blow at the quality of education in this country”.
All over the world, every university has the right to screen the candidates it wants to admit. It also has the right to embark on other exercises, whether written or unwritten, to make it and its products stand out. It is for this reason that any student applying to study Law in the University of Oxford is mandatorily required to take the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT), any student applying for Biomedical Sciences must take Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT), any student applying for Chemistry must take Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) while any one applying for Classics must take Classics Admission Test (CAT).
On the strength of the foregoing, he urged the Governing Councils, the Pro-Chancellors, the Vice Chancellors and the Senate of all universities in Nigeria to rise up to challenge the purported cancellation of post-UTME in the interest of quality education in Nigeria.
It is therefore as clear as sunrise that the last may not have been heard about the purported cancellation or otherwise of the post-UTME. And concerned stakeholders are waiting for the resolution of the otherwise interesting arguments and counter arguments.
Olofintila, Head, Corporate Affairs, ABUAD, wrote from Ado-Ekiti