The days ahead will definitely not be very palatable for Professor Dibu Ojerinde. His powers, and those of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, will be put to test. Many protesting parents and their wards have accused the authorities of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), arguably one of the most subscribed universities in Nigeria of raising the admission cut off mark indiscriminately. The blame rightly falls on the doorstep of JAMB. JAMB conducts the UTME and provides the Universities the scores. The Universities in turn carry out the actual admission processes. The names of successful candidates are forwarded to JAMB who in turn issues admission letters to the candidates. JAMB does not seem to be satisfied with this process of admission. Consequently, it has come out with a new policy; arguing that: 1) “the policy will help needy universities with lower number of candidates than their capacities to admit more number.” 2) “It will assist JAMB candidates have better chances of admission in the universities they are reassigned to, contrary to situations where they would await admission in universities of their first choices until admission exercise lapses.”
There is more to this policy than meets the eye. The assumptions that may have informed this policy are too presumptuous and gratuitous. Parents and candidates do not choose ONLY courses, they also choose Universities. This is informed by many factors that include prestige, location, history and quality of faculty of the Universities. The name of a University, if it is one that is reputable could be a door opener. This explains why many candidates go on to choose the same University as their first and second choice. This may be wrong; but it does in any way allow JAMB to play an assisting and helping role. The law that sets up JAMB does give it such moral responsibility. Again, when candidates and parents make their choice of Universities and courses they were unaware of the new policy. It was a hidden game plan now being imposed on Nigerians. It should also be noted that the financial capability of parents also determines the choice of Universities. Invariably, even though my ward may have high scores that may not be high enough for the programme of his or her choice, it may be good enough for another programme in the University of my Ward’s Choice. This may be a preferable option since the fees are affordable and the University is within the reach of the Parents and wards. Transferring such a ward to a University that one cannot finance on the reasoning that the candidate got a course of his choice is a simplistic way to think.
In her official release, Campus News, on Wednesday July 22, 2015, authorities of the University of Lagos who were obviously embarrassed and taken unawares by parents and would be students’ protest “against” the University, gave a rider to JAMB reasons – of assisting needy Universities” and candidates with low scores – that: “This policy has been implemented with immediate effect. Consequently, the eligibility for post-UTME screening in the University of Lagos like other universities in Nigeria has been determined by JAMB. In effect, only candidates whose names were forwarded to the University of Lagos by JAMB are eligible for the 2015/2016 post-UTME… Ineligible candidates would have been re-assigned by JAMB to other universities. Such candidates should contact JAMB for assistance.” This is impunity. Does JAMB has the power to declare a candidate ineligible without his or her consent; more so after sitting for an examination. From where did JAMB draw her power to reassign universities to candidates? Why should one even do a qualifying examination into a university that is undersubscribed? Why are these needy Universities not exempted from the UTME? How Nigerians write qualifying examinations in order to secure admission into foreign Universities? Is JAMB is writing her own pre-death dirge?
This policy may be good in intention, it is evil in operation. JAMB has clearly operated like an organisation that conceived change without any notion of change management. It has treated parents and candidates disrespectfully and with disdain. Consequently, it is difficult to match JAMB’s reasons with her intentions.
The other perspective of JAMB’s action is from the angle of needy universities. Is JAMB a salesman for needy universities? This is what is at play and JAMB seems to be working for a cartel. Many Nigerians are seeking overseas admission for their wards in places like Ghana, UK, USA, Bulgaria, etc. Just recently the High Commissioner of Australia had live and Radio interaction with the University of Lagos students on the prospect of pursuing post graduate studies in Australia; even on scholarship. Why should a Nigerian University be needy? JAMB in our considered opinion is using her idle time to think for and manufacture candidates for Universities that are not competitive. Universities should be encouraged to be competitive. This can be achieved if they have areas of high competencies, quality faculty and cutting edge facilities for learning and research. For example, the wasted and looted funds by the leadership of the Niger Delta States in Nigeria are enough to make that region a higher education hub in the West Africa sub region. The Universities in the Northern States of Nigeria can be raised to a standard that even Nigerians from the southern part would seek admission in such institutions. JAMB is simply, by this new policy, assisting lazy, indolent and opportunistic institutions.
The new policy is also going to deny so called oversubscribed Universities quality candidates. Why should candidates with high scores be transferred to other Universities? In most cases, many candidates prefer that their courses be changed to ones whose scores they have met. In the University of Lagos for example, this policy will put pressure on the JUPEB programme as those bent on attending UNILAG or no University, irrespective of the programme, will seek refuge in this direct entry programme. Nobody came to the rescue of public primary and secondary schools when parents were pulling out their wards in large number in the recent past. Private schools benefitted greatly from this drift of students. How come JAMB is becoming so compassionate to help needy universities? The word “needy” as used by JAMB for some universities is tricky. Is it that they are unattractive, failing, uncompetitive, mushroom, etc. universities? Is it that they are not in need of any other thing, qualitative and quantitatively, apart from would-be students?
JAMB did not explore all options in her attempt to help both the candidates and universities. Let us consider a few of such. JAMB ought to have provided a list of needy universities and the courses available for candidates. This way the candidates will be allowed to seek admission in their preferred Universities and also have the option to take automatic admission in the selected post UTME second choice. This way the so called oversubscribed universities will not be denied their high scoring candidates, the candidates RIGHT to choose and compete for space in their preferred Universities will not be violated. The kernel of this argument is that JAMB should publish the names of needy public universities and needy private universities. These universities should not be allowed to carry over any form of post UTME. Candidates should be given the right to select any University of their choice from these universities; indicating their course and be directly offered admission into the Universities. They should also be given the right to take up the admission if they fail in their admission bid in their preferred Universities. The truth of this Professor Dibu Ojerinde will be unveiled by time. Between Esau and Jacob, we are yet to discern the hand and voice for re-assignment. As things stand now, parents and candidates should protest and challenge this Greek gift of, or help from, Professor Dibu Ojerinde.
By Dr Karo Ogbinaka, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos.