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Saturday, October 29, 2011

JAMB or Post-UME Should Go

The Senate recently mandated its committee on education to investigate the conduct of post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) across the nation's universities. The lawmakers declared the subjection of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) candidates to another round of tests by schools as illegal.

Criticisms have trailed the post-UTME since its introduction in 2006 by the then minister of education, Mrs Chinwe Nora Obaji. Though some parents, candidates and JAMB kicked against its implementation, the minister insisted when she was summoned by the National Assembly that post-UTME became necessary due to the questionable integrity of the JAMB-conducted UTME. With the strong support thrown behind the screening by university vice-chancellors, post-UTME was integrated into the university matriculation system.

Indeed, there is merit in the argument that gave birth to post-UTME screening. JAMB's matriculation examination had become inadequate for validating the credentials possessed by candidates seeking admission into tertiary institutions. Cases abound where high-flying candidates in UTME ended up on probation after their first year in the university. Some offered lucrative courses such as Medicine, Law, Pharmac, Engineering and Economics, based on their JAMB scores, were even advised to withdraw from such institutions as a result of poor academic performance.

JAMB examination had lost its watertight competence at conducting a credible entrance examination as candidates freely cheated, used mercenaries or fraudulently bought JAMB result, most times with the help of the board's officials. Post-UTME thus became an indictment on JAMB.

Riding on their quest for autonomy, vice-chancellors have criticised both the Senate and JAMB for moving to scrap the screening policy. They argue that the screening has not only helped in the selection of candidates to fill in the quota allocated to each institution but also in picking the best. This has led to an increase in the quality of graduates produced by our tertiary institutions since the inception of post-UTME.

However, the post-UME screening conducted by universities has not proved overly successful against admission irregularities. More than before, parents now easily collaborate with lecturers, admission officers and principal officers to manipulate admission processes in favour of their children.

It seems that post-UTME merely shifted the perpetrators and beneficiaries of admission irregularities from JAMB to the universities. Also, universities have flouted the procedures for collecting the N1,000 registration fee approved for the screening. Each university advertises its screening date and directly charges candidates exorbitant registration fees (varying from N3,000 to N20,000, depending on how competitive such institution is) without passing through JAMB. Thus, admission still largely depends more on affordability than merit.

We do not subscribe to minister of education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa'i's antidote of "standardising" post-UTME examinations so that candidates could use the screening result of a university for admission into another. Such uniformity is a duplication of JAMB's responsibility. Universities should either conduct matriculation screening under the supervision of JAMB or the board should do so with improved credibility.

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