People seek education in Nigeria for two reasons: first is to enable them get a good job, second is to help them liberate their minds. The choice of schools a Nigerian chooses to attend depends on a number of factors among which are: the amount paid in school fees, the pedigree of the school and the perceived quality that such a school offer.
Recently, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) rolled out its policy to redistribute candidates because of an inequality in the universities selection choice of candidates who took the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exam (UTME). The Ivy-league schools in Nigeria such as the University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, University of Benin, Ahmadu Bello University among others had numerous applicants almost 10 times the apportioned slot to the schools. JAMB through its policy aimed at gunning down the excess profit that these schools made from post UTME sales by redistributing candidates to less preferred schools i.e. schools that candidates do not want to attend. Below are some of the arguments that jamb used to support its new policy:
Top on the list of reasons that JAMB puts forward to support their case was the fact that the Ivy-League schools were just using the post-UTME examinations to boost their internally generated revenue stream. I’ll take the University of Lagos, the 5th most preferred university by admission seekers in 2015 for example. 62,125 applicants applied to UNILAG and of this number, about 40, 000 scored above the 180 cut off mark. However, the admission quota for the university is only about 9,000. This means that the UNILAG will generate funds from about 31,000 candidates who will not be admitted. Last year UNILAG sold her post-UTME application form for N2000, meaning that UNILAG will generate about N62 million from the post-UTME business for candidates it will not admit if the cost doesn’t change. N62 million is enough to pay the salary of 34 entry level lecturers (Graduate assistants) for one year if they are paid N150, 000 per month. Of course these funds are not used for such laudable activities, they usually filter through cheques for some unnamed capital projects. JAMB is saying that instead of allowing these Ivy-League schools to cart away with such huge sums, why not allow for redistribution of these funds. There is love in sharing after all!
Again, JAMB believes that the current process is simply postponing and wasting away the lives of our young ones, the applicants. Continuing on the UNILAG analysis above, 31, 000 applicants cannot get admitted this year into the university and will just stay at home, travel outside the continent to pursue admission, lobby for the private universities they refused to fill in their JAMB forms, or proceed to a one storey building university in Ghana or Benin Republic. Yet, the vast majority of these applicants will just add up to the huge numbers that will seek admission next year. JAMB feels that it would be better that these candidates are spread over state and private universities where their chance of being admitted is brighter than postponing the evil days.
Also, JAMB believes that although the cost of certain schools may initially seem to be a challenge, it can be overcome. On Friday 31st July edition of TV program ‘Insight’ on NTA international, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, the Registrar of JAMB repeatedly stated that ‘if Nigerian parents think that education is expensive, they should try ignorance.’ His views was supported by Prof. Leonard Fwa, the Vice Chancellor of Bingham University, Karu, who was also a guest on the program. After all, our motivational pastors have always told us that we do not know how much we can do unless we try. Parents may not know they could afford a stable private university education for their children unless they try. I don’t know if that makes good sense but that is what JAMB thinks.
Now moving to the side of the policy receivers, what do we think of the JAMB policy stunt?
The first challenge with the policy implementation is the lack of consultation that went into the Policy. Prof. Dibu has an argument against this popular feeling; he said that JAMB consulted with the committee of Vice Chancellors alongside representatives of federal, state and private universities, an agreement was consequently reached: that was wide consultation according to the former NECO Registrar. However, this is 2015 and these aged administrators do not understand the role of the citizens as the ultimate consultants in their issues. JAMB fails as a sensitive service provision agency of the government, the Board fails to acknowledge, admit and place citizens, the service receivers where they truly belong. Just like NYSC when that placed a N4000 fee for online registration without consulting and educating the public properly, they had to suffer a national assembly motion demanding the halting of the online payment and had to invest in PR crisis management. JAMB should have learnt but I’m sure they have now learnt that, citizens deserve to be properly consulted and informed on policies that directly affect them.
There are only a few things worse than having other people making one’s critical life decision for one. This is the major plight of the applicants. Applicants would prefer to know that they wrote the UTME, passed it, took on the Post-UTME, passed it and didn’t get admission perhaps because they were not good enough for the school that year than having an external group of persons decide that they are not good enough without testing them at the post-UTME. It is like a violation of the human right law that everyone has a right to fair hearing, everyone has a right to compete for an admission slot in any school of their choice in the most legal way possible. So thinks the applicants.
Furthermore, while JAMB was plotting and executing its policy, it did not take account of some of the reasons why applicants choose these Ivy-League schools. Top of the reason why these schools are chosen is the relatively cheap tuition fees that these schools have. My younger sister applied to study marketing at the University of Benin. It is understood by her sponsors that she will have to pay a tuition of N12, 000 over the next three years after the usual extortion of first year students. She was relocated to Western Delta University where she has to pay a minimum of N300,000 per year. How were her sponsors supposed to adjust to the sudden shock of the towering expenses they have to put up with? What JAMB could have done is to give a level playing ground for these students to compete at the Post-UTME examinations. The universities will then be the judge to know which candidates to take.
Another reason why there are a hoard of students applying to these Ivy-League schools is the standard and quality of education that is offered. Although the quality have tapered over time, the remnant is still manageable to the average Nigeria applicant who just desires a decent education so she can become somebody. The registrar has always mentioned that Federal University Oye Ekiti has applicants below its admission quota, but no right thinking Nigerian who has eyes on quality will leave the Obafemi Awolowo University to seek admission at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti. JAMB should understand that Nigerians do not just want to go to a university for the certificate alone, we go there to acquire quality education. I could even dare to say that Prof. Dibu will not allow his child to apply to Federal University Oye Ekiti even on full scholarship with yearly stipends. A friend of mine while listening to the professor said ‘Their children are attending Ivy-leagues universities in US and UK while they encourage us to go to Ondo State University of Science and Technology where there are no labs. Another plot of the rich to enslave the masses; Tufiakwa!’
Moving on, this new policy will favour private universities who are the best beneficiaries and supporters of JAMB in this policy. Soutwestern University, Wellspring University and Kwararfa University each have applicants that are less than 10. This worrying statistics should send enough signals to the management of the schools to invest more in infrastructures, quality offering and publicity if they are assured of their quality. But, if JAMB decides to relocate candidates to these private universities on a platter of gold, the future of our country is at best miserable. This policy has the sad effect of destroying the spirit of social entrepreneurship upon which the private universities are founded. The universities will now begin to relax with the assurance that JAMB will always send candidates to them, all they have to do is to milk the victims. Covenant University, Babcock University and Afe Babalola University that had 3,114, 1,985 and 1,274 applicants respectively did not do so because government posted candidates to them on a platter of gold, their hard work, investments in infrastructure and adequate publicity ensured these results. I am assured that when this policy becomes operational, the proprietors of these private universities that are taking decades to kick-off will get loans from banks to complete their infrastructures and start off business. Besides, which bank wouldn’t want to give loan to a business that has an assured and consistent stream of customers? JAMB beware!
There is no doubt that the applicant’s relocation policy structured by JAMB will solve huge problems that bedevil our tertiary education sector; like subsidy removal, it will take money and other resources from few and distribute to many, nevertheless, the board should also understand that it needs to do a lot of policy adjustments to ensure that another well-intentioned structural fine-tuning does not end up doing more harm than good. Good intentions are never enough!
‘Demilade Isaac Osoteku