From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
A mild drama is presently playing around the 2020 admission exercise into tertiary institutions in the country. It is having adverse effects on the chances of thousands of candidates to secure admission into universities and other institutions of higher learning.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and tertiary institutions seem confused on what to do as regards the fate of over one million candidates that participated in 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) who have not gained admission.
Because of prolonged academic disruption as a result of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, first-year students could not complete their academic work, which would have enabled them move to the next level, paving the way for fresh students.
Neither JAMB nor the institutions could be blamed for the dilemma caused by COVID-19, which disrupted the academic calendar, in addition to prolonged industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
In 2020, over 1.9 million candidates registered for the UTME and a greater percentage of them sat for the examination. But just as the admission process was about to start, ASUU began industrial action which lasted for several months even after lockdown. COVID-19 also struck, leading to global lockdown for months.
Few days ago, JAMB announced April 8, 2021, for the commencement of the registration for the 2021 UTME, while the examination is scheduled to hold between June 5 and 19. The announcement triggered fears from candidates who sat for the 2020 UTME as regards admission opportunities.
Some institutions also complained about backlog with reference to 2020 admissions which has not been conducted. There were fears that they might be unable to accommodate fresh students because of existing first year students who are yet to complete their academic work.
Many of the institutions, thus, considered opting out of the 2021 admission exercise so they could focus and admit only candidates that participated in the 2020 UTME who are yet to be attended to. But JAMB vehemently rejected the decision, describing it as unfair and unjust to millions of candidates that participated in last year’s UTME.
Sources said the University of Ibadan (UI) insisted that it would not participate in 2021 UTME exercise, and JAMB is considering granting the prayers. There are concerns that other universities may follow if UI get its prayers granted.
A senior official of JAMB at a recent meeting between JAMB and tertiary institutions, said JAMB had to prevail on the institutions to consider other options such as picking candidates from the 2020 UTME and 2021 UTME and admit them together:
“What it simply means is that if 100 candidates are to be admitted in 2020 by a particular institution, 50 or 60 candidates would be picked, then the remaining number would be picked from among candidates that participated in 2021 UTME. By this, admissions would be evenly distributed, even though many that ought to secure admission wouldn’t, by no fault of theirs nor the institutions.
“Besides, many of the institutions have not conducted the post-UTME for 2020 admission exercise which is a prerequisite for admission. That would give them the opportunity to conduct the post-UTME for candidates in both set.”
JAMB spokesman, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, confirmed to The Education Report that JAMB rejected the decision of some institutions to pull out of the 2021 UTME to allow time to admit 2020 candidates who were affected by the disruption in academic calendar: “A decision on that has been reached between JAMB and institutions, and it’s expected that all parties will abide by the decision in spirit of fairness to the candidates. Nothing else has been decided on that for now.”
National President, National Parent Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Haruna Danjuma, suggested that all parties involved meet to have a better discussion on the matter with the interest of the millions of candidates at the centre of the table.
He rejected the decision of some institutions to outrightly pull out of the 2021 UTME exercise or the other option of admitting part of the candidates that participated in both exercises:
“This will be very unfair to thousands of candidates who innocently and sincerely went through the rigorous and tortuous 2020 admission process and were successful, and were unable to secure admission by no fault of theirs. Not minding the carrying capacity, JAMB and the institutions should harmonise the process and offer admission to candidates that pass the process in 2020 exercise.
“At the NAPTAN level, we would continue to observe the ongoing dilemma, and consistently ensure that the right things are done to ensure that neither the candidates nor JAMB is shortchanged.”
President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Sunday Asefon, raised serious concerns about the fate of the candidates. He asked JAMB and other institutions to consider the negative effects of whatever decision they would take on the academic destiny of the candidates:
“The implication of decision being taken by JAMB and tertiary institutions is that students who are supposed to be admitted will lose that opportunity, and many of them will lose a year or more.
“Some of them will miss the opportunity of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) because by the time they are admitted and graduated, they might have been more than 30 years and that means automatic disqualification from participating in NYSC.”