•Again, another FG policy summersault
It’s cash-cow for VCs, Rectors, Provosts, allege parents, candidates
By Gabriel Dike, Glory Eze and Faith Eze
It is no longer news that the Federal Government through the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu at two different fora last week lifted the ban on the conduct of Post-UTME by the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
Mrs. Chinwe Obaji, then education minister introduced the test in 2005 when higher institutions queried the high scores obtained by some candidates which did not correspond with their performance in class after they were admitted. But the federal government in 2016, under Malam Adamu banned the Post-UTME only to reintroduce it again last week.
At the 2016 Combined Policy meeting on admissions into universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, Adamu while announcing the ban said: ‘’As far as I am concerned, the nation has confidence in what the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is doing. The universities should not be holding another examination and if the institutions have any complaint against JAMB, let them bring it and then we can address it.’’
On Wednesday, August 16, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the education minister told State House Correspondents that the federal government has approved post screening of candidates for admissions into tertiary institutions.
Less than a week, at the 2017 Combined Policy meeting on admissions, Malam Adamu announced that government have lifted the ban on the controversial Post-UMTE contrary to screening he told State House Correspondents.
According to him, the ban of Post-UTME in 2016 was a mistake and urged the institutions to conduct aptitude test for candidates seeking admissions in higher institutions in the 2017/2018 academic session and charge N2, 000.
His words: I must restate this administration’s zero tolerance for corruption and zero tolerance for exploitation. It was in line with this and with the best intention that I announced the cancellation of the conduct of Post-UTME last year.‘’
Few days after the federal government took the decision, commendations and criticisms have trailed the announcement. The reactions poured in torrents as some stakeholders welcome the news, while others kicked against it, stating it is an avenue for the institutions to milk the candidates and their parents.
Many parents, candidates and stakeholders see the Post UTME test by the tertiary institutions as an avenue to make money. They expressed concern that the institutions will not abide by the N2,000 cost pegged by government just as they asked what the various managers of the institutions did with exorbitant Post UTME test fund collected from candidates in previous years.
The proprietor of Royal Academy, Ibadan, Chief Laide Oluwaseun, described the reintroduction of the Post-UTME as policy summersault by the same administration which in 2016 banned the test because it was fraudulently being implemented only to return it without better explanation.
He added: ‘’I can remember vividly around November 2016 when this same minister told Nigerians that the federal government has proscribed the conduct of Post-UTME by the higher institutions. This new government decision is not backed by any empirical evidence that those admitted without the test didn’t do well. I will not be surprised if next year the same government comes up with any policy on admission.
‘’Many of the candidates prepared their mind for screening as was done in 2016 using their WAEC and UTME performance. This is new policy will certainly unsettle many of them who have zeroed their mind for screening. Government should know that policy inconsistency does not help the education sector. Many state universities will take advantage to charge more than N2,000 and even some federal universities. What did the VCs, rectors and provosts do with previous Post-UTME income? Government should ask them to account for the money realized from the conduct of previous Post-UTME.
On the cut off mark, the educationist noted that the federal government has raised the hopes of thousands of candidates who scored 120 for admission into the universities and 100 for polytechnics and colleges stating categorically that no universities would admit such applicants. He also opposed the demand for candidates to pay additional money, stressing “I know this is an opportunity for the institutions to exploit candidates and their parents. Like previous years, they will charge more than what was approved.”
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) in a statement signed by the National Coordinator, Hassan Taiwo, described the decision of the Ministry of Education to reintroduce Post-UTME, after cancelling it last year, as a matter for concern.
ERC said the education minister told the nation that he ordered the suspension of Post-UTME last year because it has become an avenue for exploiting students. Noting ‘’by our own findings, this is still the situation of things. Despite its vaunted objective, the truth that must not be glossed over is that Post-UTME has become a means by university administrators to raise their IGR.
‘’While we do agree that individual universities have the right to decide what standards to use for admission of students, we however think that there must be a balance between this objective and the other no less important objective of ensuring that admission seekers are not encumbered by unnecessary and multiple examinations which not only raises the cost of admission on the part of parents and admission seekers but also act to diminish their chances.
“So therefore if Post-UTME is reinstated, then what is the need for JAMB? Or put in another way, if JAMB is maintained, why Post-UTME? Our own position is that whilst in support of efforts to ensure a merit-based admission process, the admission process must not be unjustly stacked against candidates. We stand to be corrected that before now, no admission seeker was required to write two or three different examinations before gaining admission. But in the current situation, prospective admission seekers are required to write WASSCE, UTME and then Post-UTME.
“So for us, simply reinstating Post-UTME will not resolve the crisis of the admission process. Rather it will only amount to scratching the surface of the problem and that unfortunately is what the minister of education has chosen to do,’’ ERC noted.
The President of Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO), Mr. Oludotun Sodunke, said ‘’I am neutral. I will rather prefer candidates use only their JAMB result. Post UTME came as a result of JAMB losing its credibility. Question papers leaked and mercenaries had field day. The new Registrar Prof Is-haq Oloyede is doing a good job. And the exam body has regained its credibility. Even most school cannot conduct a standard entrance exam. I prefer the Post UTME to WASSCE grading. The fraud in that is more than what one could imagine. The point system prevented a lot of good students and allowed mediocrity. Today universities are crying over the kind of products admitted last year.”
Speaking further on the cost implication, he said the decision is good one, but feared that universities will charge more ‘’but I will personally fight them. For example Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye charged N7,000 for Post UTME. I advise them to refund the extra immediately.
‘’The kind of corruption going on in education sector is massive. If we can get people like the JAMB Registrar, our education sector will improve. What most schools will do is to charge N2,000 for the examination and attach other cost like processing and past questions to make it N7,000 and above. I think the minister of education made a mistake there, although he has apologized. I expect them to do the needful in order to legalize Post UTME.
Stating his view on the 120 cut off mark, Sodunke again said the decision was another mistake that would kill the sick education system, asking “you mean some universities will admit those that scored about 30%? What kind of graduate will such schools produce? What is wrong with our policymakers? I suspect the essence of this cut off is to favour private universities. It’s shameful that we found ourselves here. Once you score 120 and you have money to pay you can put in for any course in those struggling private universities.
“The policy is created for private universities. Instead of setting cut off mark at 120, they would have used 160 marks which is equivalent to 40%, which is not even up to 50%. In fact, some students that scored 180 and above may be denied while those with lower marks will sail through. I think the policy is to assist the private universities. It is a disgrace to our nation.”
For some parents like Mrs. Angela Nmadugba, pegging the cut off mark at 120 came as a surprise and that several candidates would benefit from the lowered benchmark arguing ‘’at least candidates who did not beat the cut off mark for either federal or state universities will have opportunity to secure admission into other schools.
She explained that before now, candidates who could not secure admission because of high cut off mark get frustrated and the girls among them go into marriage while the boys will venture into illegal business but ‘’with this opportunity there is a good chance of many of them gaining admission. She further disclosed that her son scored 215 and applied to Lagos State University (LASU), and during the screening, he was sent back because the screening was for the indigenes only and that another would hold for other categories of applicants, non-natives.
“Last year he wrote UTME and applied to LASU with 220 marks for Mass Communication, he was not offered admission but his best friend who is an indigene of Lagos got admission with 192 points into the same Mass Communication Department. With this opportunity, admission will not be politicized. Government has fixed the cost for Post UTME at N2, 000 but I know that many higher institution will later hike the cost.’’
A journalist in Lagos observed that the cut off mark is low considering the fact that “we trying to improve on the educational standard. The standard of education has fallen. Last year, the cut off mark was 180 and many people protested. In my days, Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, hadn’t a place for candidates that scored even 280 or 270 points because competition was tough.
“With the cut off mark at 120 and the universities throwing open their doors for that, considering the N2,000 fee, it means that a lot of candidates will rush into the campus expecting to secure admission. At the end of the day, how many candidates will the university offer admission? It is a ploy by these universities to make money from the candidate and it is not a good policy and has to be revisited.”
He expressed delight that government re-introduced the controversial Post UTME noting ‘’I am happy that they have brought back the UTME test but the cut off mark is very low.”
Joyce Nnenna, disclosed that the government is confused about how to improve the education sector and asked ‘’how can they (government officials) care for the masses when their children are studying abroad. Last year, UTME test was banned and cut off mark was pegged at 180. Today, the story is different. Imagine someone scoring 280 in UTME and then fail the Post UTME test, it means the person will have to retake UTME.
‘’My candid advice to the government is to know what they are doing and should put themselves in the shoes of these students. The cut off mark isn’t my problem, but the Post UTME test. They should do something about it immediately. For the N2,000 fees I am ready to pay higher if they demand for it but if only the Post UTME test will be scrapped, ‘she stated.
Another youngster, Nwachukwu Iheanacho, said he hoped it is a step in the right direction noting that even some candidates go out of their way to scale through..
In a chat with Sunday Odoh, a student of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, he recalled that Post UTME test was cancelled by the same government last year pointing out that ‘’since the children of rich politicians’ failed UTME, the federal government brought post UTME back so as to favour them in the selection.
According to him, universities that are poorly funded by government will conduct post UTME for the purpose of raising internal revenue. He wondered why the universities are protesting JAMB pegging the cut off mark at 120, ‘’almost all the universities are against it but they were at the Abuja meeting when the decision was taken. I think the cut off mark for universities should be pegged at 200 while post UTME remains, ’’ he noted.
An activist, Mr. Clement Okoro, said managers of tertiary institutions lobbied for the Post UTME because it is their cash-cow, because candidates will pay more than the N2,000, pointing out that they will add administrative and processing charges.
‘’Since the introduction of Post UTME, how many VCs, rectors and provosts have given account of what was collected from the candidates every year. The federal government needs to look into this. They see the test as money making venture to milk candidates and their parents. I am 100 per cent sure that none of the institutions will collect the N2,000, they will ask for more.”
Already, some institutions including federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education are demanding between N5,000 to N7,000 for the Post UTME and the minister of education has remained silent over the exploitation of candidates.
With the cut off mark pegged at 120, many candidates and their parents are jubilating, but JAMB warned them not to expect automatic admission based on the lowered cut off mark.
Apparently in reactions to jubilations by candidates that obtained 120 in the UTME and the decision of the 2017 combined admission committee meeting in Abuja which fixed the new pass mark, the board advised them not to be excited because admission would be on merit.
JAMB in its twitter handle states: ‘’The 120 cut off mark doesn’t mean an automatic ticket for admission. Institutions will still admit using established criteria of merit and others. Candidates with higher marks will be considered first.’’