Revisiting cancellation of post-UTME
Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu has said that the system would naturally weed out students who are not qualified for the award of degrees and certificates from Nigerian higher institutions.
The minister, in trying to justify the cancellation of the post UTME examinations, and why the examinations are not necessary, said it is not only through the conduct of another entrance examination that a student who is not qualified for admission can be weeded out. He noted that since the university system has eight examinations to conduct in the course of study of any student, there is no way a student who does not meet up with the requirements can escape the system.
Speaking on behalf of the ministry, Deputy Director Press, Ben Bem Goong, said in accordance with the minister’s directive, there can only be a screening exercise which must be devoid of written examination, and at no cost to parents or students. Also, the screening must be done upon resumption into school in order to avoid a situation where candidates and parents have to travel in search of admission.
He reiterated that the screening exercise should entail only the verification of certificates of the candidate, JAMB score and any other physical examination that would assure that the candidate is not a cultist.
The minister, in an earlier statement, had described as traumatic and exploitative, a situation where secondary school leavers are subjected to too many examinations in the same year, adding that getting admission into the university does not guarantee any students the award of a degree until such a student successfully goes through a minimum of eight examinations among other requirements.
“The minister wondered why any university would not be satisfied with examining a student for eight, ten or twelve times for the award of a degree, but would rather resort to conducting entry examinations”, Goong said. He added that the universities are at liberty to expel any student who fails to meet up with the requirements of the award of any degree enrolled for.
The minister, in June 2016, had announced the cancellation of the post UTME examination which was introduced in 2004 to ensure that only high quality candidates are admitted into the tertiary institutions.
One of the arguments raised by the minister was that there has been no evidence to show that the post UTME examinations have resulted in the production of better quality students by the universities since students are still being expelled every year for low performance even though they gained admission through post UTME.
According to him, if the post UTME examinations have been so ineffective, it is unnecessary to keep subjecting students and parents to the hardship of seeking admission through the process, which includes having to travel long distances to write the examinations, having to pay for transportation, hotel accommodations and examination fees.
The minister also referred to some reported cases of abuse of female candidates seeking admission by staff of tertiary institutions, as well as reported cases of parents who die in the process of travelling to secure admission for their wards.
“As far as I am concerned, the nation has confidence in what JAMB is doing, the universities should not be holding another examinations, and if the they have any complaint against JAMB, let them bring it and then can we address it. JAMB is qualified enough to conduct tests and if they have conducted test then there should be no need to conduct another test for students to gain admission.”
He however, gave a window for non written screening which should entail “only the verification of certificates of the candidates, JAMB scores, and any other physical examination to ensure that such candidates are not cultists. After this, the candidates are qualified for matriculation. Such screening should be at no cost to the parents or students and should be done upon resumption in order to avoid unnecessary travels in search of admission”, the minister said.
The minister added that admission criteria must be based on “merit, catchment area and educationally less-developed states”.
In the first two months after the pronouncement by the minister, the decision to cancel the post UTME examination faced opposition from some stakeholders who think that the post UTME examination was introduced for certain reasons that have not been met. They believed that scrapping the examinations would bring back the old challenges of having less quality candidates admitted into the various tertiary institutions as students. It is believed that this will also have a ripple effect on the educational system as well as the quality of graduates produced.
But the argument of the minister is that the various examinations that would be conducted by the institutions in the minimum four years of study should be enough to determine the quality of students. He also gave the institutions freedom to expel any student who performs below expectation.
Narrating the genesis of the post UTME, former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola stated in a recent interview that the examinations were laudable but had been bastardised by vice chancellors of universities.
He stated that the examinations were introduced because it was discovered that candidates writing the Joint Admission and Matriculations Board (JAMB) examinations were hiring machineries to write for them so they could score high marks and gain admission. To counter such moves, the NUC, in collaboration with the ministry of education obtained the permission of the National Assembly to introduce the post UTME though they had to overcome some opposition.
“So, we agreed that the post-UME screening shall consist of three major things: one, some form of essay writing, interview to test oral English and physical appraisals. And the fourth thing we did was to say no university must charge more than N1,000. So, we fought the battle for one year and we started this post-UTME screening in 2004.”
“But when the generation of VCs that worked with me left, those who came after them bastardised the whole arrangements and they started doing the same CBT exams again as JAMB does. That was not the agreement. We told them, ‘don’t repeat the same questions JAMB was conducting’. They didn’t even care about the essay type anymore. They just wanted to collect money and do it quickly and move on. They ditched the oral English, the written English and the not-more-than N1,000 fee. They were charging as much as only God knows how much”.
“So, when that news came that they should stop, I said ‘Yes, I’m happy but that should be temporary’. It should be a temporary suspension so that when we get it right again, set new ground rules then we can move on from there”, he suggested.
Meanwhile, Professor Chinwe Obaji, the minister of education who introduced the post-UTME examinations expressed sadness that the examinations had been scraped. Speaking recently to journalists in Lagos, Professor Obaji said the initiative was a response to the loss of integrity in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) but had been rubbished.
But Professor Peter Okebukola, and others, at the event, which was organized by the Education Writers Association of Nigeria (EWAN), had reportedly insisted that it is the post-UTME that can filter the 1.5 million candidates jostling to fill the 500,000 admission spaces in the 143 universities across the country.
Though little information is available on the websites of higher institutions nationwide, on how the post UTME screening is conducted, it has generally been accepted by the institutions that no written examinations would be conducted. But online reports indicate that while the minister ordered that no fees be charged for screening, institutions are allegedly charging between N2,000 and N2,500 for candidates to be able to upload their documents on the websites.
The fees were referred to as either Admission Portal Access Fee or Admission Screening Form.