Forward rarely backward often
There is no doubting the fact that one of the major problems responsible for Nigeria’s perceived backwardness is what the pundits call policy flip-flops. Simply put, frequent changes in administrative frameworks and procedures or governmental matrix, often resulting in taking two steps forwards and 10 others backward. The nation is thereby portrayed as a rolling stone that gathers no moss. The moment a new government is installed, one can be so certain that there will be an absolute or partial discontinuity with some policies, many of which may have hitherto yielded positive results.
Much as one will like to admire creativity and innovativeness on the part of our governors, appointed ministers and heads of parastatals, the damage that some of them do cause, often in a misguided attempt to initiate new policies, is unimaginable. With incessant policy summersault, we are almost like the clowns in a circus show.
In consonance with the social metaphor in which “new lords bring about new laws,” some of these newly appointed players unwittingly draw the nation back by the manner with which they arrogantly cancel time-tested policies and introduce fresh ones. They abandon on-going projects, initiated by their predecessors and originate new ones which they may not even be able to complete before the expiration of their tenure. But how can a nation develop with this kind of attitude?
Obviously, this is the kind of scenario that is playing out in the education sector where the Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu, last year announced the cancellation of Post-Unified Matriculation Examination (UTME) test, conducted by all tertiary institutions of learning, as a quality-assurance mechanism. Mallam Adamu argued that the universities were using the Post-UTME test to extort money from candidates and also subjecting the candidates to multiple examinations.
Consequently, the minister directed that the combination of school certificate examination results and the performance at the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) -conducted examination should be used as requisites for admission. The minister’s position generated heated debate, thereby polarising education stakeholders, with the majority insisting that Post-UTME test should be maintained. Eventually, the Minister had his way. The 2016 admission exercise was carried out without the ritual of Post- UTME test, but not without its overwhelming hiccups!
However, the perceived demerits of the new admission policy precipitate this write up with a view to subtly and humbly urging the Minister and his supporters to have a second look. Perhaps, a little background to the introduction of Post-UTME test is relevant here. The idea of Post UTME test was mooted in 2003/2004 academic session in the University of Ibadan, (UI) during the senate’s consideration of both final year and non-final year students. The credit goes to retired Prof. Afolabi Bangboye who noticed that some of the students who were asked to withdraw from the university on account of poor performance, gained admission with high scores from JAMB.
Prof. Bamgboye, an erstwhile Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) who called the attention of the university’s senate to his curious observation later questioned the credibility of JAMB -conducted examination results, wondering why a candidate who scored 300 marks at JAMB could not defend his purported academic wizardry in the university even right from the first year! There and then, a decision was taken that quality-assurance mechanism be put in place, hence, the beginning of Post-UTME test as an additional huddle before gaining admission.
Interestingly, the Post-UTME test had run for almost 13 years before the current Minister reversed the modus operandi. However, the new method which was used last year, which may still be used this year, apparently places much premium on good performances at both school certificate examination level and the JAMB. For instance, the system says five “A1” at West African Examination Council (WAEC) result amount to 40 per cent. Again any candidate, according to the new system, who scores 230 and above at JAMB gets 60 per cent. The addition of the two performances determines the candidate’s admission status!
Clearly, the emphasis is on “A1” irrespective of how you got it at WAEC and a superlative score from JAMB. With good money, can that be too difficult to obtain using Nigerian factor? Bad enough, the new admission policy has just created a big business for the operators of “Miracle Centres” as desperate candidates will now find solace in patronizing “miracle centres” where mercenaries will be employed to get “A1” in five subjects. Given the past experiences, it is possible to manipulate one’s way both at WAEC and JAMB and then secure admission fraudulently at the expense of hard working and brilliant candidates! Sadly, we are back to where we were before the advent of post UTME test.
Asked to assess last year’s admission exercise with the new policy, the Ul Admissions Officer, Mrs Morenike Afolabi said: ‘‘We had a tough time coping with a large number of candidates. Some candidates fraudulently filled in high grades for themselves to gain undue advantage. But we got them later. We know that come next admission exercise, people will come with nine “A1” but water will always find its level with time. Even if they gain admission fraudulently, by the time they get to 200 level, they will be asked to withdraw if they can’t cope. But they would have wasted spaces meant for genuine students”.
Afolabi further stated: “It is the post-UTME test that really determines the capability of students, but since this is the policy of the government, we are helpless. Government is the proprietor of the school, however, they want it, is what we will do. Once they see the shortcomings of this present policy glaringly, I am sure they will modify it.”
As a nation, we cannot be regularly operating on the shifting grounds of expediency and except to be taken seriously. By cancelling Post- UTME test and replacing it with this current system that is seeking “A1” by all means, we seem to have fallen from the sublime to the ridiculous. We neither can run with peak velocity nor complete internationally with this kind of flip-flops. Post-UTME test cancellation is nothing but pure damp squib. No meaningful development can ever be achieved when the national polices on education are constantly tailored towards wild and unsetting oscillations.
It is never too late for the government to listen to this whisper before it turns to screaming. This current admission policy is unprogressive and mediocre.
The current admission policy is inherently fraud-susceptible. It is an adventure into the unknown. As a matter of fact, it is a darkness that must be dispelled. Only a return to the post UTME test can restore sanity, transparency and honesty and justice as well as level-playing ground to our admission policy. Post UTME test is not a burden, rather, it is a quality-assurance mechanism separating chaffs from the substance. It confirms the intellectual originality of the candidates. In UI, it has led to the production of more first-class graduates and reduction in the rate at which students withdraw from the University as a result of poor academic performance.
Saanu is with Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan.