By Are Afe Babalola
“Unscrupulous parents and guardians of candidates and even candidates themselves act in collusion with elements in JAMB to forge and falsify results of JAMB examinations. The good candidates who score averagely and who would have been able to sustain any rigorous academic activity are thus edged out by this evil contrivance.” LAST week I began an examination of the reasons for the drop in the standard for admission into Nigerian Universities with a focus on the role played by the Joint Admissions Regulation Board and how overtime, Universities began to notice a general deficiency in candidates admitted through the examinations conducted by the body.
As I will later discuss, several factors, some of which were directly traceable to JAMB itself, were responsible for this development. However it cannot be denied that certain other factors also contributed to the decline in the quality of students admitted into the Universities.
Decline in quality secondary education and scrapping of HSC In the 40s, 50s and 60s the scope of education received at the elementary level was such that by the time pupils finished standard six, their knowledge of geography, History, English, Civics, nature studies and the likes was so wide that they could build on it privately to study for, sit and pass the Cambridge School Certificate or GCE Ordinary level of London University.
Alas! Today, this trend is terribly reversed. We now have several secondary school graduates who can hardly make any cognisable sense in the English language or identify the north or south pole direction. Furthermore, up to the close of the decade in 1981, the Higher School Certificate, HSC, was a mode of direct admission into the universities. The HSC was the certificate that a student obtained after a two-year post secondary school education. It was a study that tested the student’s ability to read extensively and painstakingly. jambed: Students from different parts of Lagos State, on the platform of Association of Tutorial Colleges of Nigeria, protesting the results of Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB’s Computer-Based Test, CBT, at Lagos State House of Assembly, yesterday. Photo: Bunmi Azeez. Most holders of the HSC are educationally sound and mature. That level was a bridge, a very strong bridge, between secondary school and the university. The magic was that the rigorous nature of the HSC prepared its holders for university scholarship. Up till today that is the practice in the U.K. Regrettably in the 1990’s, the HSC was abolished for a reason nobody has been able to satisfactorily give up till today thereby robbing all of us the discipline, industry and maturity which that level of education instills in students and which in turn improved the standard of those admitted to the universities. Quota system: Quota system became pronounced in our polity during the military era that followed the collapse of the Second Republic. By this system, it became government policy to share offices, positions and privileges not on merit, but with due consideration given to equal representation of all sections of the country. What this meant was that for the sake of geographical spread, a position could go to a member of an ethnic group not because he was best suited for the job/position but because his ethnic group had to be represented. This system was applied to our educational institutions. By it, candidates who were less qualified than others were nonetheless offered admission into the universities to fill the quota of their ethnic regions. This resulted in a deliberate lowering of the standard as brilliant candidates were shut out of the university for their less qualified colleagues from more favoured sections of the country. Half-baked graduates It is no wonder therefore that these students admitted on considerations other than merit eventually turned out incapable of coping with academic rigours of the university and left university as half-baked graduates. The genesis of the Post-UTME testing and government’s unfortunate decision to scrap it. It was with this state of affairs in mind as the Pro-Chancellor of University of Lagos and the Chairman of Committee of Pro-Chancellor that I began the advocacy for the introduction of some form of further screening, after the conduct of the UTME examination for applicants into the Nation’s tertiary institutions. I gave the first public hint of the introduction of such a system during the 2002 Convocation of the University of Lagos of which I was at the time, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council. My remarks regarding the planned introduction of the Post-JAMB screening received wide applause from all present. On the 15th of December 2003, I renewed my call for the introduction of the said test. This was on the occasion of the presentation of an award by the National Universities Commission to the Governing Council of the University of Lagos as the best in the Country. At the said occasion I stated as follows: “The situation is now such that unscrupulous parents and guardians of candidates and even candidates themselves act in collusion with elements in JAMB to forge and falsify results of JAMB examinations. The good candidates who score averagely and who would have been able to sustain any rigorous academic activity are thus edged out by this evil contrivance…. In the days before JAMB was established when each university was in control of its own admission and matriculation process, our degrees, diplomas, certificates and qualifications suffered no credibility locally and abroad. Nobody questioned our degrees outside the borders of Nigeria. Regrettably, the flaws in JAMB process which was not in existence in its early years of existence is now a big factor to this inimical and sorry state of our degrees in Nigeria which each University must reverse and halt. The university authority in UNILAG is bent on improving the quality of admission and afortiori the quality of its degrees. .. In pursuance of our goal of restoring the old glory of our qualifications, diplomas and certificates the University of Lagos will guard jealously and ensure that those fraudulent students who are admitted through false JAMB results and whose intellect are not reasonably justifiable or sustainable in any credible academic environment will be “weeded”. THE FINAL DECISION OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO CONTINUE TO USE JAMB AS BENCHMARK WHILE THE UNIVERSITIES WERE TO COMMENCE POST-UTME SCREENING EXERCISE. Consequent upon this address, the body of Vice-Chancellors and Committee of Pro-Chancellor of Nigerian Universities met several times on the matter. After careful examination of the issues involved, the Federal Government resolved that there was no need to scrap JAMB. Minimum benchmark It stated however that JAMB should continue to conduct its matriculation examinations to provide minimum benchmark for suitability for university education, the universities should intensify their own statutory roles by conducting elaborate screening of the successful JAMB candidates to determine among them those who are prepared for effective and quality university education. The salutary effect of the screening exercise carried out by universities on the students turned over by JAMB to the universities The Post-UTME screenings had a profound effect. It greatly increased the quality of students admitted in the Universities. At the inception, some students who scored very high marks in the examination conducted by the Board failed to justify such high ratings in the Post-UTME screening. The screening afforded the universities the opportunity to identify the following: 1.Students who had been rusticated from other universities, Those who forged their entrance results, Those who had been involved in criminal activities such as cultism, rape, stealing, armed robbery, ritual killings, drug and alcohol addictions, kidnapping and other illegal activities. Those who did not have the requisite competence to study the courses they applied for. Those who were not interested in their courses of choice but were forced by their parents to make those particular choices. These were not matters which JAMB could identify. To be continued.