There has been calls from different quarters on the need for a probe on the Joint Admission Matriculation Board due to its recent policy of reassigning candidates of universities with ‘surplus applicants’ to other ‘needy universities’ with lower number of candidates.
The controversial admission policy has spurred protests across the nation with the National Association of Nigerian students, NANS recently passing a vote of no confidence on the JAMB Registrar, due to the policy.
Speaking on behalf of the organisation, the General Secretary, NANS South West, Obanobi Bidemi called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to institute a probe into the accounts of the admission board and its top echelon.
“The probe should include the Registrar, as JAMB must have been bribed by the proprietors of private tertiary institutions to tilt the balance of the admission exercise in their favour. This entire scenario can be likened to the scandal that rocked the world football governing body, FIFA,” he said.
NANS said it kicked against the new policy, alleging fraud and labelling what JAMB calls the eligibility regulation “lame and nonsensical,” adding that over 40 million Nigerian students at home and in Diaspora want the JAMB registrar to define the word ‘choice of institution.’
“We saw this trend coming from last year when the board reduced the options of institution of choice from six to three, claiming it is to save students from the fraudulent activities of tertiary institutions in the process of admitting students.’’
NANS vowed to mobilise over five million students across the six states of the Southwest to the JAMB’s office, if the policy is not reversed immediately.
Students, who are seeking admission into higher institutions of learning, have already taken their protests to the University of Lagos on Wednesday to oppose the new policy and the social media was also a medium they explored.
Not too surprising
Controversies and policy somersault is not new with the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which means that the unpopular proclamation of JAMB issued at the Combined Policy Meeting held on July 14, 2015 in Abuja is not too surprising.
JAMB has however argued that the policy portends two benefits. First, it maintains that the policy would be beneficial to“needy universities.” The definition of needy universities, according to JAMB is that universities with lower number of candidates (that choose them) ‘than their capacities’ will have enough to admit.
Second, such candidate will have better prospect of admission in the universities they are re-assigned to. It was said that rather than forfeiting such admission, it will prevent situations where candidates wait endlessly for scarce admission that may eventually not come from their universities of first choice.
JAMB submitted that the policy would be implemented immediately and would take its toll even on candidates who had taken the UTME some months back!
But as logical and reassuring as these arguments are, what the policy or the policy makers failed to admit is that the decision was being taken when post-UTME registrations in different universities are almost concluding and those candidates whose JAMB claimed to be protecting are not aware of theuniversities their names were being forwarded to. Aside from the trauma of losing their respective schools of choice, it is quite disquieting that candidates are being redeployed without their consent or being given opportunity to choose from many available ‘needy universities’, private or public.
Imagine your ward or younger one just getting to the registration site of a university for post-UTME registration only to find this: “only candidates whose details have been forwarded to the University by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and published on the link provided below are eligible for the screening.” The distressing situation can only be disappointing.
The question that readily comes to mind is that: since no one really knows the yardstick used by JAMB in holding back candidates’ names which will eventually be forwarded, to the ‘needy universities’ should parents enthusiastically accept this policy In good faith?
Hence, in a situation where a candidate with a score of 203 is considered eligible for a course in a University and another with 250 is declared ineligible for the same course in the same institution; then, the ‘criteria’ probably known only to the CEO of JAMB becomes questionable.
Another disturbing fact is that, by JAMB’s definition, most private universities naturally fall into the category of ‘needy universities’. Consequently, only few candidates from the super rich families voluntarily choose them because of their outrageous fees. So, if JAMB plucks out candidates and dumps them in private universities, what then happens to those whose parents cannot afford it? Of course, such candidates will end up losing the much desired admission. Thus, the policy becomes counter-productive since it invariably fails to achieve its very objective.
Changing the goal post
A candidate actually lamented thus “Imagine a candidate that has prepared so much for Unilag exams (Post-UTME); some of us chose Unilag because we couldn’t afford expensive state and private schools. Candidates are now left in limbo because of the annoying policy of some self-centered people, making one stupid policy at the eleventh hour.”
Another crucial item that is being taken away is the freedom of choice. Why can’t candidates or their parents decide where they want to study? More so, if policies like this must exist, it should have been made known at the point of registration for JAMB!
“Why changing the goal post in the middle of the game? Do we need to alter the rule of the game midway without consulting the major players and the other interested parties? No way …not after candidates had filled their choices of institutions, studied well, passed brilliantly and mentally prepared for the Post UTME in their choices of institution,” a candidate maintained.
A friend on Change Monitor platform puts it this way, “JAMB must realise that some of the institutions where the candidates are being referred to include private universities where the school fee for a session is sufficient to purchase a plot of land in Ikorodu town! Before a candidate filled the JAMB form, the parents and the candidates must have considered many factors… To worsen the situation; no parent knows where their wards are been reassigned.”
A candidate also lamented, “What is this country turning into? Is it by force to attend some mushroom universities? I prefer to wait till next year than go to a so called ‘needy university’. Let them ensure that all institutions are given a level playing field in the labour market before they embark on such policy.’’
One of the affected candidate’s parents that spoke with the Lagos Zonal head of JAMB was surprised when he confirmed the plan or what seems like a conspiracy. Another parent wondered why JAMB refused to learn from LASU’s experience. When LASU’s school fees were arbitrarily jacked up to around 250 thousands naira, many candidates shunned the school and LASU suddenly became a ‘needy university’ overnight.
Immediately, the policy was reversed LASU exited the ‘needy university’ category. So, why not encourage the so called ‘needy university’ to look inward and make the university a choice school for candidates.
Will the EFCC heeds the call of NANS and beam its searchlight on the admission racket as alleged by the students’ body, particularly under the ‘change’ dispensation of President Muhammadu Buhari? This may just be the start of the beginning of a celebrated corruption case in the education sector.
Balogun is a policy analyst and social commentator