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Before Post-UTME Test Is Buried

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Before Post-UTME Test Is Buried
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, recently stirred the hornet’s nest when he announced the cancellation of the Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination test in all the universities, saying the only legally recognised body to conduct university admission examination was the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. The minister also cited the way some universities had turned the Post-UTME test to a money-making venture as part of the reasons for his position.
Adamu’s directive which was initially seen as a mere kite flying,  for it carried the element of déjà vu, was later reinforced with a threat by him, saying he would deal with any university which flouted the order. Since then, the issue of the Post-UTME test has become a subject of heated debate, thus polarizing stakeholders into either supporters or opponents. As a worker in the industry, this writer feels it is not quite right to be quiet in this contentious matter, hence this write-up.  Let me humbly disagree with the minister, without disrespecting his personality, that the Post-UTME test constitutes additional burden to candidates and drains the parents financially, thereby necessitating the need to scrap it. I respectfully disagree.
There are far too insignificant demerits of the post UTME test, compared to the valuable academic improvements the exercise has brought to bear on the system. I have confidence of my truth that, the post-UTME test has transparently reconstructed admission template to the extent that the children of the poor who passed the quality-control test needed no assistance from anybody before being admitted.
For instance in the University of Ibadan, once a candidate’s score was up to the cut-off mark of their department of choice, such a candidate got admitted automatically. Such a successful candidate required no note from any quarter before being admitted. This is the reason no one has ever complained about admission fraud in the last 10 years. No candidate has ever alleged that he was shortchanged because the process was, and still is, very transparent. Every candidate was made to understand all the stages leading to the final step of admission.
More importantly, since 2003 when the post-UTME test was introduced in UI, the rate at which matriculated students were being withdrawn from the university as a result of poor academic performance after the first year, has gone down drastically. Conversely, the university has turned out more first class graduates than before the advent of post-UTME test. This was because those who were admitted were the best as they went through a meticulous and tough process. Again, when last has anyone heard of cultism on the university campus? Almost all the students who came in through the post-UTME had no time for frivolities and cultism. They were and still are serious minded scholars because they were rigorously screened before being admitted.
Now, the minister, with due respect, has triggered trouble in the system by insisting that the quality assurance mechanism that has brought sanity into our academic matrix must die. However, if the minister insists that this rigorous, quality-control measure should be buried, let it be on record that he has deliberately placed higher education in the country on a gymnastic manoeuvring. The minister has brought again the dreaded monster called policy somersault. Nigeria today wallows in the straits of horrendous backwardness as a result of consistent policy somersaults. We have become so much inured to policy inconsistency that we don’t even know what to retain and what to discard!
In more ways than we will like to admit, this attempt to cancel the post-UTME test is deleterious to our educational development. Without sarcastic hyperbole, the scrapping ministers nothing but strife, and achieves nothing but distraction. The cancellation seems to be motivated by some subterranean interests. We must therefore not yield to this visceral policy!
If the cancellation was not meant to achieve an ulterior motive, why is the minister insisting that the universities should not have a say in the quality of the candidates they are going to train? As Luke Onyekayeyah noted in his column in The Guardian, “There is no country in the world where all universities have the same standard. Otherwise, we would not have the Ivy-League institutions that are world acclaimed. Setting the same cut-off mark for University of Lagos for instance and the newly established private polytechnic in one village is senseless.”
Indeed, this current attempt to bury the post-UTME test is a major infraction on the universities’ autonomy. This is where the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities should take up the gauntlet. The exercise resents integrity check in our academic process. And, no serious nation plays game with the demand of integrity. Certainly, the plan to cancel the post-UTME test is an attempt to substitute placebo for an effective therapy. It is like taking a deadly plunge for the worst.
A few guesses may be useful here, once the only requirement to gain admission is to pass the UTME by scoring 180, then, lists from influential people and groups would begin to fly from Abuja to all the federal universities that these candidates must be admitted to study any course of their choice or other prestigious courses.  The children of the poor who have nobody in Abuja are excluded from the game because they are not connected.
The minister created an impression that he was protecting JAMB which was legally set up to distribute candidates to various universities. Again, with due respect, I beg to disagree! JAMB was created in 1978 when Nigeria had only 13 federal universities. The vision was to ensure that no candidate secured more than one admission slot. But today, there are 40 federal universities, 41 state universities and 61 private universities totalling 142. Technically, JAMB has outlived its usefulness and relevance.
By the way, is it not the same JAMB which caused national uproar last year when it started distributing candidates to private universities the candidates never applied to? JAMB has lost its verve, relevance and seriousness over the years. The Board has probably been assailed by the pervasive social putrefaction so much so that its examination results lack credibility.
The post-UTME test funeral should be delayed for some introspection to take place. It is obvious that the scrapping is redolent of politicisation of the nation’s educational policy to favour a particular section of the country. In the light of loftier arguments, the minister is expected to have a second thought. Chief Afe Babalola, who has been in the industry for years as a one -time Pro Chancellor of University of Lagos and a proprietor of a private university, knows what he is saying when he describes the scrapping as a regrettable mistake.
A former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof Tolu Odugbemi, held a similar opinion. He said the decision to scrap the post-UTME test without proper research was ill-conceived and utterly worrisome. He maintained that universities should have the right to admit suitable students based on relevant and objective criteria.
Is there data or published research studies available either for or against dumping ‘post- UTME’ in our universities to back such (an) important policy? Have the problems which led universities to introduce the post-UTME test been addressed? Government policies are based on facts and research data”, he said.
Odugbemi, who was also the former Vice Chancellor, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, canvassed autonomy for Nigerian higher institutions, especially on academic and research issues if they were to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He explained that government ministries carry too much load that unnecessarily court hostile views from various segments of the society.
What more does one add to these formidable voices? A word, they say, is enough for the wise. And as  George Bernard Shaw says, progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.


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