As a result of this the Committee of Pro Chancellors under my chairmanship met to deliberate on the possibility of scrapping JAMB. At the end of intense debates which as a matter of fact was witnessed by top management of JAMB, the Committee of Pro Chancellors recommended the scrapping of JAMB to the Presidency. However following intense pressure, the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR, decided to adopt a middle course by which JAMB would continue to act as the central examining body but which would also permit the Universities to conduct screening exercises to determine which students were qualified to be offered admissions. Thus was born what is now known as the Post-UTME screening exercises.
Last week I began a discussion of the latest controversy generated by the role of JAMB in the admission process into Nigerian Universities. I highlighted how its policy to let Universities make the ultimate decision as to which students would be eligible to sit for their post UTME screening exercises drew the ire of many candidates and their parents leading to the intervention of the Federal Government. To allow for a proper appraisal of the issues as stake, taking into consideration the link between a strong and fair admission policy and access to education, I started with an examination of how in the past each University was allowed to conduct entrance examinations for prospective students. However this system, with the increase in population and universities soon developed its own problems such as tardiness and waste of resources as some students were thus compelled by circumstances to sit for examinations into two or more Universities. These and other issues brought about the birth of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
For a long time after its inception, the JAMB conducted on a yearly basis, separate matriculation examinations into Nigerian Universities.
For a long time JAMB was able to discharge its functions with some level of credibility. To a large extent, the students who were admitted to the Universities through JAMB seemed to justify the creation JAMB in the first place. However with the passage of time and the advent of other factors such as National population increase, things took a turn for the worse. Factors such as corruption began to have an effect on the quality of students admitted to the Universities through JAMB. No longer could the Universities be assured of the fact that they were admitting the best qualified students. In many instances examinations papers were openly compromised and sold to students even within the premises of the examination venue. Some examination centers called SPECIAL CENTRES were openly but unofficially designated as guaranteeing automatic and assured success to candidates who could pay to be allocated to the said centers.
As a result students who had scored very high marks in the examination conducted by the JAMB were in most cases unable to cope academically after admission by Universities of their choices.
Effect of drop in standards
The above stated scenario was bound to have and indeed had an effect on the educational fortunes of the country. Graduates of Nigerian Universities who hitherto were able to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world for placement in Post Graduate Programs of some notable foreign Universities became totally disadvantaged for no other reason but the fact that they possessed degrees of Nigerian Universities.
The same thing applied to graduates who suddenly discovered that possession of a Nigerian awarded degree was an immediate factor for disqualification for not only foreign job openings but also some local but highly competitive positions. To make matters worse Nigerian Universities lost their appeal so much so that no Nigerian University was ranked amongst the first 1000 in Africa. Whilst this poor ranking is often attributable to the poor funding by Government of the Universities, the role played by the poor state of the graduates of the Universities cannot be downplayed. A University, much like a commercial company is after all only as good as its product or services.
THE BIRTH OF POST-UTME
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 scrapping of JAMB as the central examining body for applicants into the Nation’s tertiary institutions and the need to allow Universities play a wider role in determining the suitability and or qualification of candidates applying to them. 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. On the 15th of December 2003 I renewed my call for a review of the entire system. 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 integrity of JAMB is so much in question now in addition to the integrity of its published results such that in my speech at the 2002 convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos there was noticeable spontaneous applause from all sections of the congregated audience, including His Excellency the President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR when I stated our intention in the University of Lagos to introduce ‘weeding’ tests for those students admitted into our university from this year…
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”.
As a result of this the Committee of Pro Chancellors under my chairmanship met to deliberate on the possibility of scrapping JAMB. At the end of intense debates which as a matter of fact was witnessed by top management of JAMB, the Committee of Pro Chancellors recommended the scrapping of JAMB to the Presidency. However following intense pressure, the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR, decided to adopt a middle course by which JAMB would continue to act as the central examining body but which would also permit the Universities to conduct tests to determine just which students were qualified to be offered admissions. Thus was born what is now known as the Post-UTME Tests. The introduction of the tests, as I will discuss next week had immediate positive effects on the quality of students offered admission into the various institutions of higher learning and the entire admission process.
To be continued
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, FNIALS, FCI.Arb