I have yet to come to terms with the recent startling revelation made by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) that it was not in charge of admissions into higher institutions in Nigeria.
I had decided to stay away from the JAMB politics of crashing admission cut-off marks because I saw the action as total madness and did not want to join issues with those whose mental stability I still question to date. Even at that, they refused to let the sleeping dog lie. They forced me out of my hiding place with a most dishonourable and indicting piece of information. So, I had to react to avoid being accused of complicity in the ongoing cut-off saga. Specifically, the statement sent cold shivers down my spine.
JAMB had slashed cut-off marks to an all-time low of 120 for universities and 110 for Innovative and Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) respectively, and 100 for polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education.
Aware that it had shot itself on the leg following a barrage of criticisms from education stakeholders, JAMB began an image laundering exercise by offering more information surrounding the controversial slashing of cut-off marks.
Recently, the Head of Public Affairs, JAMB, Fabian Benjamin said that its new cut-off mark policy would put an end to back-door admission and other unwholesome practices associated with gaining admission into higher institutions of learning.
JAMB had earlier said that it consulted widely on the issue and that all the major education stakeholders were part of the decision.
Interestingly, my brother journalist, Reuben Abati also came out boldly to defend the actions of JAMB and I wonder if he had been engaged as the public relations officer of the Board.
‘‘I argue that there is need for a better understanding of the context in which the decision was taken in the hope that this would shed some light on this controversial matter,” according to Abati.
He went down memory lane in his defence, talking about policy meetings and all that. Such justification has no place in the face of an education system in ruins.
Although, the new policy, according to JAMB, may be a bad omen for higher institutions who benefit from admission racketeering, does it mean a quantum leap for the Board to assert itself in the face of opposition from a group of seemingly more powerful institutions whose admission processes it has the mandate to regulate?
“The cut-off marks previously brandished to the public were never strictly followed by most institutions. Some were going behind to admit candidates with far less scores, while others admitted candidates who never sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination,” Benjamin had revealed.
Does that not put a question mark on the mandate of JAMB?
Decree No. 2 of 1978 (amended by Decree No. 33 of 1989) empowered the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to “conduct Matriculation Examination for entry into all Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education (by whatever name called) in Nigeria.”
JAMB is also saddled with the responsibility to “place suitably qualified candidates in the tertiary institutions …; collate and disseminate information on all matters relating to admissions into tertiary institutions or any other matter relevant to the discharge of functions of the board; and carry out other activities as are necessary or expedient for the full discharge of all or any of the functions conferred on it under or pursuant to this Decree.”
JAMB has failed woefully in this regard and bastardised the admission system, bringing shame to itself and all other education stakeholders.
Otherwise, how could it have said that universities admit students through the back door and then not inform Nigerians about the disciplinary measures it had taken against such sharp practices. The only way it could cut its pound of flesh was to reduce admission cut-off marks and put the future of tertiary education at risk.
The reduction will do more harm than good. It will only encourage students to be lazier and more complacent in reading their books, especially in the face of perceived threat posed to scholarship by the social media.
It will increase the incidence of admission-buying because those who ordinarily could not have made a move to buy their way through, given their low grades, would be encouraged to do so.
The action will also affect productivity. It has always been said that many Nigerian graduates are unemployable for lack of requisite skills, a situation that compounds the already dicey problem of unemployment and expands the cycle of poverty.
The reduction translates to a further decrease in the standard of education in the country and further lends credence to the poor perception of Nigeria’s education system by the international community. Remember that no Nigerian university is among the 500 best universities in the world. This ranking is even enough to have deterred JAMB from its recent ridiculous policy but it did not bother it.
Closely related to this is the loss of confidence of higher institutions in JAMB. As a result, these institutions conduct separate screening exercises that run parallel to the mandate of the Board. In effect, the whole admission process is commercialised, fraught with irregularities and has become a huge source of internally generated revenue for these institutions at the mercy of the poor who scramble with the rich for a few admission slots to acquire education to better their lot.
This revelation made by JAMB calls for a high-scale investigation to be launched into the activities of the Board to audit its admission system and determine its complicity or otherwise in the said admission racketeering. It is beyond human comprehension the fact that the Board had looked on while shady practices were carried out under its watch. It may also be possible that the Board has supervised and benefited from a corrupt admission system for so long. The investigation will also help to purge the Board of bad eggs who might be indicted.
JAMB should be scrapped if it cannot discharge its responsibilities effectively because if it is allowed to continue this way, our tertiary education system will always be a laughing stock.