Vice Chancellors bastardised post-UTME screening – Okebukola
Professor Peter Okebukola is a former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC). He is currently the Chairman Governing Council, Crawford University Ogun State. In this interview, he speaks on a number of issues including the recent deci
The Federal Government recently announced the cancellation of post Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the universities. What implication does this decision have on admission process?
I can give you a narration of what led to this idea of post-UTME and why I think it is right. In a bit of history, I remember that after the then Universities Matriculation Examination (UME) in 2002, a vice chancellor of a university came to my house on a Sunday afternoon. I won’t mention the name of the university. And he told me that almost half of his students wrote the UME examination a day before. I asked what he meant, and he said some candidates of UME hired some of his students as mercenaries to write the UME examinations on their behalf. So, he made me to realize that most of those brandishing high scores in UME don’t actually own those results.
We then talked about the need to bring into admission process another layer of filtering. And on the second day, which was Monday, I summoned all the directors of NUC to a meeting and told them what the vice chancellor had told me. They also found this out from other university VCs and they discovered it to be something that has become prevalent. I then called Prof. Bello Salim, the then Registrar of JAMB, and told him that I would like to meet him on a very important issue.
Then on Wednesday, I went with the entire management team of NUC and we met with the management team of JAMB. I told Prof. Salim that what we wanted was simple. JAMB would still be conducting its qualifying exams but we need to realize that this exams does not test how you speak at interpersonal level, it does not test how you behave, and all that. So, we all agreed that there should be another layer of screening. We didn’t call it Post-UTME test or exams but screening. We had some difficulties but we still met with the National Assembly. We also met with President Olusegun Obasanjo who said the law recognizes JAMB as only body that can conduct entrance examination into universities, that individual universities lack the power to conduct entrance exams.
Did the National Assembly support the move?
Former minister of education, Professor Chinwe Obaji, and the rest of us went to the National Assembly and insisted that we were no longer going to be basing admission into university on just multiple-choice questions. We said there is a need to have oral interview and maybe essay writing before one can secure admission. So, we reached the following agreement with JAMB and all the universities: that after the multiple type questions, they would do the essay type screening and can also carry out their own assessment to ascertain if the candidate is a cult member or not. This is because without doing this, it is more or less like admitting students in blind.
So, we agreed that the post-UME screening shall consist of three major things: one, some form of essay writing, interview to test oral English and physical appraisals. And the fourth thing we did was to say no university must charge more than a thousand naira. So, we fought the battle for one year and we started this post-UTME screening in 2004.
When we started and said, for instance, that anybody who scored 220 and above should come for ABU postUTME screening, we discovered that at the end of the day, almost 25 per cent of those with high grades in UTME did not turn up for the post UTME across universities.
We realized that most of them didn’t actually sit for those exams and must have used mercenaries. But we however discovered that those who scored between 200 and 220 were the ones with good scores in most of the Post-UTME screenings and they were the ones admitted.
You must have measured the reliability of the screening exercise or otherwise…
I remember Prof. Nebo told us that at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), most of the students with high UTME scores were the types who would not return their gowns after matriculation and would be suiting up and down the campus. A teacher also told us that most of those students who came in at the time were very good because they knew so much and were always studying for their examinations.
But when the generation of VCs that worked with me left, those who came after them bastardised the whole arrangements and they started doing the same CBT exams again as JAMB does. That was not the agreement. We told them, ‘don’t repeat the same questions JAMB was conducting’. They didn’t even care about the essay type anymore. They just wanted to collect money and do it quickly and move on. They ditched the oral English, the written English and the not-more-than N1,000 fee. They were charging as much as only God knows how much.
So, when that news came that they should stop, I said ‘Yes, I’m happy but that should be temporary’. It should be a temporary suspension so that when we get it right again, set new ground rules then we can move on from there. Although the new policy is not all that clear yet but I am sure that in about two weeks, the coast will clear. But if you ask me, where I want us to go is where those of us who are the originators of postUTME screening started from.
But there are universities who have already collected post-UTME screening charges from applicants, what should happen in this case?
Of course, if the minister says they should refund the money, they should refund it. But again, this cannot be done for free. We did our calculation that time alongside the VCs. There were claims that they needed to print papers, pay the invigilators and even buy them refreshments.
Some state universities are scheming to pull out of the new directives, saying the rule cannot be binding on them, what is your position on this?
Well, the long and short of it is that no state university can pull out of it. This is because we have education on the concurrent list, meaning both federal and state governments can legislate on it but the federal government has the exclusive rights to set standards on it. So, nobody can pull out.
Professor Peter Okebukola