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

Daily Trust - - EDUCATION -

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

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