Ad­mis­sion cri­sis and Nige­ria’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - EDUCATION -

The ap­petite for higher ed­u­ca­tion in the world’s most pop­u­lous black na­tion, Nige­ria, is huge. But ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture, poli­cies and po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties are be­com­ing ob­sta­cles for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of the coun­try’s youths. In this re­port, Head, Ed­u­ca­tion Desk, Iyabo Lawal, ex­plores the in­tri­ca­cies of the ad­mis­sion pol­icy and its ef­fects on Nige­ria’s fu­ture lead­ers.

IT seems eas­ier for a camel to pass through the eye of a nee­dle than for sec­ondary school leavers to gain ad­mis­sion into Nige­ria’s higher in­sti­tu­tions. To il­lus­trate: only 30 per cent out of the 1.7 mil­lion can­di­dates who wrote the Uni­fied Ter­tiary Ma­tric­u­la­tion Ex­am­i­na­tion (UTME) will be ad­mit­ted in 2017.

Ad­mis­sion into ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions has al­ways recorded drama that bor­ders on the sub­lime and the ridicu­lous. More than ever be­fore though the coun­try will likely wit­ness the high­est num­ber of as­pir­ing un­der­grad­u­ates who are de­nied en­try into th­ese in­sti­tu­tions be­cause of the coun­try’s fail­ure to ad­e­quately ad­dress ba­sic peren­nial is­sues that have plagued ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion for decades.

For in­stance, for this year’s ad­mis­sion ex­er­cise, of the 199,500 can­di­dates who sat for post UTME in seven in­sti­tu­tions, only 28,900 will be of­fered ad­mis­sion.

The uni­ver­si­ties cited lack of in­fra­struc­ture, teach­ing and learn­ing tools to cater for the large num­ber of stu­dents. In­ves­ti­ga­tions on some of the in­sti­tu­tions re­vealed that each them is not will­ing to ad­mit more than 3, 500 stu­dents or even less. At the Univer­sity of Ibadan (UI) for in­stance, of the 62,000 can­di­dates that ap­plied for the post UTME, only 3,500 can­di­dates would be em­ployed.

At the Univer­sity of Benin, of the 30,000 can­di­dates, the in­sti­tu­tion only has 10,000 car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity. While 25,000 can­di­dates sat for the post UTME ex­am­i­na­tion at the La­gos State Univer­sity (LASU), the in­sti­tu­tion can only take 3,500 can­di­dates. Sim­i­larly, at the Fed­eral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (FUTA), of the 13,500 can­di­dates, only 3,500 can­di­dates will be of­fered ad­mis­sion.

In sep­a­rate re­ac­tions on the post UTME ex­ams, the in­sti­tu­tions main­tained that the num­ber of el­i­gi­ble can­di­dates is more than the spa­ces avail­able. They cited in­ad­e­quate fund­ing from suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments and de­plorable in­fra­struc­ture as some of the fac­tors re­spon­si­ble for the cur­rent ad­mis­sion cri­sis.

It is lit­tle won­der then that, again, a cou­ple of weeks ago, the Se­nate be­gan moves to scrap the POST-UTME as it man­dated the Com­mit­tee on Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion to meet with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers, es­pe­cially the Joint Ad­mis­sion and Ma­tric­u­la­tion Board (JAMB) to come up with rec­om­men­da­tions on how to achieve the set goal.

Ac­cord­ing to the Se­nate, the move has be­come im­per­a­tive be­cause the in­tro­duc­tion of the post–utme has failed to rem­edy the prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with JAMB and that its ex­is­tence poses more chal­lenges for ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion.

The Se­nate has also called for the de­vel­op­ment of a strat­egy that would en­sure the ef­fi­ciency and in­tegrity in the con­duct of the ex­am­i­na­tion.

“Fur­ther aware as scores of suc­cess­ful JAMB can­di­dates turned out ill-equipped for univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, in 2005, un­der the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Olusegun Obasanjo, in­tro­duced the pol­icy of POST-UME screen­ing by uni­ver­si­ties which made it com­pul­sory for ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to screen can­di­dates af­ter JAMB re­sults and be­fore of­fer­ing ad­mis­sion.”

While that pol­icy was aimed at ad­dress­ing the prob­lem of stu­dent qual­ity, it rein­tro­duced and en­trenched many of the prob­lems it sought to elim­i­nate through. It is also ev­i­dent that the pol­icy meant to be a rem­edy to the de­cay in higher in­sti­tu­tions of learn­ing be­came an av­enue of ex­tort­ing prospec­tive.

“Dis­turbed that as the in­tegrity of the post-ume is open to ques­tion as the pe­cu­niary mo­tive of the re­spec­tive in­sti­tu­tions comes to the fore, that there is lit­tle pre­tence about max­i­miz­ing the in­come flows through th­ese in­ter­nal ex­am­i­na­tions,” the se­na­tor added.

Sev­eral stake­hold­ers in the ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor have prof­fered var­i­ous ways of deal­ing with the men­ace of ad­mis­sion pol­icy that leaves thou­sands of prospec­tive stu­dents in an­guish, spend­ing more years at home be­fore gain­ing en­try into higher in­sti­tu­tions. An­a­lysts noted that be­cause of the pref­er­ence for univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion pres­sure is put on the na­tion’s pub­lic and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties –prompt­ing an ad­mis­sion cri­sis, with at least 70 per cent those seek­ing ad­mis­sion un­able to re­alise their dreams.

They fur­ther noted that such re­al­ity usu­ally re­sult in uni­ver­si­ties’ ex­ceed­ing ad­mis­sion quo­tas. The big­ger prob­lem is that some of th­ese un­ful­filled stu­dents vent their frus­tra­tion by en­gag­ing in il­licit con­duct like pros­ti­tu­tion, drug abuse, rob­bery, and even kid­nap­ping.

A few, who could, turn to other coun­tries in the west of Africa to re­alise their dreams of higher learn­ing.

To ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion some ex­perts have called for more ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to be built, ex­ist­ing ones to be provided with nec­es­sary hu­man and ma­te­rial in­fra­struc­ture. The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is also en­cour­aged to make the Na­tional Open Univer­sity of Nige­ria (NOUN) more at­trac­tive and in­ven­tive in ad­mit­ting more can­di­dates.

It is com­mend­able that the gov­ern­ment is us­ing the Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Trust Fund to achieve that but the bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions to ed­u­ca­tion over the years have been ap­palling. The 2018 bud­get is no ex­cep­tion with the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion, Adamu Adamu, lament­ing be­fore Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari at the lat­est ed­u­ca­tion re­treat that the money al­lo­cated to the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry is too small.

Fol­low­ing a lib­er­al­i­sa­tion pol­icy adopted by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment on es­tab­lish­ment of pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties, more in­sti­tu­tions set up un­der the ar­range­ment brought some mea­sure of re­lief, but th­ese schools are be­yond the reach of the com­mon man.

In re­sponse to the grow­ing num­ber of can­di­dates seek­ing ad­mis­sion into ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try, agents of for­eign uni­ver­si­ties have been in­vad­ing sec­ondary schools to lure fi­nal-year stu­dents into seek­ing ad­mis­sion out­side the shores of Nige­ria.

Nige­ria’s ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion stan­dard is wor­ri­some, so are the grad­u­ates the in­sti­tu­tions churn out. Yet, there is a grow­ing army of ad­mis­sion seek­ers whose de­sire for higher ed­u­ca­tion re­mains largely un­met.

Some ex­perts have rec­om­mended Mas­sive Open On­line Courses (MOOC) as a way of solv­ing the peren­nial prob­lem – it is an av­enue whereby all uni­ver­si­ties can pro­vide on­line courses for those who want to ac­quire higher learn­ing. Many of the courses taught in the in­sti­tu­tions can be ac­com­mo­dated on that plat­form.

“The prod­ucts of MOOCS won’t be any dif­fer­ent from to­day’s grad­u­ates. In fact, those who study through this scheme are likely to be bet­ter rounded, as each stu­dent would have more free­dom to learn on their own and not be ha­rassed by vin­dic­tive “lec­tur­ers”. And since their de­gree cer­tifi­cates would be awarded by the same old uni­ver­si­ties, they would be equally pres­ti­gious. “If ev­ery Nige­rian ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion were to run MOOCS, it would be pos­si­ble to ad­mit all can­di­dates that pass the UTME and the WASSCE/NECO each year. Thus flooded with can­di­dates, even pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties would lower their fees. JAMB’S load would be­come lighter,” one pub­lic an­a­lyst ar­gued.

Ex­perts note with re­gret that many of the na­tion’s ed­u­ca­tional pol­icy mak­ers do not have their chil­dren study­ing in pub­lic higher in­sti­tu­tions – an ap­par­ent dis­play of lack of faith in the sys­tem.

Ac­cord­ing to the NUC Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, there is no so­lu­tion to ad­mis­sion cri­sis in the coun­try’s uni­ver­si­ties.

He stated this at a pub­lic hear­ing or­ga­nized by the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Ter­tiary In­sti­tu­tions and TETFUND, on reg­u­la­tory con­flict be­tween JAMB and uni­ver­si­ties.

In a grim pic­ture that he painted, out of the 1.9 mil­lion can­di­dates who sat for JAMB ex­am­i­na­tion an­nu­ally, only about half a mil­lion could be ad­mit­ted.

Rasheed ar­gued about the ne­ces­sity of post-utme, “It is not about mak­ing money for the uni­ver­si­ties. If you don’t do it, you just want to cause chaos in the sys­tem. JAMB is an ex­cel­lent guide but you can­not rely on it 100 per cent. There is the need to fur­ther ex­am­ine the can­di­dates for ob­jec­tiv­ity and to make the en­tire sys­tem cred­i­ble.”

The JAMB Reg­is­trar, Pro­fes­sor Ishaq Oloyede, on his own part ob­served that there is no reg­u­la­tory con­flict be­tween JAMB and the uni­ver­si­ties – point­ing out that the postUTME is not pe­cu­liar to Nige­ria.

He, how­ever, did not agree with the fig­ure be­ing bandied around.

Oloyede added, “It is not true that we have 1.7 mil­lion can­di­dates that are ready to go into the Nige­rian univer­sity sys­tem.. Of the 1.7 mil­lion that took the exam I can say con­ve­niently that not more than 30 per cent of them are pre­pared for ad­mis­sion. They are just try­ing. They do not have the five O’level re­sults re­quired to go into the univer­sity.

“Se­condly, let me also let us re­alise that 10 per cent of the 1.7 mil­lion that we see or 1.9 as the case may be, they are not what can be cat­e­gorised as be­long­ing to the net en­rol­ment ra­tio for en­ter­ing ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion. They be­long to the gross en­rol­ment ra­tio. Eighty per cent of can­di­dates sit­ting at the point of sit­ting do not have O’ level re­sults at all.

They are await­ing re­sults. So, when we are build­ing our the­o­ries and anal­y­sis, we need to be very cau­tious.

Does that mean there is no ad­mis­sion cri­sis in the coun­try?

For Prof R. A. Ipiny­omi of Univer­sity of Ilorin, “The so called ad­mis­sion cri­sis into Nige­rian Uni­ver­si­ties in the cur­rent era are mostly self in­flict­ing.’

Ac­cord­ing to him, “The crises are re­sults of lack of plan­ning, pub­lic mis­un­der­stand­ing of the na­tion’s ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy, politi­cians undis­closed in­ter­ests, and ap­pli­cants fail­ure to know their abil­i­ties.

“I have of­ten warned par­ents and prospec­tive stu­dents to pur­sue a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion rather than a univer­sity course. It suf­fices to get any univer­sity de­grees for any­one to be very suc­cess­ful in life. You don’t have to read a spe­cial course to be the pres­i­dent of Nige­ria, a Se­na­tor, State Gover­nors, a Dan­gote, or Bill Gates of this world. If par­ents and their chil­dren are prop­erly coun­selled and they are able to ac­cept our coun­sel, there will be only few crises. We have been ex­posed to stu­dents’ plights, patents’ de­sires and lim­i­ta­tions, gov­ern­ments’ easy pro­nounce­ments and in­abil­i­ties, NUC so called car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity and a re­spec­tive univer­sity ac­tual car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, un­qual­i­fied univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors at the helm of af­fairs and very pru­dent oth­ers, gov­ern­ment wastages in the form of con­tracts awards to friv­o­lous items and lack of pri­or­i­ties and con­sis­tent con­ti­nu­ity amongst oth­ers. I can say clearly that Nige­ria has no con­sis­tent com­mit­ment and pol­icy to­wards the ed­u­ca­tion of its youths. “

Pub­lic com­men­ta­tors be­lieve that the is­sue is a tick­ing time bomb that if left un­ad­dressed or ad­e­quately re­solved will plunge the na­tion’s youths fur­ther into crime and other un­whole­some ac­tiv­i­ties.

Con­cerned stake­hold­ers also held that to sur­mount the prob­lems of ad­mis­sion into the na­tion’s uni­ver­si­ties, , gov­ern­ment should vig­or­ously pur­sue pub­lic en­light­en­ment of ap­pli­cants as well as in­tro­duce a ma­jor cur­ricu­lum in­no­va­tion, and prop­erly im­ple­ment the sys­tem by pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties, equip­ment, tech­ni­cal teach­ers and fund.

Abubakar Rashed

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