Adequate Funding and Democratic Management is the Key
By Keye EwebiyiSeven years after the introduction of Post-UTME screening exercise into tertiary education system in Nigeria, the exploitation of students under the guise of this exercise has remained unwavering. The screening exercise was introduced as a result of the alleged failure of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to conduct a Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) that is acceptable to the authorities of tertiary institutions. But the Post-UTME exercise has over the years been turned into a money-making venture by shylock school administrators with the introduction of various questionable fees to exploit admission seekers. The fees include examination fee, result-checking fee, processing fees, bank administrative charges etc. While some schools collect these fees as a lump sum, others collect separately.
The motive behind the Post-UTME exercise has largely been defeated considering the reported cases of examination malpractice, question leakages and commercialization of admission by school officials.
Admission seekers are made to pay through their nose to sit for the exam. For the 2012/2013 Post-UTME screening exercise, candidates are expected to pay between N2,000 and N10,000 as screening fees. This is aside the cost of transportation, accommodation and other miscellaneous expenses that will be incurred in the course of writing the examination. The situation is even more problematic for those who had to travel long distance to write the examination given the poor state of our roads and alarming rate of insecurity across the country. Both public and private institutions are culprits. For instance, while the Lagos State University (LASU), University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) charged between N1,000 and N2,000, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) and Veritas University charge between N5,000 and N10,000. The case of OAU is quite appalling. The University management initially charged N2,350 as screening fee and on the release of screening results, candidates were made to part with an additional N3,350 to check their results, which they were oblivious of in the beginning.
This abuse of Post-UTME exercise constitutes a disregard of Nigerian Senate's directive that institutions should not charge beyond N2,000 as screening fees. The Senate had on Thursday, 9th February, 2012, considered the report of its Committee on Education on the investigation of the illegality of Post-UTME and the failure of JAMB to conduct examinations acceptable to universities. It approved Examinations-for-admission fee to tertiary institutions to be a unified and one-stop (but composite) charge and also recommended a gross charge of N6,000.00 per candidate - N4,000.00 to JAMB and N2,000.00 to an institution. But what we have today is a situation in which candidates are made to pay about N6,000 for UTME and over N2,000 for Post-UTME.
The Senate further stated that the disregard of the ceiling on a composite examination charge should attract reprimand, suspension or termination of appointment of an earring Head of Tertiary Institution. But till now, none of these officials has been brought to book.
The continuous fall in the standard of education as evident in the mass failure recorded in the WAEC and NECO Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) year in year out and the failure of Nigerian universities to make the top twenty universities in Africa has shown that the way out of this quagmire goes beyond Post-UTME. The writing of Post-UTME has not fundamentally addressed the problems confronting tertiary education. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) predicted 6 years ago that Post-UTME education would not solve the myriad of problems if education is not well funded and there is no democratic management of the education sector with elected representatives of education workers and students actively involved in decision making processes.
Admission figures show clearly that the crisis in the sector is growing. For instance, out of 1,493,603 candidates that wrote the 2011 UTME, a meager 467,000 gained admissions to various institutions for the 2011/2012 academic session. With 1,503,931 candidates writing the 2012 UTME, making it the highest number of candidates ever to write the annual examination, it is only fraction of them that will be eventually admitted when no serious effort has been made by government in the past years to develop the capacity of the existing public universities. Year 2011 offered worrisome statistics on applications for admission identifying the five 'most preferred' universities of candidates' first choices as UNILAG (99,145), ABU Zaria (89,760), UNN (88,177), NAU Awka (84,719) and UNIBEN (80,976) even when maximum quota allocations approved by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) are 6,106 (UNILAG), 6,068 (ABU Zaria), 5970(UNN) and 6,100 (UNIBEN).
What is needed is a committed effort by government to invest massively in the ailing education sector with the revamping of infrastructural and academic facilities on all campuses, including setting up of more tertiary institutions. This however cannot be possible under a government that runs society on the basis of "profit first" through the implementation of anti-poor policies of privatization and commercialization. Only a socialist economy can guarantee free and quality education for all regardless of age, sex, religious, ethnic of economic background because funding of education and other basic amenities will be taken as priority and all human and natural resources shall be channeled towards meeting the education needs of all.