The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns in strong terms the unwarranted hardship meted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on applicants for this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
Stories of different degree of hardship experienced by this year’s UTME candidates and their parents is rife in the media. From congested registration centres to highhandedness of security operatives, there are indications that JAMB is about to organize one of the worst examinations in the history of the board.
The JAMB officialdom has tried to justify this unnecessary hardship as an inevitable consequence of the innovations and reforms it has had to introduce to make the admission process more resistant to manipulation and cheating. We beg to disagree.
As we have argued severally, so long as shortage of admission spaces continue to exist, the admission process will remain brutally competitive and as such continue to succumb to malpractice, manipulation and racketeering. Therefore unless government addresses the problem of shortage of admission spaces by improving funding to the education sector and ensuring that these funds are judiciously used to expand facilities in the existing tertiary institutions while establishing more, no effort to curb examination malpractice and racketeering will succeed.
As all can see, despite JAMB’s efforts over the years and that of others to address the problem of examination malpractice and admission racketeering, these challenges continue to rise astronomically. Even with the introduction of Post-UTME, admission manipulation and racketeering has not abated. The reason for this is not farfetched. It is simply because JAMB’s and government’s aspirations to rid the admission process of malpractice is anchored on entirely false assumptions and perspectives.
Government and JAMB erroneously believe that examination malpractice is a crime that can be curbed through the development of tighter controls and monitoring as well as deployment of technology to strengthen the integrity of the examination process. This was the reason why the examination body launched the Computer Based Test few years ago. But instead of the CBT reducing examination malpractice, it has been riddled with all kinds of complaints. Especially in the prevailing condition of inadequate computer illiteracy and little or no infrastructure to support it, the CBT has only succeeded in putting the examination process in further chaos.
The underpinning reason for the endemic nature of examination malpractices and admission racketeering remains the inadequate admission spaces in the public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education and the rabid competition this has created in the hearts and minds of admission seekers and parents. Only improved funding and expansion of the carrying capacity of existing tertiary institutions as well as a plan to establish more can begin to eliminate the conditions and motivations for examination malpractice and admission racketeering.
Although JAMB claims that it registered over 600, 000 candidates in the first few days after the commencement of the registration, media reports still show that times two of that figure are facing varying degrees of hardship as far as registration is concerned. There are reasons to believe that the centralization of the registration exercise
is in the hand of JAMB, and certain vested
interests alone, has hugely congested the whole process beyond what the
examination body can handle. We therefore call for a return to the
decentralized process of registration where candidates can freely walk into any
cyber cafe to register for UTME with little stress.
However, JAMB is equally giving Nigerians reason to believe that the self-induced difficulties experienced currently are part of systematic plans to prune down admission seekers from the beginning. This may be in bid to prevent bringing into limelight the inadequate spaces in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions that are not commensurate with figures of teeming population of admission seekers. Already, the examination body has made the choice of private institutions compulsory for Nigerians, who obviously cannot afford the outrageous fees of these institutions based on the analysis of current income and inflation rates.
The worsening crisis of admission in the country, as it has been reiterated by the ERC many times is a product of poor funding and neglect of Nigeria’s public education system. A paltry spending of 8-10% of the nation’s budget is earmarked for primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the country. This means, among other things, that existing institutions cannot be expanded to meet up with growing rate of admission seekers. It is quite unfortunate that a country like Nigeria with its worrisome record of “out of school” children operate budgetary policies that discourage mass literacy. The recent reports of looted revenues have shown for all to see that Nigeria has the economic stamina to implement UNESCO recommendation of 26% budgetary allocation to education on yearly basis.
We are therefore certain that commitment of significant revenues to developing public education would ameliorate glut of admission seekers as currently experienced. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) put the blame for 2017 UTME registration crisis at the door step of the Buhari-led government, and call on education workers’ unions, parents and civil society groups to renew the struggle for improved funding of the education sector and democratic control and management of schools.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Ibukun Omole
National Coordinator National Secretary