Nigerian Universities and the Bastardization of Admission Processes
by Obinna Akukwe
The processes of gaining admission into Nigerian universities have been bastardized by the trio of JAMB, respective universities and desperate parents. The once transparent admission process into Nigerian universities has degenerated into a cash and carry fraudulent system devoid of fairness, where the highest bidder carries the day. During our own time, there was so much anxiety over Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) examinations that students attended all manners of extra-mural studies to pass. With the passage of time, especially in the early nineties, graft entered into the JAMB admission processes. Some special centres and villages became centres of ‘expo’ and malpractices. This led JAMB to continue to cancel centres where it is suspected that malpractice took place. In the process, a lot of innocent students were lumped for punishment with the guilty. Years later schools started employing the services of policemen and other law officers to stem the tide of malpractice. Two years into using the policemen, they too became conduit pipes for the distribution of leaked answer scripts and their usefulness was destroyed.
The situation degenerated so much that answer scripts were leaked from either JAMB office in Lagos or respective zonal centres. In 1995 particularly, I remembered students hawking JAMB question papers eighteen hours to the examinations. Those who felt the papers were fake got the shockers of their lives when they discovered that their honesty and patriotic home training was mocked on the exams hall. Few years ago, I heard that some students distributed solved probable JAMB answers A, B, C, D, E, etc on facebook to their friends.
Speaking on the level of compromise associated with the examination, the Registrar of JAMB, Prof Dibu Ojerinde said that “In 2012 UTME, we had some disturbing news of extortion of money from innocent candidates by greedy proprietors and supervisors all these persons will be brought to book,” Earlier in that 2011 he told news men that “JAMB is currently investigating some results of 7, 504 candidates, from some centres which are suspicious…the results must undergo further screening because of the unusual performances recorded by candidates from those centre”.
Constant malpractice coupled with incessant demands for university autonomy by lecturers under the aegis of Academic Staff of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Committee of Vice Chancellors and other university pressure groups led to the acceding of the request for individual universities to set exams for prospective students. This led to the introduction of Post-University Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (Post-UTME) exams. This Post-UTME examination is yet to solve the problems associated with the earlier UTME, UME AND JAMB exams.
In the first instances, parents have to send or travel with their wards to different universities to write Post-UTME exams. A student may travel from Enugu to Abuja to write Post-UTME for University of Abuja, and then travels again to Lagos to write for University of Lagos, then moves to Port Harcourt to write that of University of Port Harcourt and back to base to sit for Enugu State University of Science and Technology’s exams, criss-crossing thousands of kilometers across dangerous countryside to write exams. The students usually purchases exorbitant exams forms from all these schools, travel to these locations, and lodge in hotels or with boyfriends, girl friends and sugar mummies in places if the cost of hotel accommodation is unaffordable. I inquired of a girl in Abuja some time in 2009 from her brother and was told that the girl traveled to Lagos to write Post-UTME exams and never returned back again. Whether rapists, robbers or ritualists caught hold of her and cut her breasts, eyes etc for rituals, nobody could tell.
In 2012 three prospective students traveling to UNN, Nsukka for Post-UTME got involved in auto crash. I do not know whether they died after being rushed to the hospital. During the same phased examinations, the process was cancelled midway because the university discovered that the papers actually leaked the night before. Some students told me that they had the answers in their phones and distributed such through text messages hours before the exams. The authorities told the students to go home and come back later to rewrite the papers at the expense of parents and sponsors. It was later discovered that some university staff leaked the papers to their wards who in turn sold same to the highest bidders. The embarrassed authorities with the aid of the police arrested the erring staffers for prosecution.
Despite all these Post-UTME exams, some parents still pay for their ward’s admission. Last year, a family told me that they paid N400.000 for their ward to read medicine in a university in Lagos, while another family confided that they paid N240, 000 to help their ward secure admission to read law in Port-Harcourt. This process disenfranchises those who are supposed to be on the merit list because highest bidders have taken over their chances. This is because some university staffers reserve lots of chances for themselves which they can sell or dispense as they deem fit.
This non-transparent process have made many parents to sell family land, properties and life savings to send their frustrated wards to schools in Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Russia while few buoyant ones send theirs to UK for admission. I have unenthusiastically assisted some frustrated families with finance to send their wards to some of these East-European schools and I kept on pondering at how Nigeria is enriching other people’s economy due to moronic and educational policies. This results in capital flight and the enrichment of other nation’s education industry. Those who are not buoyant for overseas enrollment litter the streets of Nigeria and constitutes nuisance to the society. Many have joined robbery, kidnapping and prostitution gangs because idle minds are devils workshops.
Nigeria’s Minister of Education Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai recently told a news conference that “out of the over 1.7million students that sat for the examinations in 2013, only 500,000 will gain admission”. This means that 1.2 million students will be disappointed. In 2012, 1,503, 931 students sat for the exams and about 450,000 was admitted. In 2011 it was 1,493,603 with about 420,000 getting admitted. In 2010 according to JAMB about 1,375,642 sat for the exams with spaces for less than 400,000. From the JAMB statistics, it is obvious that about 900,000 applicants were disappointed in 2010; 1 million applicants in 2011, 1.1 million others in 2012, 1.2 million ‘disappointed’ in 2013 and probably 1.4 million come 2014.
Two years ago the Nigerian Senate made attempts to scrap Post-UTME exams citing corruption and duplication of functions. The process failed because the lawmakers couldn’t find a common ground of acceptance. Around my residence in Abuja lots of brilliant students have been writing JAMB and Post- UTME exams for many years and yet cannot get admission. Some of them have gotten admitted only for their names to disappear from the merit list. According to their frustrated parents, the number on the merit list for some departments of their choice are not up to 20% while the rest is admission by favoritism. In the same neighborhood, some frustrated parents used political party links and corrupt processes to get their wards admitted.
The solution to these anomalies is for NUC to relax processes for establishment of universities. Their stringent condition is such that only mega funded billionaire institutions and individuals can dare it. How come Ghana is wooing Nigerian students to go there and study? They have enough quality schools to contain their applicants and they maintained qualitative small universities established at little cost. Secondly JAMB should ensure that individual schools admit at least 50% of those who write Post-UTME exams on the merit list. The amount of money spent on these Post-UTME exams should be reduced and if the universities cannot guarantee transparency, the process should be scraped. Nigeria admission process have been compromised by individual universities, JAMB, NUC, parents and applicants, and God will not leave some people unpunished whose actions or inaction contributed to the bastardization of the once transparent admission process.