Last week, the Nigerian Senate passed the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB Act (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (S.B. 245) after it scaled a third reading. This bill seeks to extend the validity of the Unified Tertiary and Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by JAMB from one to three years.
This comes after the federal government had cancelled the Post-UTME that was always conducted by tertiary institutions for candidates seeking admission. If the amended bill by the Senate eventually gets the assent of the President to become a law, it is capable of grounding Nigeria’s fast depreciating education.
Here is the highlight of the major changes to the existing JAMB Act:
- The UTME result will now be valid for three years. It is currently valid for a year; if a candidate seeking admission into a tertiary institution fails to secure admission the same year he or she wrote the UTME, such person will have to write another UTME the following year to stand another chance for admission.
- The amendment upholds and reflects the scrapping of Post-UTME.
- Candidates with old UTME results will, henceforth, be given preference over new candidates in subsequent admission processes by tertiary institutions.
In line with the processes involved in turning a bill into law, a clean copy of the passed bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence. Barring any disagreement by members of the lower chamber, the bill will only require the assent of the president to become law. However, in any case, the president disagrees with the bill and vetoes it, but the lawmakers are not okay with that, the bill could still become a law without the signature of the president should two-third majority vote in both chambers vote it.
According to the Senate, the amendment was necessary; particularly the validity extension because the lawmakers think it will address the financial hardship experienced yearly by parents and guardians who sponsor candidates for UTME.
Beyond the arguable reduction in cost incurred by UTME candidates, the new policy poses a great danger to the Nigerian education system. The policy encourages redundancy and laziness on the part of students. Since admission seekers know that they can now write a UTME and even stand a better chance of admission the next year or two years after, they may decide to stop studying. This will tell on their academic proficiency upon resumption in school.
The amendment also restricts tertiary institutions on the category of students they will admit. The idea of giving preference to old UTME results would mean schools can no longer admit students they can teach, because, in the first place, those not admitted were not admitted because there were more qualified candidates. Less qualified candidates from the backlog of previous years are to be considered ahead of the best candidates of the current year. This does not make any sense. Open competition in an admission process helps schools to admit the best and deserving candidates.
Another problem this policy will come with if the bill is signed into law is the challenge of multiple admission requests from candidates. Despite the knowledge of the validity of a year’s UTME, candidates may decide to sit for UTME again in order to have more chances of gaining admission into one tertiary institution at the same time. This means schools will have to handle a greater number of admission requests. Inadvertently, a bigger backlog of admission requests is created for subsequent admission years.
Earlier this year, the federal government ordered tertiary institutions not to conduct the Post-UTME exercise. One of the reasons given by the education minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu for the controversial decision was that “the nation has confidence in what JAMB is doing.”
Despite the several unfavourable reactions that trailed the conduct of the 2016 JAMB UTME, it was a major parameter used by schools to admit candidates. Even without the Post-UTME screening, aspirants are still made to pay heavily for what is termed ‘admission screening fee’. For instance, the Obafemi Awolowo University charged each aspirant a sum of N6,500 (exclusive of bank charges) for admission screening while the cost of the JAMB UTME itself is less than N5,000.
Schools and candidates are yet to recover from the awkward effects of the scrapping of Post-UTME. Now, the lawmakers want to further add another bottleneck to the progress of education in the country. In the latest by Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking, only the one Nigerian tertiary institution – the University of Ibadan – ranked among the first 980 in the world. This shows the poor standing of Nigerian schools among their counterparts in other parts of the world.
Last month, Ventures Africa explained why the Nigerian government needs to take education serious in the country. It will be more disturbing to see the government that has not given enough attention to the development of education in the country now pass into law, a bill that will further dip the education system. It is advisable for President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign such a dangerous and education-killing bill peradventure it scales the concurrence process at the lower chamber.