Under the shade of a coconut tree, one of many properly lined trees along the fence of Christ Apostolic Grammar School, Iperu, Ogun State, I sat on a pavement basking in the filtered morning sun rays and perusing Chinua Achebe’s last gift to mankind: There was a country. I had taken a friend to the UTME centre and I waited outside the school walls alongside parents and guardians who had escorted their children wards or friends.
The discussions amidst the people waiting outside the JAMB centre ranged from indecent dressing of some of the candidates to the rate of speed of vehicles plying the old Ibadan road where the school was located. Their discus was momentarily diverted to the rigorous and funny search patterns of the NSCDC officials at the gate of the school. The Iperu centre is just one of many centres scattered nationwide.
I behaved indifferent to their discus but listened to their utterances which were mostly in the native Yoruba language of the area. They bemoaned the inequality of HND and Bachelors and thus the relative inferiority of the polytechnics to the universities. Voices were raised, points were made, faults were pointed but the discus of the final scrapping of the UTME caught my attention.
The Federal Government had, about a month before this UTME day (27th April, 2013), announced their plan to scrap the UTME organized by JAMB. This pronouncement signals the end of the UTME series to the glory of many secondary school leavers who had been left stranded due to their incapability to scale UTME, more or less post-UTME. The Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB, would continue to exist but its major weapon, UTME, may have had its last bite on Saturday. JAMB would only be a regulatory body to rectify admission into higher institutions.
The onus of method of entrance now falls squarely on the higher institutions. The post-UTME or post-JAMB as it is popularly called has been the final hurdle every candidate must pass before he/she becomes a bona fide undergraduate. They must reach a predetermined cut-off mark from their Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME. They should also have passed the right O’ level subjects in their Senior Secondary Certificate Examination be it WAEC or NECO.
We all know that the post-UTME came into existence in 2005 due to the frailties and insufficiency of JAMB in producing students that could defend their UTME scores. It wasn’t rare to see a candidate scoring350/400 in JAMB but can’t understand Basic English or basic science, if he claims to be a science student. Special centers bridled with gross malpractice produced such undone candidates for the higher institutions to absorb.
The post-UTME was a success in its first year, 2005,where it came as a surprise to many, if not all. All round the federation,candidates admitted into higher institutions in late 2005 have been said to be the best in a long time. As the years went by, the post-UTME became adulterated much more than has been known in the UTME. Mercenaries now make their way into the exam halls with prior knowledge of the questions. School became vulnerable and money became the keyword instead of excellence. Post-UTME fees skyrocketed and questions began to leak. Back to square one!!
So now, the real questions are: can our higher institutions manage the admission of students well? Can they effectively select intelligence over bribery and favoritism? Would they uphold their school values of hard work and shun the love of money and the deceit thereof? What will be the criteria on the admission?
The higher institutions would need to scheme out a unique method of selecting the best among the teeming Nigerian youths aiming to get a higher education. They may choose to conduct an aptitude test and use it with WAEC to select. They might rather just use the WAEC results alone to admit students as it is done in UK. They might even incorporate a mini-interview for verification and clarification.
This brings us to our Senior Secondary Certification Examinations conducted by the West African Examination Council;, WAEC and the National Examination Council, NECO. NECO has been scrapped with UTME and the only available exams for SSCE would be WAEC. The SSCE system has rot so deep that I wonder if a WAEC result could be able to tell the capability of the student.
So many government approved schools lack standard laboratories and lack quality teachers yet the churn out secondary school leavers with questionable amazing results. This is becoming the trend of many new private schools. I have come across a school where no science student inSS3 could define chemistry and the meaning of intangible to a student ready for commerce is “irrelevant”. I could only shake my head and mourn the good old days and the near perfect schools. I attended a Unity school and I am proud of the quality of education I received from my Alma mater.
It is high time government officials in charge of the education sector stopped throwing blind eyes to this inglorious academic mishap. If we can’t save our educational sector, we can’t save Nigeria’s future. The higher institutions should admit on merit and shun bribery and corruption. They must save and uphold the name of their school.
After all, the National Universities Commission,NUC, has ranked the universities and all Nigerians have seen. Let the higher schools stand up and pivot our better Nigeria. Let the learning condition be encouraging, adequate and competitive. Every school should do better to up their rank on the NUC and even the Webometrics world and African ranking. We can do it.
Enough of Socratic rants. Let’s save education, let’s save Nigeria.
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