Whither UTME, NECO?

Students at a JAMB centre
Students at a JAMB centre

The recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies that the National Examination Council and the Unified Matriculation Examination be scrapped, is causing anxiety among the stakeholders

|  By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Apr. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE proposal by the Federal Government to scrap the National Examination Council, NECO, and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, is generating controversy in the country.

Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar of JAMB
Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar of JAMB

The proposal to scrap both bodies was part of the recommendations made by the Stephen Oronsanye-led Presidential Committee on the Rationalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies. Although the federal government is yet to take a decision on any of the recommendations, stakeholders in the education sector have already made their reactions known.

Felix Okagebere, a lecturer and education consultant, said scrapping the UTME was a decision long overdue. He added that if the government decides to adopt the recommendation, it would give universities and other degree awarding institutions in the country the autonomy to run their own affairs as it is done in other climes. “I am in total support of the decision. The government has to do it because it is the only way to make universities autonomous in order to run their own affairs as it is done in other countries,” he said.

Okagbare said that even if the government allows the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, to remain,  “it must exist as the regulatory body that will set bench marks for admission. JAMB has no business conducting examinations for students; it is the universities that have that power. Universities in this country must be autonomous like the ones abroad. If you are looking for admission, you should go to the school directly not JAMB”.

Students waiting to collect JAMB slips at the Lagos office
Students waiting to collect JAMB slips at the Lagos office

Towing Okagbare’s line of thought, Helen Ajah, a lecturer at Delta State University, Abraka, said stripping JAMB of the admission powers would make universities truly autonomous and enable more people have the privilege of acquiring university education. “Let’s face the facts; it is only in Nigeria that you have an external body conducting examinations for students to go to the university. In order countries, bodies like JAMB only set the regulations and leave the university to set examination in order to admit students. There have been lots of people who have been denied the opportunity to acquire university education because of JAMB. If the government adopts the recommendations, it will enable more people acquire university education.

However, some stakeholders believe that making universities autonomous will encourage corruption. Ukachukwu Awuzie, a professor, who is the vice chancellor of Imo State University and a former chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, argued that adopting the recommendation would throw the nation’s education sector into confusion. “The government should consider this proposal thoroughly before taking a decision.  UTME enables millions of students to compete for the few admission spaces. So, we just can’t scrap it like that,” he said.

Olu Banjo, a Lagos-based educational consultant, also noted that granting universities autonomous powers has some disadvantages. According to him, if universities are allowed to conduct their own examinations and admit students, they are likely to abuse the process. “Much as I like the idea, I think Nigeria is not ripe enough for such thing. If you allow universities to conduct their examinations and admit students, they are likely to abuse the process. How are we sure that they won’t sell admission to the highest bidders?”

Awuzie
Awuzie

For the undergraduates and prospective students, scrapping UTME appears to be good news as it would make it easier for them to secure admission into an institution of their choice. Yemisi Solana, a diploma student at the University of Lagos, said too many students have been denied opportunities to secure admission because of the irregularities of UTME examinations. While expressing support for the recommendation to scrap the examination body, she advised universities to be fair when granted autonomy.

She said: “Many of us have been victims of UTME examinations. I wrote it twice before settling for this diploma. I am in total support of the decision but universities must be fair to all students when they have the autonomy. They should not sell admission slots to rich people and deny the poor ones like us the opportunity to get education. Gerald Nwaeke, a prospective undergraduate, who has already enrolled for the UTME examination billed to take place later this month, also wants the examination body scrapped.

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