There is increased awareness of the importance of education in human transformation, wealth creation and societal wellbeing. No doubt, more and more young people across the country are not only getting interested in education, but also are longing for university degrees. In recent time, there has been intense pressure over university admission. VICTOR OKEKE, in this piece, x-rays the hurdles before most Nigerian youth seeking tertiary admission.
Among first year students in Nigerian universities, the questions that usually dominate interpersonal and group discussions are: How many times did you write JAMB? Were you given your course of choice? Why did you travel this far for university education?, and many more.
Most times, it is seen as a privilege to gain admission on your first attempt given the frustration and tales of woe of many students. A good number of Nigerians living in cosmopolitan centres often travel back to their home states to increase their chances of securing admission into tertiary institutions as a result of the discrepancies in the admission policy.
A student, Divine Osondu had to move from Okigwe in Imo State to Sokoto where he re-wrote the West African Senior Secondary School Examination (WASSSE), shifting from science to liberal arts combination and abandoning his dream of studying medicine for economics. He was eventually admitted at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto.
Osondu story is the same as many students. In fact, the Internet and academic libraries are flooded with research papers on the problems of the Nigerian educational sector as captured by Kanyip, Bakwaph Peter in his ‘Admission Crisis In Nigerian Universities: The Challenges Youth And Parents Face In Seeking Admission. Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses’ from which arguments and conclusions in this piece are derived.
The 2016 tertiary admission year could be the worst in policy somersault. First, it was the point system that tried to use graded points in a number of examinations for admission, then came the scrapping of post-UTME, instruction for universities to admit with JAMB scores and then the reversal of the policy. Universities were again conferred with the sole authority of admitting students and with it came the issue of arbitrary rules and violation of due process by the university governing councils. At the end of all these, the prospective students are the ones left in the dark- uncertain, confused and helpless.
Last week, the registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede at the Extra-Ordinary 2016 Technical Committee Meeting on Admissions into First Choice Institutions held at Baze University in Abuja warned institutions against absurd and arbitrary rules meted against applicants. He said while institutions have the right to select (their students), they must be able to explain why some other qualified applicants are not admitted. “Universities have the right to determine the criteria for admission but the criteria must be reasonable, explicit and must have been published prior to application by the candidates,” stated.
He said, “For instance, I have a particular university now where somebody who scored the highest in JAMB was not taken and the reason for not taking the person is that the university has changed the rules after the publication.
“A situation where requirements that were not stated in the brochure to guide candidates suddenly become applicable during admissions exercise would be unacceptable. This is because a condition not stated in the rules cannot be effected to the detriment of law abiding applicants who applied in accordance with the institutional provisions in the brochure.”
Kanyip in his work reports that recent admission policies of Nigerian universities have been dissatisfactory to the Nigerian public as many applicants and parents go through difficulties while seeking admission for limited available spaces in the universities.
The National Universities Commission (NUC), which regulates university education in terms of standards, has set policies based on merit, carrying capacity, catchment areas, and quota for educationally disadvantaged states as criteria for admission into all universities.
It has been argued that rather than these policies enhancing access to university education, they restrict access to higher education. “Each year, thousands of applicants sit for JAMB examinations and less than 20 percent on the average gain admission into the universities,” Kanyip contended.
After independence in 1960, Nigeria was under military rule for almost 28 years and political interference in the higher education system under a series of military regimes imposed distortions and constraints on the system’s admission policies and progress. Indeed, under successive military regimes in the 1980s and 1990s, complying with political pressures of social demand for access to the education system and admission process expanded swiftly.