By Sunday Attah
The recent news that the federal government has scrapped the post Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exam (UTME) test is very cheering news. There had been several complains about the conduct of many universities in the organization of these exams. Many candidates complained of exorbitant charges for these exams, poor invigilation, and manipulation of results plus bribing officials of the university to get admission.
I have always been of the opinion that the post UTME as was being conducted in Nigeria was unnecessary. To gain admission into most universities you are required to score above credit level pass in at least 5 subjects which must include Mathematics and English in the West African Examination Council (WAEC), O level examination. After passing the O level you then sit for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) organised UMTE in which you must meet a particular cut off mark before you are considered suitably to write the post UTME test, the cut off mark for most universities in Nigeria averages 200 marks out of 400. There after you are now subjected to another round of exams (post UTME) by the different universities.
Compare this with Ghana where all you need to gain admission into their university is just a credit pass in at least five subjects in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination. This is has not affected the quality or standard of their university education. In fact it is Nigeria that conducts several exams that has issues with quality and standard.
Bottom-line. I do not believe that the more exams candidates are subjected to the better the quality of students that will be admitted, rather from the Nigerian experience since the introduction of post UTME test, there has been more malpractices and manipulations in the admission processes especially at the post UTME level. There were even speculations that the test was twisted to admit institutions’ preferred candidates to the exclude those that should have been selected on merit.
Then there is the issue of cost, the average amount charged by most of the institutions for post UTME is 3000naira, this may look small for one student but if you have to put this amount side by side the fact that almost all those who paid for the JAMB exams will still part with this amount. At the end of the day , A prospective student that does not get admitted that year would spend nothing less than 10,000naira or more yet will have to repeat same exam next year.
Here is the truth many will not say, I have met a lot of people who claimed university officials demanded monies from them to help them get good marks in the post UTME exams yet they were not offered admission eventually. Post UTME has turned into another bottleneck on the way to getting admitted into a Nigeria university, and this bottleneck is being heavily exploited by dubious university officials. The Nigerian government has done very well this time by cutting off this failed policy.
Several countries in Africa and in fact the world do not require any other examination to gain admission into its tertiary institutions beyond the secondary school leaving certificate/ ordinary level results. Nigeria has tried the post UTME test regime for a while now and it is obvious it was not adding value.
JAMB in the last eight years or so has tremendously improved its processes from the days of the manual to e brochure then to the electronic process of registration, it has really been a very innovative organization. Just a few years ago virtually every process in JAMB were manual and paper based but today, almost all its processes are automated, from purchase of forms to registration to sitting for exams to the point of checking results. They are all electronic and computer based.
The computerization of the processes as JAMB helps to reduce human interference thereby lowering the chances of manipulation or alterations. That is why I will call on the federal government to back the newly introduced computer based test introduced by JAMB, it is a commendable innovation that will help rid the conduct of the exams of any form of malpractices.
I have read and heard about different complains some people have about the computer based test (CBT). Like every other human endeavor they are hardly perfect and I will assume same with the CBT. I have read about people complaining that the system kept logging them out, some complained that the time fixed for the exams were too early or too late, all of these complaints are things that can be worked on and improved on. When the e-registration started it was not without its own hic ups same with the checking of results online, but with time came improvements. Today there are hardly any complaints in those regards any more.
I believe one of the things that informed the scrapping of the post UTME apart from the myriad of problems attached to the conduct of the exams is the confidence the federal government has in the management of JAMB and its ability to conduct credible examinations.
The Dibu Ojerinde led JAMB has been quite impressive in the way it has managed the examination body in the last decade. He has shown himself as one who believes in confronting challenges with new ideas and new solutions. He has deployed technology very effectively to tackle the different challenges the examination body has faced.
JAMB however needs to quickly move to improve on the experiences of the last round of exams by addressing holistically all the identified areas that need improvements going by the last set of exams.
Attah is Secretary General, Stand Up Nigeria and contributed this piece from Accra, Ghana.