JAMB of trouble By Sanya Oni

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This must be a difficult time for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and its helmsman, Dibu Oyerinde – a professor. If you can imagine the miracle moment when Jesus Christ had the arduous task of feeding 5,000-throng band of followers with two fishes and five loaves of bread, you will probably understand the dilemma of the egg-head on whose head lies the burden of placing 1,475,600 individuals in barely available 500,000 spaces in the nation’s tertiary institutions. Unfortunately, not even the knowledge that he is no Jesus Christ – nor a miracle worker – seems likely to spare him the sentence that befell the Christian avatar with hundreds of thousands already demanding his sack – if not his head on a platter!

We saw a bit of that at the University of Lagos gate last Wednesday when hundreds of angry, placard-carrying candidates and parents marched to demand the removal of the professor over the so-called new policy. On that day, yours truly actually received nearly a dozen calls from friends and relations – all frustrated parents –  alleging that their wards were denied opportunity to write post-UTME tests into the University of Lagos for reasons which, according to them, they found difficult to comprehend. There was a specific case of a parent, who claimed that his daughter who had applied to study Mass Communications scored 254 – a figure slightly above the University of Lagos adopted cut-off point of 250 – and yet was excluded in the list forwarded by JAMB to the university authorities for the post-UMTE test. The gripe of the protesters was that by raising their cut-off point to 250 as against JAMB’s 180, the University of Lagos authorities changed the rules midway.

The protesters obviously deserve a sympathetic ear. After all, last year, the cut off point was the same 180 – and everyone was invited to the meal that everyone knew would barely go round a quarter of the famished souls lined up for the feast. Now, everyone wonders why things would be different this year. Imagine, we are back to the same cycle of recriminations; the futile search for solution of the arithmetic of making 500,000 spaces go round 1.5 million candidates. They forget the basic difference between an academic and a miracle worker!

And the new policy? Allow individual universities to determine their cut-off points while JAMB redistributes applicants!

Yes, they have a point – as always even if in the end they win the argument and come critically short on the issues at stake.

Let’s also admit that the defence by JAMB is just as persuasive. JAMB’s head of media, Fabian Benjamin, for instance, told us last week for instance that the national cut-off marks of 180 for universities and 150 for polytechnics, colleges of education and innovative enterprise institutions in the 2015 UTME were merely benchmarks to set the tone for this year’s admission exercise. They were, according to him, no more than ‘guides’; ‘pruning’ tools to give the institutions manageable candidates to choose from.

As far as his JAMB is concerned, “universities and other levels of tertiary institutions are at liberty to go higher, but not lower, depending on their peculiarities and the performance of candidates that choose them…”


On the widespread criticism that has greeted the new measure, he insisted that the decision… was done in good faith not to jeopardise the right of candidates due to individual cut-off set by some Nigerian tertiary institution. Those candidates who do not meet the cut-off marks of such institutions will be placed in needy institutions within their geopolitical zone depending on available space in such institutions”.

The man in the eye of the storm, Dibu Oyerinde, was, as one might expect, conciliatory, if not altogether defensive. He says “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are saying…We are actually helping the candidates not only to get admission but to get it on time. The big universities are overloaded. Can you imagine 8,000 students seeking for admission to study law in a university that will take only 250 candidates for law? The remaining 7750 candidates will wait endlessly and hopelessly till the end of the admission. Or imagine 7500 candidates seeking for medicine in a university. Of these 7500 candidates, 2000 scored above 250 in the UTME. The university has a carrying capacity of only 150 candidates for medicine. The remaining 7350 who scored above 200 will be wasted. Particularly, 1750 candidates who scored above 250 will be wasted while other universities either do not have enough candidates or high scoring candidates. Courses like Biological Sciences, Agric Engineering and related courses are lacking in candidacy!”

Not done – he says “We are saying, let’s give them a feel of chance somewhere else that has not gotten enough candidates by sending the names of these HIGH scorers to “needy” universities. The names of such surplus candidates are being distributed to first, federal institutions, then state and finally private institutions in that order depending on – availability of space in other universities, choice of the course of the candidate, geographical zone of the choice of the candidate, and performance of the candidate”.

See the huge cost of being misunderstood? Or why the search for a fall-guy or the attempt to skirt around the main issues at the heart of the brouhaha merely postpones the evil day?

A quick one for JAMB. Can anyone explain the essence of asking candidates to indicate their preferred institutions only to have JAMB redistribute them for whatever reasons? Why should it be JAMB’s headache that one million candidates applied for 1,000 spaces in Lagos even when there are 100,000 spaces to be filled in Kaura Namoda? A case of the god of bureaucracy insisting that things could only be done its way?

Questions of course remain. In today’s Nigeria, tertiary level admission is akin to a fundamental human right. Yet, we know that the performance paints a different picture across the board. In the 2015 UTME for instance, only 455,639 of the nearly 1.5 million actually scored 50 percent and above. That was the minimum threshold in the good old days. Why not stick to this manageable number? Why make things worse by lowering the threshold when available spaces are not enough?

More fundamentally – why not raise the profile and number of technical colleges to shore up the pool of technical manpower? And what’s the big deal churning out hordes of certificated illiterates only to have them end up pounding our cities in search of jobs?  Why not bring back the old Trade Test system under which artisans and skilled trades were graded and remunerated as befitting their status?

‘Why not raise the profile and number of technical colleges to shore up the pool of technical manpower? And what’s the big deal churning out hordes of certificated illiterates only to have them end up pounding our cities in search of jobs?  Why not bring back the old Trade Test system under which artisans and skilled trades were graded and remunerated as befitting their status?’


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