PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, on October 28, 2010 at the Centre for Women Development and as Presidential candidate under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change, presented his blueprint for the transformation of education sector to Joint Education Stakeholders Action Coalition (JESAC), a voluntary association of 19 critical education unions and associations in Nigeria.
The continued relevance of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was raised and vigorously debated. I presented my ideas in a paper titled “33 reasons Why JAMB Should Be Scrapped: The case for granting full authority to tertiary institutions in Nigeria to conduct their own admission examinations in line with global best practices.” The paper was widely reported in the media.
The recent admission policy somersault of JAMB which has generated protests, court cases and public outcry makes it necessary for Mr. President and all critical education stakeholders to again reflect deeply about JAMB.
I still maintain that JAMB is a wicked policy. It should be scrapped, dissolved or merged with another more relevant agency. This is not a case of joining in the excitement, euphoria and frenzy of the moment.
It is an opinion I have always held based on selfless and objective analysis of facts gathered over a period of 20 years as CEO of Exam Ethics Marshals Movement. JAMB was established in 1978 by military decree by the then Federal Military Government under the leadership of General Olusegun Obasanjo. The decree was amended in 1989 and again in 1993.
JAMB is therefore the product of an era when the military wanted full control of every sector and everything. The 1993 JAMB decree provides in Section 5 (1) that “…the Board shall be responsible for the general control of the conduct of matriculation examinations for admissions into all Universities, Polytechnics (by whatever name called) and Colleges of Education (by whatever name called) in Nigeria… and for the placement of suitable candidates in tertiary institutions” The era of central military control of everything is now over.
The business of banking, telephony, aviation, power, etc have since been deregulated and Nigeria is better for it.
But there is a curious ambivalence in the education sector with the wicked policy of JAMB still being retained. The constitution of the Federal Republic .of Nigeria makes continued existence of JAMB anachronistic.
Education is under concurrent legislative list in the constitution. Section 29 and 30 of part II of second schedule of concurrent legislative list states that “a house of Assembly shall have power to make laws for the State with respect to the establishment of an institution for purposes of university, technology or professional education.”
The laws establishing federal universities state clearly that “the selection of persons for admission as students at the university is the function of the University Senate” (see Section 6f of University of Ibadan act, 1962 as example).
The Federal Universities of Technology Act 1986, Federal Colleges of Education Act 1986 and Federal Polytechnics Act 1979 all vest the function of admission of students on the institutions.
I am still in search of legal answers as to why the power of JAMB supersedes constitutional provisions, the power of State Houses of Assembly with regard to State Tertiary Institutions and the powers of various institutions as enshrined in their enabling laws.
The baffle of continued existence of JAMB is compounded by the fact that the JAMB experiment is an unmitigated failure. The story of JAMB is the story of running crises, re-enacted year after year.
It is a classical case study of what psychologists refer to as mad people doing the same thing consistently and expecting different results.
This is why the media has been persistent in their call for scrapping of JAMB. In addition to recent editorials, please see editorials of Guardian Newspaper (January 6, 2004), Nation Newspaper (April 7, 2010), Punch Newspaper (June 18, 2010) among others.
Critical education stakeholders including Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities have called for the scrapping of JAMB (Punch, May 24, 2005). So the question is: why, despite its serial failure and public outcries, has JAMB not been scrapped? Before I answer this question, let us first look at why JAMB is wicked policy in terms of its impact on students, parents, institutions and the entire country at large.
JAMB has used Nigerian students as guinea pigs to test all sorts of weird educational assessment and evaluation schemes: UME; MPCEME; UTME; POST-UTME; PPT; DBT; 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th preferred choices; ELDS; etc, etc. Please don’t ask me the meaning of these acronyms. Ask JAMB.
The cost of seeking admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria is 2000 per cent higher than that of other African countries including Ghana.
Students must spend money on JAMB forms, standard scratch cards, universal scratch cards, etc. They must spend money on transport and accommodation to sit for UTME.
Then there is Post-UTME form and another round of expenditure on scratch cards and another around of travelling. Many youths die each year in the course of travelling for UTME and post-UTME. Despite the high cost, admission is not guaranteed for at least 70 per cent of candidates.
This situation is no longer funny to parents, most of who are forced to spend in excess of N100,000 in search of admissions for their wards. This is why some aggrieved parents and students took to the streets on July 22, 2015 while others headed for the law court.
JAMB is a wicked policy for institutions because it deprives institutions of an important source of IGR. Institutions successfully resisted this by introducing Post-UTME at the expense of parents and students. The introduction of post-UTME effectively rendered JAMB redundant. The Board should have been disbanded at this point. The greatest harm done to the Nigerian tertiary education system is the absence of foreign students.