Would Reps intervention end the post-UTME controversy?

The raging controversy surrounding the post Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) tests conducted by many Nigerian universities, after candidates may have obtained requisite scores in the examination organised by the Joint Admission and Matriculations Board (JAMB), has failed to die down over the years. The matter got attention of the House of Representatives recently. JOSHUA EGBODO writes on the opposing views of the lawmakers.

The societal feelings

Since the introduction of the post-UTME by universities, it was of great concern to many, especially parents and guardians, who in several cases saw their children and or wards losing out in securing admissions, even with good and very encouraging grades obtained at the UTME. So many people also saw same as a channel of extortion deployed by the universities, especially in view of the fact that accounts for fees charged candidates for the tests were usually not rendered.

Reps’ recent intervention

A member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State, Hon. Ademorin Kuye in a motion recently on the floor of the house, prayed for a resolution, directing all tertiary education institutions in Nigeria to stop the post-UTME screening tests. 

He also asked the house to mandate its Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, to call for a joint meeting of the Ministry of Education, JAMB and the National Universities Commission (NUC), during which the stakeholders would develop an acceptable standard for JAMB examinations in conformity with requirements of academic institutions in Nigeria.

Kuye recalled that JAMB which was established in 1978, was statutorily charged with the responsibility of conducting matriculation examinations for entry into the country’s tertiary institutions, noting that Nigerians paid monies to purchase the JAMB/UTME forms to qualify them to write the examinations, seeking admission into higher institutions of their respective choices.

“This is after payments and undergoing rigorous registration and examination processes, the said higher Institutions subject students to another internal examination/test called post-UTME/JAMB on payment of yet another fee without any consideration for indigent parents and students”, he argued.

According to him, the fees usually charged for the screening exercise were “not backed by any law and the proceeds therefore are not accounted. This leaves room for manipulation and exploitation and lack of accountability for the funds generated”.  The post-UTME test was making it difficult for JAMB to monitor admissions, as was its primary responsibility, and so should be scrapped.

Lawmakers’ views

However, when the floor was opened for contributions, members expressed diverse views on the propriety or otherwise of the tests.

Speaking in support of the motion, on the need to rest the post-UTME tests, Hon. Benjamin Obidigwe, from Anambra State said the post UTME examinations conducted by the universities were just to exploit our children. “Our education in the country has resorted to some forms of extortion. The universities corner the funds from the screening exercises because they failed to account for such revenue during their budget defence.

“Post UTME add no educational value to our system. I hope that the committee will look into this to put an end to it”, he stated.

Also in his submissions, Chairman of the committee on media and public affairs of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said there was need to stop the conduct of such examinations, for in his opinion, the universities could not account for the utilisation of funds which were proceeds from the fees charged for the screening tests.

He stated further that the sustained conduct of the post-UTME tests was akin to casting doubts on the integrity and capacity of JAMB. “Granted, there are leakages, but JAMB has to sit up. What we have oversea is interviews. When you pass the examinations, you are  invited over for an interview, not the way JAMB is going about it here”, he noted.

Hon. Sam Onuigbo while contributing in support of the motion also argued that JAMB was created to end duplication of admission processes, but that “now, we have returned to a situation where students are exploited”. He added that so many things were going wrong, “because when students write the UTME, they believe that their scores would be used, but the reverse is the case. We must take action”.

Also speaking against the continuous conduct of the test, Hon. Aniekan Umanah said that universities were only “exploiting the internal leakages on what JAMB is doing.There is need for this motion to be revisited so that we can have a common ground”, he submitted.

But on the other side were some members who insisted on the desirability of the exercise. Speaking against the motion, Hon. Samuel Chinedu said the post UTME examinations complemented the actual tests conducted by JAMB. “All they do is to cross check what JAMB has done. Admitting students who are not properly checked is rather worse than the financial implications,” he stated.

According to Hon. Nathan Ifon, the post-UTME should remain because there were reported instances where people impersonate and sit for candidates in the UTME, and present grades which the original candidates could not defend. “What we should rather be canvassing for, is may be a reduction in the fees charged”, he noted.

Also in similar vein, Hon. Lere Suleiman pointed out that the UTME has been bedeviled with a lot of manipulations, especially with the existence of ‘miracle centres’. “These days, people are obtaining results without even sitting for the examinations, so we have to be very cautious in passing this motion. JAMB itself is withholding results of candidates on the bases of malpractices”, he said.

Hon. Abubakar Yunusa on his part noted that it is clear fact that with the population of candidates seeking admissions into tertiary institutions yearly, there was competition for spaces, and in his understanding, the “institutions may have adopted the screening tests as criteria for fair selection of candidates”.

What the House arrived at

After the marathon debate from both sides, the prayer of the motion was altered, to rather mandate the House Committee on Tertiary Education and Services to interface with JAMB to get its position on the conduct of the post UTME tests by higher institutions and report its findings back within four weeks.

While outcome of the interface, date(s) yet unknown is being awaited, the controversy still lingers, with analysts on opposing sides presenting valid points on why the post-UTME test should be discarded, or sustained. 

There are yet concerns that the House may at most in this case offer suggestions through recommendations of the committee, which may also end up as one such suggestions that would be ignored by the concerned institutions, unless such come by way of a binding legislation. Would the House therefore provide the expected lasting option? This would only be known in the due time.

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