Recently, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) announced at the end of its 2015 Combined Policy Meeting that it had adopted a policy whereby surplus applicants to a university for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) will be re-distributed to other universities with lower number of applicants than their capacities.
Expectedly, the policy drew the ire of stakeholders, particularly parents of the applicants, who feared that their children and wards might be re-distributed to universities in parts of the country with peculiar security challenges, especially the North-East, which has been ravaged by the activities of Boko Haram insurgents for years now.
Many parents equally feared that they might be landed with the option of having their children offered admission into institutions where they could not easily afford the tuition and other expenses. They thus saw the directive as capable of railroading them into situations they had initially avoided through the choices of institutions made by their children and wards. The hysteria and protests which greeted the directive are quite understandable, given the complexities of a society such as ours.
Late last month, the Federal Government, through the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. MacJohn Nwaobiala, announced that it had overruled JAMB on the policy, thus returning the admission quandary to status quo, while at the same time disclosing that government had commenced consultation with the aim of identifying where adjustments could be made.
JAMB authorities may have been altruistic with the policy. The overriding concern might also have been to ensure that applicants get into school, even if they were not the candidates’ choice.
However, we urge that urgent, long-term solutions should be found to the admission problem. There are about 140 universities in Nigeria, with a total admission capacity of 450,000. Given that over 1,300,000 candidates wrote the 2015 UTME, it is certain that more than 800,000 applicants will not find space. This has been a recurring problem which forces many parents to seek admissions for their children in private universities at home and abroad.
Indeed, it is a shame that because of this admission crunch, Nigerians spend close to N160 billion annually educating their children in Ghana alone. It is almost certain that Nigerians spend more than that educating their children in Europe and America and other parts of the world.
The risk of having our children educated by other cultures is that at this rate we are evolving a future generation of Nigerians with little or no empathy for their nation-state. We are programming ourselves to self-destruct. The trend must be reversed urgently with enduring solutions.
JAMB should consult widely among stakeholders and ensure they institute admission policies that will carry everybody along.