By Hanson Chidozie
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board( JAMB) has assured Nigerians that its recent decision to lower the 2017 admission cut-off marks for universities and polytechnics, will not lower the standard of education in Nigeria, but would rather check the tendency of Nigerians to seek admission into inferior higher institutions abroad.
The examination body said in a statement it issued at the end of a policy meeting it held last week in Jos, Plateau State that, the condemnation which its decision was getting from stakeholders was really unnecessary.
JAMB says that, Nigerians should be more concerned about how to the malaise of candidates constantly seeking admission into what it described as “glorified secondary schools called foreign Universities in countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Gambia and others,” could be effectively addressed.
“It is expedient to state here that the worst admitted cut-off mark in a Nigerian institution is far better than allowing them to fly out to some of the institution they are attending out there which we all know are nothing to be proud of”, JAMB said.
The organisation had repeatedly emphasised that despite the reduction of cut-off points from 180 for Universities and 165 Polytechnics, to now 120 and 100 respectively for the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculations Examination (UTME), institutions were not under compulsion to accept that as their benchmarks for admission.
This explanation has, however, not assuaged the litany of criticisms daily trailing this decision by JAMB’s management.
It this persistent criticism that necessitated the latest statement by spokesperson of JAMB, Fabian Benjamin on Sunday, saying that despite the criticisms, the organisation would not lose focus.
He said, “The much trending controversy over the just released cut off marks for 2017 admission exercise by stakeholders at the policy meeting is quite unnecessary. Today, we are where we are because many are afraid to say the truth for fear of being condemned rather than being celebrated and set free as commanded by the Holy Books.
“This notwithstanding, JAMB will not be deterred, we will continue to say the truth as it is and support policies that would bring our education system out of the woods. Today, it is a known fact that millions of Nigerians are out there schooling in mushroom institutions and they will at the end come back with all kinds of degrees and certificates that we cannot explain their content.
“Our Naira is continually devalued as a result of so many reasons, including the pressure to pay these school fees. Irrespective of this turn of events in our education history, our tertiary institutions hardly fill their available spaces otherwise known as carrying capacity. So, it is obvious that the quest to go abroad for foreign education is not as a result of shortage of spaces or standards given some of the institutions attended by these Nigerians but partly due to the fact that some of our policies and attitudes to national values and deep concern for realistic benchmarks for national development.
“It’s also a known fact that for you to study a course say Hausa in Nigerian universities, you will need a credit in Mathematics; however, when you go outside like London, all you will need is a credit in Hausa and English, no Mathematics. Such and so many other poorly thought-out policies have pushed our frustrated candidates out of Nigeria to developed and neighbouring African nations for education they could not get at home.
“The question we all should be concerned about is how to address the flight of Nigerians to glorified secondary schools called Universities in Ghana, Uganda and even Gambia and others. How do we ensure that whatever we do has positive multiplier effects on other sectors of the economy? If we deny our candidates the opportunity to school in Nigeria, they will find their way out and in doing that deplete our economic base.
“To provide answers to all these challenges, stakeholders decided that institutions should be allowed to determine their cut-off marks according to their peculiarities and the quality and standards they want to be known for. It is expedient to state here that the worst admitted cut-off mark in a Nigerian institution is far better than allowing them to fly out to some of the institution they are attending out there which we all know are nothing to be proud of.
“Besides, events have shown that many institutions do not comply with cut-off marks in the past; hence the flood of requests for regularization. Now, the new management has resolved to stop it and ensure full compliance with resolutions on cut off-marks.
“JAMB will equally ensure that it corrects all anomalies existing especially as regards the powers of institutions to make pronouncements on admissions and other related matters affecting the institutions. The public should not forget that JAMB is a creation of the demands of the then Vice Chancellors for a central institution that will streamline the process of admission and eliminate multiplicity of entrance examination and admissions.
“In view of this mandate, JAMB will confine itself to these provisions especially the conduct of examinations and release of results to the institutions. It is also very misleading to say that Vice-Chancellors reject the cut-off mark. This may be the editors’ power of caption, you can only reject an offer and not when the power to determine such privilege lays squarely on your hands.
“All heads of tertiary institutions were requested to submit their cut off benchmark to the Board which will then be used for the admission. And these benchmarks once determined cannot be changed in the middle of admission exercise. Again, it is necessary to explain that the 120 mark does not in any way suggest that once you have 120 then admission is sure for you. Institutions will admit from the top to the least mark.
“We are now starting the actually monitoring of adherence to admissions guidelines, cut-off marks inclusive. The cut-off marks being branded by the public as previous cut-off mark were never strictly followed by most institutions. The institutions were going behind to admit candidates with far less with others admitting candidates who never sat for JAMB.
“This act to say the least is very distasteful and damaging to our national data and identity. Unfortunately, the public has been kept away from this fact for such a long time and now that we are saying it the way it is and working to address it, the public is criticizing us, using non-existing parameters that were only announced and not followed.
“In years past, admissions were done with worst cut-off marks. We are determined and ready to correct all these with the 2017 exercise. JAMB has designed a Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS) to check back-door admission and other unwholesome practices associated with admission.
“We are sure that the system will bring out the good in us as it will also make provision for candidates to track their admission. This empowers them to raise queries if a candidate that have better scores over and other prerequisites are admitted, which CAPS will not allow anyway. This is the inclusiveness and transparency that education needs,” he emphasized.