By Ada Igboanugo
I was in class the other day, waiting for my lecturer to come in and commence lecture. Surprisingly early, I decided to get a little ahead in class by revising. Exam was a month away, and I wasn’t quite ready to take the exam. The class representative walked briskly in with a half smile and a half frown, only to announce that the Public Relations lecturer had travelled for a meeting organised by the Minister of Education on the agenda for this year’s tertiary academic session, in Abuja. Half of the class leaped for joy and didn’t hesitate to leave the class while the remaining ‘book worms’ who, like me, didn’t think that they were near ready stayed back to read a little.
My lecturer arrived a day later looking gloomy and worn out. I imagined it was due to the long plane ride as he came to the institute directly from the airport. However, the news tabloids already started reporting on the proceedings of the meeting…
What the Tabloids Reported
Apparently, The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), in a meeting chaired by the Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, have fixed national cut-off marks for admission into the nation’s tertiary institutions. For the 2012/13 academic session, the board pegged cut-off mark for admission into universities at 180 [as against 200], while 160 [as against 180] was fixed for polytechnics, colleges of technology, colleges of education and other diploma-awarding institutions. JAMB Registrar/CE, Professor Dibu Ojerinde announced the cut-off marks at the 3rd Combined Policy Committee Meeting on Admissions to Degree-awarding Institutions, National Diploma, ND; Nigeria Certificate in Education, NCE; and National Innovation Diploma, NID, in Abuja.
What They Didn’t Report
Wonder why my lecturer looked gloomy on his return from the capital city? I did too and so I asked if it all went well and his eyes betrayed him at that very moment with looks of worry before he said, ‘Our educational system has failed’, shaking his head after, he then started.
I might have been young but I clearly remember, as he reminded me, of the early times when cuts off were set according to courses [for instance; Medicine had a cut-off of 270, and Law- 250] and you have to be extremely brilliant or try to be, to make the cut, and if not, another course will be awarded to you, much to your distaste but in relation to your course of choice and yet kids aspired to make it and admission into varsities wasn’t such a problem. But now, even having reduced the cut-off to 200 [as at last year] students both do not make up to that or a larger number aren’t admitted.
2. The Discrimination of Polytechnics/Monotechnics/College of Education
As sad as this sounds [and you won’t see in any national daily or hear from the lips of the official] all three of Polytechnic, Monotechnic and College of Education had not even one admission for this academic session 2012/2013. The admission chart shown to my lecturer as well as other attendees at the meeting were in blood red as it revealed that the institution had no student to admit that year, not because they didn’t make the 160 cut as the officials of the school argued but because of the fact that no one applied in the first place. Apparently, IMSU had the highest number of applications followed by Nnmadi Azikwe University, Awka and the University of Lagos [as ironic as that sounds]. The stereotype created around attending such institutions and the kind of qualification awarded has indeed affected it greatly. And who’s to blame for this? When a kid spends four years in either a state school or a polytechnic and cannot get a reasonable job with reasonable pay simply because of the school they attended. I had a friend who studied in a Poly and applied at my place of work. He was refused pay simply because he isn’t a B.Sc holder, but they didn’t mind him rendering his services. He got discouraged trying to apply somewhere else and went back to apply to a University to start all over again.
When the topic of the Nigerian educational system amounts, where do you start? Is it the deteriorating system, where lecturers don’t even teach anymore and students have to rely on tutorials to survive? Or the fact that you can attend a university for four years only to find out that either the school isn’t even accredited or the course isn’t? Or the absurd 6-3-3-4 system of education whereas other countries are embracing the new form of education where you can round up your course with two years or less instead of the unnecessarily elongated 4 years minimum course study durations? Or the emergence of Private Universities with the façade of the betterment of the system only to become money extortionists of the highest order? Or the fact that graduates after grad school do not even possess the necessary knowledge to embark on the job offered to them, like the University of Lagos Mass communication final year students that visited the office for their final year project and didn’t know the components of a Newspaper? Or the lack of proper teaching infrastructures in schools. (I had a friend who was studying Computer science and his school had no functioning computers) Or the sad dilapidated state of institutions? The list goes on. Where do we begin?
Now the JAMB body is ruling that Universities end the alternative means of granting admissions as Diploma, pre-degree and direct entry. Apparently all students henceforth from the 2013/2014 session must go through JAMB to enter school. I’m afraid of what the outcome of this decision would be because the organised entry by schools seem to be what has kept most students away from staying at home after high school, though dubious most times.
The question of free education in the College of Education was raised to encourage students to apply at the meeting, little did they know that education is in fact free in the CoEs but that hasn’t encouraged a student to. The stereotype remains and every year, another student will apply to a University with the hope of gaining admission.
Now the questions are; are the exam questions a lot harder now or students just aren’t willing to try harder anymore? Is resorting to alternative means of entry a better option and will it guarantee one entry? Are the students to blame or the government? Is opting for a better quality of education, thereby travelling overseas a better option- what becomes of those who can’t afford it? What happens to the Diploma awarding institutions? Will the government change their mind and approve equality in qualifications attained? Are they going to adopt the foreign system of education and reduce the number of kids travelling out to study, encouraging nd producing better trained professionals? Most importantly, what is the government willing to do about the Nigerian system because we have indeed failed in this sector?
Like Omojuwa, I need answers to these questions.