Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) has described the scrapping of the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (post-UTME) by the Federal Government as a “calamitous mistake.”
The veteran lawyer who founded the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), said he was “more than shocked by the announcement” from the Minster of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, that post-UTME as part of the qualifying procedure for admission into Nigerian universities, has now been cancelled.
“This, to me, is nothing but a most calamitous mistake, which poses danger and an irreversible adverse effect on the quality of education in this country,” Babalola said.
“It is rather unfortunate that human memory is very short. In 2003, it was discovered by university administrators in this country that many of the students admitted into Nigerian universities through JAMB were not only academically deficient, they could also not justify the high marks scored in JAMB examinations.
“Cases abound whereby JAMB examination papers were being openly compromised and sold to students at examination centers, while some examination centers, mischievously dubbed miracle centres, were openly, but unofficially designed to guarantee high marks for some candidates.
“The most pathetic aspect of this perfidy is that we later found out that most of these students with such high marks were unable to cope academically upon their being admitted to the universities.
“It was at this point of this national embarrassment that the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, under my chairmanship, met in Abuja, x-rayed the cankerworm and recommended to former President Olusegun Obasanjo that JAMB should be scrapped, because the integrity of its examinations has been called to question.
“I must stress at this point that the introduction of post-UTME was not decided by the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities alone; the matter was thrown open, with contributions from stakeholders and interested and concerned members of the different strata of society.
“However, government in its wisdom, decided to adopt a middle-way approach to the matter by saying that JAMB should continue to be and conduct its business of qualifying examinations to tertiary institutions in Nigeria, while post-UTME should be introduced.
“This translates to the fact that JAMB will be used as the basis for admission into Nigerian universities, but the universities are free to conduct screening exercises, which include administering questions in relevant courses, for their would-be students.”
“The post-UTME had proved to be a veritable quality control measure, which I believed had been working and working well.
“For example, the first post-UTME we conducted at the University of Lagos, where I was then the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, yielded positive dividends.
“There was this student with a very impressive result, who applied to study Law. Since English Literature was and still central to the admission of students to study Law, he was asked if he knew a novel called Things Fall Apart and he answered in the affirmative. We then asked him if he knew the author.
“The hall was filled with consternation when the young man named the late Gen. Sanni Abacha as the author of Things Fall Apart.
“With the above scenario, it became crystal clear that Nigerian universities were no places candidates should come to with compromised and procured results.
“This singular example underscores the place and import of the post-UTME, which is being touted as having been cancelled. As a result of the introduction of the post-UTME, the quantum of students who were asked to withdraw, because they could neither defend the high marks they were parading nor cope academically upon admission, dropped considerably.
“Besides and in any event, those who were using JAMB to get jumbo marks also reduced, while JAMB and its results became more credible,” Babalola said.
“It must be emphasised that every university has the right to screen the candidates it wants to admit.
“It also has the right to embark on other exercises, whether written or unwritten, to make it and its products stand out.
“For example, in the University of Oxford, any student applying to study Law is mandatorily required to take the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT). Any student applying for Biomedical Sciences must take Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). Any student applying for Chemistry must take Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), while any one applying for Classics must take Classics Admission Test (CAT).
“However, such universities should not set out to profit from such exercises, as they are not money-making ventures. Students should only be made to pay minimal fees to cover the cost of papers and other logistics, like we do in our university, where each student pays only N10, 000 for the post-UTME,” the lawyer said.