By Bayo Fasunwon
The race for placement in one of the numerous universities, spread across the country is on. Many Nigerian youths who seek for certification in order to have an edge over several others (who may not further their education beyond the school certificate level), sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination in their millions. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the more than a hundred universities within the nation could not accommodate the myriads of admission seekers, the unfortunate news however is that only a negligible few of those who sat for the examination merited any form of consideration for the courses they desired.
From JAMB statistics, 6,944,368 applicants sat for the examination but only 973,384 passed with scores to get into Nigerian universities. This means that only 14% passed while 86%, representing 5,970,984 students failed. The few who even got the ‘pass’ mark would not all be entitled a space in the Ivory Towers due to the fact that they may not also have passed the prerequisite subjects (in WAEC, and or NECO) for the professions they sought to pursue. Now is the time for the blame game.
In my opinion, when majority of nationals had to seek for university degrees in order to attain relevance or sustenance in a country as ours, the nation has failed. In many developed countries of the world, the number of people who seek for university degrees are quite few. Even in the United Kingdom, many of their students are international students, of which Nigerians are high subscribers. The crazy quest for certification has led to the menace of ‘Oluwole’ and ‘Toronto’ certificates in circulation. Nigeria ought to have developed enabling environments for technicians, sole proprietors, farmers, artisan and others without University, to have good rewards for their labouirs and prosper. Such environments would have attracted investors who would have needed, sought and employed semi skilled workers, thus reducing the level of unemployment in the society. Yours truly is one of the few who strongly feel that university education should not be for all and sundry. In many cases, most of the monies spent on acquiring a university degree could have been given as enabling capital to the ‘forced’ undergraduates.
In addition to the failure of the State, one could also deduce that majority of the students who sat for UTME had recently emerged from the lockdown. This implies that majority of the examined had their brain on leave for close to year, if not more. COVID 19 amongst other things revealed the inadequacies of our educational system. Given the lockdown, many schools, and coaching centers were left under lock and key, hence the students were left to stray, and acquire knowledge mostly on their own or under the tutelage of untrained ‘family’ teachers. Conversely, the students were not trained adequately for the examinations. The country’s lack of effective virtual learning platforms was exposed and the students were left to suffer for it. Only few could access online teaching platforms due to the cost of data and access to online friendly mobile devices. What therefore could one expect from untaught students in an examination of such high standards? While the lockdown was on, there were seminars, policies and promises made to inculcate virtual learning into the school curriculum, but given the respite, efforts have dwindled, forgetting that afflictions may rise again. The UTME result is therefore the result of the stoppage of learning at the instance of the closure of physical school environments.
That said, it is general knowledge that failed project is the outcome of failed plans. The build up to the UTME examination was characterized with experiences, which had psychological impacts on both students and their guardians. While the reform geared towards the reduction of examination malpractices during the examination was commendable, it also contributed to failures, if the truth were told. Despite postponements to accommodate more students, the introduction of the NIN as a prerequisite for examination registration ensured that some applicants were not registered while some was registered so late. Some would opine that such has no effect on the results, but little is they aware that good psychological dispositions are necessary ingredients of examination success.
Also, (this has been on the burner for a while), posting students outside their geographical safe zones to write exams, in times as this, is not only traumatic but also insensitive. Fear of assault, accident, and other things may in fact impede academic productivity. JAMB also displayed their systemic failure in the fact that many students complained that the discs that accompanied their regtistration (which could have afforded them access to vital information) did not open. Yours truly tried this myself, and found it so. Added to this is the insinuation that questions were set outside the given syllabus in subjects with specific texts. If the systemic failure of JAMB was not evident in all these, even the checking of results on the 55019 SMS platform, only succeeded in making the organisation rich rather than delivering the required service. Time and space would not permit the chronicles of malfunctioned systems at CBT centres. Overall, in this year’s UTME, one can conveniently state that technology failed JAMB and the students.
However, we cannot exonerate the students. Despite the huge failures recorded, some students still made above 200, while some made up to 300 and above. One must not shy away from the basic truth that the youths of this generation are not studious. Statistics would prove that when Universities were not proliferated in this nation, and admission was based on the survival of the fittest, performance was better as admission was highly competitive; however, the reading culture of this generation of students is abysmally low. Many, who claim to read, have substituted reading for learning. Students are more at home seeking for examination leakages, watching movies and trending on Instagram than sitting down to gain knowledge. Thus you hear ‘who education help’ from their failing mouths. Many students in post primary institutions in Nigeria have taken learning with levity. Thus, this is not just evident in their academic pursuit but also revealed in their disdain for acquiring vocational skills. Until there is a renewing of the mindset of these students, failure in academic pursuit shall occur in subsequent examinations in this country.