As a professor in the department of English at the Obafemi Awolowo University, my dad usually has his hands full of requests to help with admissions from family and friends. Sometime ago a friend of his came with his son who had scored 190 or thereabouts in the UTME that year and his father was hoping that my dad would be able to help him get into OAU. Dad said he simply told the father “see, there is nothing I can do for your son. If he had made at least 200, I would at least have tried to find a low demand department that will accept him, but with this score, even if he is the president’s son, he can’t get in.” The boy had to go home and study for the UTME the next year. The next year he passed with a score sufficient for the course he wanted to study.
There was another time someone else came with his daughter. The girl wanted to go to the school of nursing, but she could not write the exam because she wasn’t 17 yet. So she decided to do a B.Sc instead. The girl scored more than 200 in the UTME but did not pass the post- UTME exam, so my dad could not help her. Later according to the account given by my dad, the man discovered that the girl was showing signs of depression because she had to stay at home while most of her friends got admissions into various higher institutions. What he then did was to buy an admission form of a state university for her. She was able to get into the Microbiology course in that state university. However she still wanted to be a nurse, so after her 17th birthday she left the state university and returned to take the School of Nursing examination.
Recently, he also told me of one of his younger colleagues who told him that he (the colleague that is) is in danger of losing his job as a lecturer in a private University. The University was downsizing because the economic recession affecting the country has caused a massive drop in the enrolment of students forcing the University to let some of their staff go.
The purpose of these stories is to provide some perspective on the decision the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board JAMB to reduce the UTME exam cutoff score for Universities from 200 to 120. It is difficult to see this decision changing anything in terms of admission into Federal Universities, especially the more established ones. What this decision will change is that students like the boy in the first story and the girl in the second story no longer have to stay at home if they don’t score up to 200 marks. They can now enter any private university of their choice so far their parents and cough up the dough.
When the UTME cut of score was still 200, Federal state and Private universities fished in the same admission pool.What usually happened was that students often choose to go to federal universities Since their fees are more affordable and they have higher reputations. The others were thus forced to compete for the leftovers who cannot get into the federal institutions, which explains the situation in the third story. With this new policy, JAMB has essentially opened up another admission pool for state and private universities. The good thing about this new pool is that Federal Universities will not want to fish in this pool at all. Parents thus no longer need to worry about their children making a score of 200 in the UTME, since they can now send them to a state or a private university so far they can afford the fees.
As a further example, the youth development centre that I currently work from is owned by one of the newly created private universities in the country, and thus the authorities organize tours to their school from time to time. One of the selling points of that University is that you can enter with a UTME score as low as 120.
Even so, why go as low as 120? Some people indignantly argue. I think a bright spark in JAMB realized that the number of private universities in the country have been steadily increasing and will only increase further, so he/she decided to make the pool as wide as possible so that it can accommodate all the state and private universities that wish to fish there. If it is heavily slashed now, nobody has to slash it again for at least another few years
You may feel that Buhari and/ or a northern cabal is out to “destroy Nigeria’s educational system”, I cannot argue with you. However don’t direct all your vitrol at the northerners, reserve some for the authorities of the state and private universities who have the most to gain from this state of affairs and who (please don’t quote me here) may have put some pressure either directly or indirectly on JAMB to bring the decision about. (Especially given that states are now desperate for IGR). Now that strikes closer to home given that almost every one of our churches/Islamic groups have one or two universities.
While a lot of people (yours sincerely included) might complain that reducing the UTME score means that education is being commercialized and we are dumbing down an already terrible educational system, some might point out that education is being democratized. I don’t wish to attack anybody, group or religion, so I will stop now. My parting shot is this, any decision we take today on our educational system will tell on society tommorow.