While growing up as a young boy several years ago, I cherished being in the midst of wise elders who always gathered in the evenings under a big kolanut tree at the market square to narrate their life experiences. On these occasions, I never failed to listen with rapt attention, to the catalogue of memorable tales heavily laden with relevant interesting adages pouring out speedily from the rich repository of wisdom and knowledge of each of the highly revered elderly men and women of inestimable value.
One of the well-known adages the elders taught me, which I have deliberately refused to forget, says: “when a husband and his wife are blessed with a baby, it is the woman and not the man that knows the actual father of the innocent child.” There is an iota of truth in the adage, especially if one recalls that these days, Magistrate courts across the country are awash with rising cases of married women with children who are products of extra-marital affairs with different men. In such situations, it is only the women and not the unsuspecting men that know the authentic fathers of the children.
This is why I wonder what is currently going on in the troubled mind of the “embattled” Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede, following the announcement of cut-off marks for admissions into tertiary institutions for 2017/2018 academic session. According to JAMB, cut-off mark for universities is 120, for polytechnics, it is 100, and Colleges of Education is 100 while Innovative Enterprise Institute is 110. However, what could be giving Oloyede, who seems to have profound penchant for controversial policies, sleepless nights since the reported minimum national cut-off marks were officially announced is the fact that controversies have continued to trail the largely ill-advised and un-progressive cut-off marks. A situation that enables a scorer of 120 out of maximum score of 400, which is outright failure, to obtain university admission is not only a scandalous national shame but also a monumental degeneration in quality of education in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, despite Oloyede’s spirited attempts to justify the seemingly retrogressive cut-off marks, reportedly arrived at during the just-concluded education stakeholders’ combined policy meeting on admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria, many right-thinking Nigerians with discerning minds are not convinced and, therefore, feel that JAMB has hidden agenda of using the ridiculously low cut-off marks to satisfy the interests of those in a particular part of the country that have not been able to attain higher cut-off marks over the years. Compared with women who, according to the adage, are the ones that know the real fathers of their children, Oloyede is yet to let the rest of us know the actual originators of the condemnable cut-off marks. It should, for instance, be of great concern to him and JAMB which is expected to exhibit exemplary conduct in its dealings with the general public that having stated that the demoralising cut-off marks were approved by relevant stakeholders, many of the so-called stakeholders have continued to distance themselves from the absurd policy. If the roundly unpopular and highly debasing policy enjoys support of stakeholders at the combined meeting, why have notable stakeholders such as Vice-Chancellors of public and private universities, founders of private universities, school proprietors, examination bodies, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), as well as National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) condemned it vehemently?
It is amazing and rather worrisome that in the 21st Century, Nigeria’s education sector continues to deteriorate largely due to short-sighted and backward policies of successive administrations and agencies such as JAMB. It is unfortunate that JAMB, which, ordinarily, is expected to overhaul the entire admissions process into tertiary institutions and ensure sanity and sustainable progress, seems not to be ready for the crucial task.
Although Oloyede has been in office for a relatively short period, this cut-off mark policy is a clear indication that he lacks sustainable innovative ideas to move JAMB forward from where he met it. It would be recalled that controversy trailed his appointment on assumption of duty. Surprisingly, prominent among those that kicked against his appointment and his initial policies were members of his immediate past constituency – Vice-Chancellors and ASUU. Whereas having served as vice-chancellor for a number of years, he, rather than grandstanding, ought to be enjoying support of his former colleagues.
The rejection of the cut-off marks by cross-section of stakeholders and others is a reminder of what happened when he introduced some policies on assumption of office. These new cut-off marks will not only promote mediocrity, laziness, failure and colossal calamity in tertiary education, higher institutions of learning will also continue to produce indolent, unintelligent and unemployable graduates whose certificates cannot meet global standards.
It is saddening that within the short period Oloyede has been in office, there have been policy somersaults indicating JAMB’s consistent inconsistencies in policy formulation and implementation. Early this session, cut-off mark was over 250 but now it is 120. Unfortunately, JAMB is not alone in this comic show going on in the fast decaying education sector. Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu, in-line with government’s unenviable culture of policy somersault, has lifted ban on Post-UTME as prerequisite for admission into tertiary institutions. This was a policy that was banned less than a year ago, largely due to its exploitative tendencies and the fact that university officials used it as a veritable source to corruptly enrich themselves. Now that the ban has been lifted, the floodgate has been opened again for poor parents in desperation for admissions for their children to be exploited by corrupt university officials. What is the rationale behind Post-UTME after JAMB must have conducted the compulsory UTME? In its own interest, especially judging by raging controversies rocking the debased cut-off marks, JAMB should, in-line with modern trends, introduce realistic policies that will stand the test of time and save hapless Nigerian students and their poor parents from unnecessary disappointment and embarrassment.