Criticisms have been the reaction since the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board announced the decision to peg the minimum benchmark for admission into universities at 120 and 100 for polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education. In this interview, the JAMB registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, responded to issues raised so far by stakeholders, writes FOLASHADE ADEBAYO. Excerpts
The decision to reduce the cut-off mark to 120 for universities and 100 for polytechnics has met with criticism from many quarters. It seems it is not a popular decision.
You see, the issue is that people who are not familiar with a matter, rather than keeping their peace, will be commenting on things that they know little about. Our examination is not an achievement test. It is not a qualifying examination; rather, it is a ranking examination. Anybody that we want to admit into the university must basically have his five credits. It is not JAMB that qualifies them. But, because we don’t have space for all of them, we decide to rank them. What we had been doing was to ensure that nobody who scored less than 200 had a chance. But, this year, we are saying that anybody who scores up to 120 has a chance. With 200, we have never filled our quota in the last 10 years. Some of those who scored over 200 do not have five credits in their O level results.
And you cannot be admitted if you don’t have five credits. Those who are talking have not even dissected the problem, yet they are making recommendations. Other agencies all over the world, like the UKEAS in the United Kingdom, also rank candidates. Some of them do not even conduct any examination. Our examination is not a qualifying examination, it is a ranking examination. What that means is that you can’t admit anybody unless he is qualified. What qualifies an individual is the O level, not the UTME. The children of those who are objecting to this decision go to the UK to study. Do they write the UTME there? They are unfair to the common man who has not stolen money to study in Ghana and the UK. It is part of a class war that the poor man must be kept under.
This is a ranking examination and this is a decision of all vice-chancellors, provosts and rectors. Commentators cannot claim to know more than these people do because they are commenting out of ignorance. If you have 10 spaces and five of your children are qualified, then you look for a way of ranking them. You can use age. It does not mean that the number six child is not qualified. But, because he came sixth, then you take the first five.
And you can decide on three male children and two female children. So, the fourth male child will not say that you are unfair because there is a parameter. So, our examination is for ranking purposes. We want to rank all qualified candidates and what makes them qualified is the O level. As I speak with you, there was no time in the last 10 years that we have filled 70 per cent of the quota. The colleges of education and polytechnics are there doing nothing. And they kept on admitting students under the table. We are saying no more under-the-table deals. Come and tell us what you are doing under the table and let us see it. But people are commenting on matters that that they are not familiar with.
But 120/400 is a far cry from a pass mark…
I have answered that question. It is not the UTME that qualifies the candidate for admission. It is a ranking examination. We are not telling you to admit this or that candidate. Let me give you an example. Someone scores 300 and another scores 140, the person with 300 has four credits and the person with 140 has five credits. What it means is that you cannot take the candidate with 300 and you cannot also admit the candidate with 140. That is what we have been doing. What we are now saying is that JAMB is a clearing house. That is why people are faking our results and for them, it is a do or die affair. This is because we have created an unnecessary hurdle. Everywhere in the world, what qualifies candidates is the O level. The same thing applies to us. But because we do not have enough space, we have set an examination for them to rank them. There is no pass or fail with the UTME. We are not saying that universities should leave somebody with 230 and take another with 140.
Let me give you another example. We have never filled 50 per cent of the quota for Physics in the last 10 years. Not that there are no individuals who want to study Physics, but because they did not meet the cut-off point. You are paying the lecturers, but the classrooms are vacant. And, if the candidate is fortunate enough to have parents who can sponsor him to Ghana, he will go to that country with his O level and come back with the same degree. He will now be boasting to his colleagues who were not fortunate enough to have a father who can pay their transport fare.
The belief has always been that our universities are oversubscribed…
I am in a position to know and I know that they are not oversubscribed. There are institutions that are oversubscribed, but they are few. Tell some institutions, maybe more than five, that have in the last 10 years, filled 70 per cent of their admission capacities. It is because there is a mismatch. You ask universities to admit 60 per cent of science students and 40 per cent of those who studied humanities. But what the school system is producing is 70 per cent Arts students and 30 per cent Science students.
How do you react to arguments that this was done to assist private universities to lower their standard and accommodate these candidates?
That is not correct. I have no reason to encourage private universities. But, having said that, for God’s sake, what is bad in encouraging private universities? You allowed them to be established, you set up regulatory agencies for them and you abandon them. I travelled to Uganda and discovered that 40 per cent of the students in private universities in Kampala are Nigerians. I went to their classrooms and took pictures with them. They did not sit for the UTME, but because their parents are comfortable, they want to oppress the children of the poor.
Do you see public universities adjusting their cut-off marks with the latest development?
Universities are universities. They have the right, under the law, to admit whom they want to admit. All these people commenting, you will see their reaction when they start to see results. I am not afraid of controversy. I know where I am going and they are the ones who are just commenting casually. I have a goal. I want to appeal to people to be patient and reserve their comments. Let us see the results. I have been in this for 40 years. Why can’t you credit me with the fact that I had the opportunity of being the chairman of the Academic Planners of Nigeria Universities, where we plan academic matters? I had the fortune of being the chairman, Committee of Vice-Chancellors, I had the opportunity of coordinating the association in West Africa and I had the opportunity of being the president of the association in Africa. Don’t you think that I would have studied the situation?
How do you react to the fact that facilities in our institutions are overstretched?
What we have done has not increased quota. We have taken all those into consideration. Not JAMB alone, but also the NUC, NCC and the NBTE. We have fixed a quota, based on available facilities. We are not telling schools to overshoot their quota, we are saying, “Bring those people who are roaming the streets into the classrooms to fill the quota.” What correlation do facilities and that has to do? I am not the one who fixed the quota.