Since the composition of the new leadership of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) by President Muhammadu Buhari, there have been some actions towards reforming the way the organisation is perceived by its publics. First, to give teeth to the reforms, the ministry of education came up with the stoppage of post JAMB examinations in tertiary institutions. Perhaps this was to prepare grounds for the new matriculation procedures. Next is the stoppage of awaiting result candidates; another is the reduction of examination fees; yet, another is the introduction of mock examination. These reforms will be tested in a few weeks’ time as the body prepares to host its first exams under the new leadership.
The stoppage of awaiting result candidates recently means JAMB will no longer give such persons provisional admission into tertiary institutions. These are students who are yet to write their Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) or to that extent those waiting for the results they require for admission into tertiary institutions. This decision, which is apparently designed to improve the efficiency of the university admissions regulator, indicates that candidates must have the necessary SSCE results before they are offered admission into higher institutions by JAMB.
The measure is expected to reduce the number of candidates who sit for the matriculation examination every year for placement into limited places in tertiary institutions. There is a serious shortage of admission spaces in Nigerian universities. At the inception of JAMB in 1978, only a few thousand candidates where eligible for, and actually sought admission into our tertiary institutions. Even before the establishment of JAMB, during the early years of tertiary education in the country, admission seekers were probably no more than a few hundreds.
The picture is much different now. The recognised tertiary institutions in the country have increased from about 20 a few decades ago, to hundreds, with the candidates seeking admission into them now running into millions. Managing the admission process has become a huge challenge for JAMB, especially since the examinations into tertiary institutions were unified some years ago. If the new measure is strictly implemented, final year secondary school students who form a significant percentage of JAMB candidates, will no longer be given admission, unless their SSCE results are released before the admission processes of their selected tertiary institutions are concluded.
On the other hand, the slashed fees would help parents and guardians afford to pay the fees for the exam for their kids and wards to attempt the examination. At N5, 500 this is lower than what was previously paid for the same exam. In this season of economic crisis, this lower fee is a welcome development for struggling parents. Also, the mock exam, which hitherto was organised by respective secondary schools has now been taken over by JAMB. Although it is not compulsory, yet it will help students grasp what the main exam will look like. It will also put them in the frame of someone preparing for a national exam.
In the final analysis, the awaiting result part of the reforms, we believe, would help sieve the grain from the chaff. Only serious final year students of secondary schools would bother to apply for the matriculation examination, knowing that there is a stricter requirement to show evidence of qualification for the admission they seek before they are considered for such admission.
What is left is to ask the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the Nigerian Examinations Council (NECO) to quicken the release of the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) that they conduct so that they are available to all JAMB candidates for their admission processes. The JAMB should also strive to implement its new measure with the best interest of all its prospective candidates in mind.
While we commend these efforts, there is still work to be done. The admission process is still opaque with extraneous factors such as catchment area, educationally less developed states still in use as against purely merit. We hope that the JAMB examination will continue to be conducted in an environment which does not exclude anyone who is qualified to take it. Access to tertiary education, or education at any level for that matter, is a legitimate right enshrined in the constitution which must be protected by those charged with admission processes at all levels of education in the country.