By Charles Ibekwe
For many reasons, most Nigerians seek for higher education outside the shores of Nigeria. Sometimes Nigerian students, who begin their university studies in the country, end up in foreign countries because of the relocation of their parents or guardians to such countries for reasons of work.
At another level, there are also Nigerians who have naturalized in foreign countries or spent the best part of their lives working in such in countries. By implication, they are severed from their roots, but desire that their children have a romance with the indigenous culture of their country of birth. They all partake in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE) organized by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Therefore, its either a Nigerian undergraduate student is seeking transferred placement in a varsity abroad or those resident abroad are exploring ways to have their varsity education in their own fatherland. All these considerations come with a cost to both the student and the parent. For the student, there is the anxiety of acceptability of his academic standards, as a Nigerian by education authorities in foreign countries. And the parents too, ruminate over the burden of cost in a depressed economy, which altogether, adds to the anguish of training their children.
In Nigeria’s recent past, experience has shown a scornful rejection of prospective undergraduate students from Nigeria and also, students in Nigeria who seek transfer of studies to foreign countries and universities for different reasons suffered same fate.
The most common affliction of Nigerian students was how to battle affliction based on the trumpeted decline of educational standards in country. Years of reports confirming awful decline in educational standards in Nigeria, from elementary to tertiary levels was the greatest nemesis of Nigerian students, even for the few brilliant ones.
As Nigerian universities opted for the aptitude test to further confirm JAMB’s scores to students before admission, it became a tacit official confirmation of the speculation of fallen standards of education in the country. This was replicated by foreign countries where Nigerians sought higher education.
There were quite embarrassing reports of the fresh subjection of Nigerian students who sought transfer of studies to foreign varsities to fresh aptitude tests to determine their academic competencies and thereafter, demotion to lower levels in such countries.
But since Dibu Ojerinde, a professor of educational measurement and world-class educational administrator mounted the saddle as JAMB Registrar; much is beginning to change positively for Nigerian students. There are signs of bright hope and academic dignity, not only for Nigerian students in Nigeria, but their other countrymen in foreign countries.
Ojerinde’s innovations and modern techniques in different aspects of the operations of the exams body are the steps which have signaled high prospects for clearing the fog off the path of Nigerian students. Under his leadership of JAMB, Nigerians have witnessed rare innovations such as the on-line registration, Computer Based Test (CBT), checkmating of exam frauds, the manifest reduction in incidents of examination malpractices, extension of UTME to about eight foreign countries among a retinue of other transformations have restored confidence in the board’s activities both in Nigeria and by its foreign peers in educational administration.
In Nigeria, despite the initial rejection of the CBT method by the House of Representatives, based on the hitches its experiment for about three years has attracted, the lower Chamber of the National Assembly was compelled to recant its words after it understudied the method. Based on its enormous benefits, the House of Reps clearly singled it out as replacement for the Pencil and Paper Test (PPT) analogue approach in use before now. More baffling is the record indicating that nearly one million candidates voluntarily opted for the CBT, instead of PPT in 2016 UTME, out of about 1.7 million candidates that sat for the exams. This is apt testimony of its widespread acceptability by Nigerian students.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, eloquently testified after a fact-finding mission to JAMB Headquarters thus;
“We need to be educated more. We are in support of the CBT and we cannot go back to paper-pencil; we must be in tandem with the world in the conduct of our examinations. The House (of Representatives) did not take any position on CBT, but there were fractions on the floor as to the adoption of both methods and I believe it is the reason why the House Committee on Basic Education was mandated to investigate. Nigeria cannot afford to maintain double standard as we know other African countries such as Uganda have been to our country to replicate our system such as the CBT.”
As a result of the inward search for improved standards, JAMB has additionally now compelled candidates to go the extra mile to justify their intellectual capacity and the marks they would eventually earn after the exams. To actualize this objective, all candidates sitting for the UTME are tested on their knowledge a recommended general literature book titled, “The Last Days at Forcados High School,” authored by A. H. Mohammed. It was used in the 2016 batch of exams. This is regardless of whatever course of study or the subjects a candidate has undertaken to write in the exams. The book is subject to periodic review.
To bring succor to parents in foreign lands who desired to have their children write the exams, by easing the financial burden of logistics and travel expenses, JAMB has extended the exams to their doorstep in the last two years. In 206, for instance, the JAMB external centers were located in eight foreign countries.
The 2016 UTME held in Nigeria and simultaneously in countries like Ghana, Republic of Cameroon, Republic of Benin, London in the United Kingdom, Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Johannesburg in South Africa, Addis in Ethiopia and Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire. There are indications that the foreign centers would continue to be expanded to cover more foreign countries with every batch of the exams. These are novel feats in the long history of JAMB.
And with these stiff measures of sanity being injected into the system by JAMB under the direct supervision of Ojerinde, soon Nigerian varsities would see no need for the post-UTME aptitude test and it would be abrogated. Foreign countries too, would now perceive and feel the restoration of education standards in Nigeria, and would therefore, accord foreign students of Nigerian descent dignity and unconditional acceptance in their citadels of learning.
Ibekwe writes from the United States of America.
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