The result of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has just been released and Master Ekene Franklin, a 15 year old young man from Imo State, led the pack with a score of 347. The result qualifies him for admission into any university of his choice, in this case, University of Lagos.
Ironically, the same JAMB that is celebrating him and his stellar performance is suggesting that he cannot be admitted into a university on account of under-age. The weird argument is that, at 15, he is too young to withstand the rigours of academic exercise at that level. We consider this position by the Board out rightly preposterous in this day and age where young men in their 30s are elected as Presidents and heads of state to pilot the affairs of countries advanced in technology and complex administrative processes.
Even in Nigeria, with the Not-Too-Young-To-Run law where the age for elective political positions has been significantly reviewed downwards, JAMB, curiously, is still holding on to a policy that is capable of making Nigeria a laughing stock in the intellectual world. The examination body is telling the international community that a 15 year old young man is not matured enough to be a student. Elsewhere, Ekene will be wooed by universities for admission as a special candidate, but certainly not in Nigeria fabled as a notorious dream killer.
To start with, when that young man filled his form for the examination, part of the information he supplied to qualify for the test was his age. JAMB should have disqualified him at that stage. But they did not because they had their eyes fixed on the money to be made. JAMB was unfair to have collected Franklin’s examination registration fee which established a contract between him and the body only to deny him admission even when he showed high level of intelligence.
In the opinion of this newspaper, that law in Nigerian universities that puts an age limit to admission policies has been there and is as old as the university system itself. It is time, in our view, that the law was abrogated because it is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Worse still, it is archaic and anti-development. In other climes, such brains are sought after and harnessed. In China, they have a policy which harvests such young and brilliant minds and nurture them for national development. A Google check revealed that a nine year old boy had been given B.Sc in Mathematics and a 15 year old a Ph.D in the United States of America. Here, a tendency towards backwardness is standing in the way of people with the inherent intellectual capacity to make a difference.
The country, in our view, must begin to encourage young people to grow and develop at their own pace without officialdom becoming, wilfully, a stumbling block to progress. We are compelled to ask JAMB if, in their hasty pronouncement, disqualifying Ekene from gaining admission into the university, they factored in the damage that decision is likely to inflict on that young mind. He has to waste one year or more because of an ill-thought out policy that has out-lived its usefulness and relevance. Should the society, through this policy, succeed in slowing Ekene and his kind down and they decide to apply their brain to other devious activities, it is the same society that will castigate them for being a let-down. If Nigeria continues with this law that holds back these bright children, it means that there is no hope for other younger, brighter children in this computer age.
It is from this standpoint that we commend the Chancellor of Gregory University Uturu, in Abia State, Chief Gregory Ibe, for awarding scholarship to Ekene and Emmanuel Chidiebube, who scored second best result in that examination, to study in his institution.
In deciding to go against JAMB and its anachronistic policy, he said that it was in keeping with his philosophy of looking at things differently realising that there are different levels and types of intelligence. Assumed or forced intelligence, he insisted, has always brought backwardness.
We agree with the Chancellor that Nigeria’s educational policies are overdue for a review in order to benefit every Nigerian with the desire to be educated. We, therefore, earnestly call on the National Council on Education to address issues like the one trying to slow Ekene down and change obnoxious rules contained therein so as to ensure a smooth flow in the nation’s intellectual aspirations.
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