The House of Representatives is in a dream attempt to amend the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) Act 2021 to extend the validity period of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) results to four years.
The bill sponsored by the member representing Oluyole Federal Constituency of Oyo State, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, which has been passed for a second reading seeks to amend some sections, including 5(1a) and 5(2) Act 2021.
At the mention of Akande-Sadipe’s name, aside from news of empowerments projects for her constituents and activities of her committee, she has been in the news over the face-off with media aide to the deputy president of Senate, Mr Jide Babalola.
In November 2021, the only female lawmaker from Oyo State alleged that Babalola bumped into her in an elevator at the House of Representatives wing of the National Assembly. The lawmaker attracted criticism for inviting the Police to arrest Babalola for investigation, while she went on with her normal daily activities.
With her new bill, Nigerians, particularly parents and guardians whose wards are paying for the JAMB examination may have reasons to hail the Akande-Sadipe. Currently, the UTME result is valid for one year and applicants seeking to gain admission into the nation’s tertiary institutions are required to pass the exams in line with the cut-off marks set by JAMB.
But if the bill is passed by the national assembly and is approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, the UTME results will be valid for four years.
While leading the debate on the bill during the plenary on Thursday, Akande-Shadipe said the current validity period of UTME results was unrealistic in the present economy as parents struggle to pay for the JAMB fee for their wards every year.
“When you look at the number of students that applies for university every year and the number that get in, it is not their fault so why should they be penalised?. Everywhere in the world, no such exams are valid for one year; the scholastic aptitude test (SAT) is valid forever,” she said.
“Most universities across the world, value such exams for at least five years but here in Nigeria, JAMB is valid for one entry and if you do not get it, you repeat it. I think this is unfair, there are a lot of children in this country whose parents are struggling to put them through school. These children go through education, pass this exam and then the following year, for no reason, they are made to repeat the exams.
“If we continue this way, it likens is to a society where human beings are sacrificed for money; why should our children be sacrificed on the altar of revenue generation?
The bill didn’t have a smooth sale as the member representing Ukwa East/West Constituency, Abia State, Nkem Abonta opposed the proposed amendment, saying increasing the validity period of UTME results will defeat the objective of JAMB.
According to him, the extension may create a “crisis” in the tertiary institution admission process rather than the solution it intends to provide.
In the same vein, the member representing Portharcourt Federal Constituency II, Chinyere Igwe, argued that there was a difference between an entrance examination and a terminal examination.
In his view, making the result valid for two years or more would reduce the standard of education in the country.
“JAMB is an entrance examination, to secure admission into a university, polytechnic or colleges of education, with a view to earning a terminal qualification,” Igwe said.
According to the lawmaker, the foreign exams mentioned by the sponsor of the bill, are terminal examinations, and not entry examinations, like JAMB.
Eventually, reasoning prevailed when the deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu, insisted that the bill had good intentions, but said it should be scrutinised at the committee’s consideration the “mischief” it seeks to “cure doesn’t lead to a situation where we create another mischief”.
“The sponsor has discussed the economics of it. What she’s saying is that our children and the parents who fund their education have not just been suffering double jeopardy but have been suffering several jeopardies,” he said.
Okechukwu said some students had continued to pass JAMB exams and had not been able to go to school for over five years, which sometimes often results in dropping out of school.
Sadly, I am more inclined to be persuaded by Akande-Sadipe’s argument and by so doing believe that the amendment is necessary. JAMB seem to be losing focus on its mandate to ensure that only qualified candidates are admitted into tertiary institutions and the board is probably more interested in generating revenue for the government.
The minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, recently said JAMB has so far remitted about N29 billion directly to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). The minister also said the board granted over N1 billion to tertiary institutions and expended more than an N2billion on capital projects. The minister added that the board had reserved N6 billion for its future expansion and as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR ). Isn’t this a surprise! That JAMB now competes with other revenue-generating agencies of government like the Nigeria Customs Service and FIRS.
The truth is that subjecting parents and guardians to annual hardship in the name of JAMB registration only to turn-in the proceeds into government coffers is nothing but taxation in disguise. Therefore the JAMB result should not just be made to be valid for at least two years, the fee for the examination should be reduced and made affordable for all and sundry.
Those who believe that extending the validity of the JAMB result will reduce the standard of education should first explain to Nigerians why the cut-off mark is 140/400, that really is a low. The cutoff shouldn’t go below average (200) for entry into any institution.