The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) recently said it would no longer give provisional admission into tertiary institutions to candidates who do not have the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) results they require for admission into the 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.
The efforts of JAMB to find more efficient ways of delivering on its mandate of conducting seamless examinations for admission into tertiary institutions are welcome, but the agency will do well to tread with caution. While we accept that the current practice of giving provisional admission to thousands of candidates who are expecting their SSCE results stifles the efficiency of the Board, as many of the candidates so given admission may end up not having the required credits in their SSCE, the organisation must be careful not to be seen as introducing measures that would further restrict access to tertiary education in the country.
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. This would mean that final year secondary school students who eventually pass their SSCE in flying colours would have been denied the opportunity of getting admission in the year that they pass out of secondary school, for no fault of theirs. They will have to waste a whole academic year waiting to be considered for admission in the next admission season. The policy would then have restricted thousands of candidates from getting admission.
We wonder if this is the intention of the new measure. We are, however, glad about the reassurance from JAMB that the ‘awaiting result’ candidates can still enter for the matriculation examinations, but now must show evidence of meeting entry requirements for the tertiary institution of their choice, before or during the admission process. We believe that this measure is fair enough. It is a middle ground which will address the bottlenecks encountered by JAMB when it offers provisional admission to candidates who eventually do not have the SSCE requirements for admission, while also not unnecessarily placing obstacles on the paths of brilliant students who do not want to waste a year before gaining admission.
In practical terms, what JAMB seeks to eliminate through the new measure is the preponderance of candidates who pass the matriculation examinations and are offered admissions into the tertiary institutions of their choice only to turn up without the pre-qualifying papers or certificates. It leaves JAMB with the difficult logistical task of returning to rework the lists and in the process, incurring many avoidable costs.
We believe that the new measure 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.
The JAMB examination must 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.