Wale Sokunbi CURRENTS, email@example.com
From March 6, thousands of graduates of tertiary institutions in Nigeria who are lucky to be mobilised for Batch A of the 2013 NYSC service year will begin reporting at the orientation camps of their states of primary assignment for the mandatory one-year national service. This is a period that is looked forward to by the nation’s university and polytechnic graduates, who will be leaving the rigour of years of academic work behind them to begin a new life of service to their fatherland in parts of the country other than their places of origin and higher education.
The process of commencement of the national service usually begins with the sending of lists of candidates who were successful in their examinations to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) office, by universities and polytechnics known as Corps Members Producing Institutions (CPIs). The NYSC, thereafter, releases a list of graduates to be mobilised for the service period, with their call-up or mobilisation numbers.
The process, which had always been seamless in past years, came with heartache for many candidates who had expected to be mobilised for the 2013 Batch A set. Reason? The NYSC scheme, according to its authorities, is no longer for all those who completed full-time courses in universities and polytechnics, within the approved age limit. For the next set, according to the boss of the agency, only university and polytechnic graduates who gained admission into their institutions through the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) will be mobilised for service.
The Director-General of NYSC, Brig.-General Nnamdi Okorie-Affiah, in a statement released in Abuja, explained that “any prospective corps member, whose admission was not known to JAMB, would be deemed to have been improperly admitted.” Accordingly, the data of all prospective corps members submitted for mobilisation by their institutions will be subjected to screening by regulatory examination bodies such as JAMB; the National Universities Commission (NUC) for degree-awarding institutions and the National Board for Technical Education (NABTEC) for monotechnics and polytechnics.
The Corps Producing Institutions (CPIs) are expected to regularise the admission status of candidates not admitted through JAMB with the JAMB authorities. The CPIs have also been asked to abide by their admission quotas in sending candidates for the NYSC scheme, while graduates of non-full time courses, and those whose courses are not duly accredited by regulatory agencies like NUC and NABTEC, will not be allowed to serve. The NYSC boss also reportedly further noted that confirmation of approved admission quota for each course, and the determination of the accreditation status of all courses, is the prerogative of the regulatory bodies – NUC and NABTEC. The decision of the NYSC to peg the number of people to be mobilised for national service is, undoubtedly, a response to the spiraling number of graduates sent to it for mobilization every year, and the very poor quality of some of the graduates. Recent reports indicate that the quality of some of the graduates is so poor that they can hardly speak English, with schools rejecting some of them for teaching appointments.
The performance of some of the so-called graduates is reported to be bad enough to make people wonder how they got into tertiary institutions in the first place. However, the decision of NYSC to restrict participation in Batch A of 2013 NYSC scheme to those who gained admission through JAMB examinations does not address the root of this problem. The assertion of NYSC’s Okorie -Affiah that anyone who did not get university admission through JAMB “is deemed to have been improperly admitted” is strange, indeed. By this statement, the NYSC is passing a vote of no confidence in students who were admitted into tertiary institutions through rigorous Diploma and Pre-degree programmes run by most these institutions. The NYSC is also saying that the candidates admitted through JAMB are of higher quality than those admitted through pre-degree programmes, which it is not qualified to say, having not conducted any study to arrive at this questionable conclusion.
The erroneous thinking of the NYSC, probably, is that candidates who gained admission into tertiary institutions through JAMB are, necessarily, of the best quality, while those who entered through various pre-degree schemes run by many of our tertiary institutions, are of lower quality. This position is a serious disservice to the rigorous admission process and teaching of students admitted for the pre-degree programmes. In many of these institutions, the students who entered the university through the pre-degree or Diploma programme have been reported in many instances to be better than those admitted through JAMB examination which, no matter what Nigerian authorities do, is still subject to manipulation and the problem of special centres.
It will, therefore, be unfair to subject persons who gained admission into universities through Diploma programmes to any deprivations, simply on account of not gaining admission through JAMB. No matter the mode of entry of anyone into a university, is NYSC trying to write off the value of education obtained by students over a four or five-year period, simply because the admission was not done through JAMB? Has anyone conducted a study which proved that candidates admitted through JAMB at, University of Lagos, for example, perform better than those admitted through Diploma programmes?
While not arguing that the quality of graduates of some tertiary institutions is so poor as to query how they got into the schools in the first place, recent reports of names of hawkers and porters on campuses getting into lists being sent to NYSC by some university authorities after payments of bribes to lowly university officers involved in the list compilation process, offers better insight into the poor quality of some of these “corps members”.
A situation in which a “Corps member” teacher from one of the institutions in the South South was found, some years ago, to be teaching in Pidgin English, while another corps member also recently reportedly identified her next-of-kin as Olofa of Ofa, and gave her SURNAME as: “I have no son. I only have a daughter”, suggests that the problem of poor quality corps members goes beyond the university admission process, or the quality of teaching in the institutions. It smacks more of a compromise of the persons in charge of the mobilisation process.
The sooner the authorities of NYSC and the tertiary institutions realise this, and act accordingly, the better. Demonizing graduates who gained admission into universities through Diploma, Pre-degree and other direct entry modules is not the way to keep poor quality graduates out of the NYSC Scheme. Our education authorities may decide to tie participation in the scheme to Cumulative Grade Point Average (CPGA) of graduates, or some other fair criteria to determine their quality, not an entrance examination taken many years earlier that may have little or no bearing on the ultimate performance of products of our tertiary institutions.