Friday, December 05, 2008

Post-UME Tests

Given the sometimes abysmal performance of even university graduates, the need for a thorough screening of university undergraduates at the point of admission can hardly be over emphasised. The story is repeatedly told of how some JAMB candidates hire undergraduates or even graduates to sit for the UME examination for them. As a result they score high marks, which easily qualify them for admission into the university system.
Yet their performance, after admission is often woeful, drawing sharp contrast between the pre-admission brilliance and the post-admission dullness. This gap, in a sense, caused the introduction of the post-UME test, now being administered by the individual universities as a way of re-confirming the suitability of the applicant for a place in the university.
But as with most things in Nigeria, it soon got corrupted. Beside the arbitrariness which the new scheme has suffered in several universities, it has turned out to be a fund-raising programme for some universities, given the steadily increasing “administrative charges” of conducting the test. This is regrettable.
Yet, more worrisome is the stress and risk associated with the test. The “cross-country” travelling students do in a bid to go write such tests at the chosen universities is not only a source of financial burden to most parents given the logistics arrangements that go with such travels, it is fraught with needless risk on the part of the students. Several road accidents involving such students have been recorded. This is avoidable.
Much as we believe in and support the essence of the test, we are convinced that the universities can yet achieve the re-confirmation of students’ abilities at the point of registration, by getting each department, to conduct short but credible tests on the students. The result of which finally determines the admissibility of the student.
By this, not only is the delay associated with the present practice eliminated, it will, and more importantly, reduce the risk and hazards the students are exposed to on the nation’s not-very-safe highways.
The reliability of this option, no doubt, depends heavily on the altruistic disposition of the university personnel who will administer the tests. Stories we hear of some lecturers favouring students for cash and kind are disheartening and a threat to this option. But with proper checks and balances, we believe that this will turn out as a far better option.
Students who pass the tests could proceed with the registration process while those who don’t, return home and prepare more rigorously.
We urge both the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), as it marks its 30th anniversary, and the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) to jointly explore more scientific ways of drawing a balance between improving the standard of our university products and preserving them for the challenges of nation building. One cannot be sacrificed for the other.
All said, we urge students to be hardworking and honest in their academic pursuits, as the assured path to ultimate academic success, just as we urge the university authorities to forestall all acts of abuse and circumvention which the present scheme currently suffers.