Diverse reactions have trailed Federal Government's decision to scrap the National Examinations Council, NECO, as well as the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, just as the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, JAMB, Thursday restated its commitment to conduct a hitch-free UTME examinations on April 27, 2013.
Professors Ralph Akinfeleye of University of Lagos, Florence Banku Obi of University of Calabar and Abayomi George Ojanuga of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, who are in support of the proposed scrapping said it would give true meaning to university autonomy, eliminate irregularities and help universities capture the best students.
However, Prof. Olu Jegede of Obafemi Awolowo University's, Vice Chancellor, Caleb University, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju and Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, argued that the adoption of the White Paper's recommendations would spell doom for our nation's education sector which, they believe, would be thrown into a state of confusion.
While pointing out that the move to reduce the powers of JAMB was long overdue, Professor Akinfeleye said it would give true meaning to university autonomy.
He said: "It is long overdue. It would give true meaning to university autonomy as schools' management would participate in the recruitment of the students as it is done in advanced climes".
Asked if this would not breed corruption as it would be a case of selling admission to highest bidders, Akinfeleye said "It would promote pedagogical purity, quality assurance and transparency in institutions of higher learning because they would want to maintain their reputation and integrity."
It 'll promote varsities autonomy
The Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Calabar, Professor Florence Banku Obi, who had similar view, said the move would promote university autonomy, as each institution will be able to decide who is admitted into the school.
"I know of someone who scored 300 in UTME but can't speak English. This would take us back to the old system where after school certificate examination, a student goes to the institution of his choice where entrance examination will be conducted by the school."
On NECO, Obi said "I do not know why the government will scrap it, as it was established to bridge the lapses of WAEC".
Professor Abayomi George Ojanuga of the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, Faculty of Agriculture, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, said the centralization, which JAMB represents, is not proper and it does not produce the best.
He said: "I think each university should be allowed to conduct its entrance examination as was done in time past, though JAMB would act as the regulator."
Varsities should be allowed to conduct their exams
In a similar vein, the Vice-Chancellor, Fountain University Osogbo, Osun State, Professor Bashir Raji, said "with the criticisms trailing UTME every year, it is better scrapped. With the introduction of Post-UTME exams in the universities, it became double exams for students".
On NECO, Raji noted that NECO was created in a bid to run away from the monopoly of WAEC. "There is nothing wrong with having two, three or four examination bodies in a big country like Nigeria. NECO has gained the confidence and acceptance of the people so I don't know why government wants to do away with it now. Nigeria needs more examination bodies."
Pointing out that the idea would help universities capture the best students, Professor Titilayo Kuku of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said "a lot of irregularities trail JAMB's exams. Students were buying results and that was why universities introduced post-UTME.
"A survey was conducted and it was discovered that those who score very high marks in UTME struggle to pass while those with low scores make first class or second class. At Ife, 45,000 candidates applied but after the post-UTME, only 5,000 managed to make it.
The advantage in universities conducting their exams is that they are able to manage it better and again, students will stop paying double, for UTME and post-UTME."
On his part, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Lagos said, the scrapping of JAMB may be a step in the right direction depending on what the Federal Government is trying to achieve.
He said: "Almost all the universities in Nigeria are conducting their internal exams known as post-UTME. This makes it cumbersome for the candidates seeking admission, considering the fact that they have to sit for JAMB before the Post-JAMB. This is not so in most countries because the universities set their benchmark for admission, making things easier while saving cost on the part of government.
It 'll spell doom for our educational system
Leading the pack of those against the move is the Dean, Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Olu Jegede, who said this would cause a major setback for Nigeria's education sector and universities will be far apart in technology due to lack of standard
He said: "The problem with this decision is that it will cause a major setback in our education sector, therefore, we should be prepared for the worst. In education, there is something referred to as science and measurement which is used for setting standardized exams such as the UTME. UTME goes through standardized procedure before getting to the students.
"But with this new development, universities will be far apart in technology, because it will be garbage in, garbage out. I know that the government may be trying to cut costs, but this step will lead to a reduction in quality".
Advising government to tread carefully before adopting the recommendations, the immediate past ASUU President and current Vice Chancellor of Imo State University, Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie, said UTME will enable millions of students to compete for the few admission spaces.
On scrapping of NECO, Awuzie said one examination body is not enough, adding, "there is a reason for WAEC and there is a reason for NECO, if you scrap, you must replace it with another."
Education in comatose
Stating that the proposed scrapping of JAMB is an indication that our education sector is in comatose, the Vice Chancellor, Caleb University, Professor Ayodeji Olukoju, said stakeholders in the sector have to be part of making such strong decision".
He said: "If admission is left in the hands of institutions, instances of some students having multiple admissions while some have none would abound, and the admission process will lack merit.
"NECO should be given another chance because it was established to help students who couldn't get the five credits qualification for university admission."
JAMB to go ahead with 2013 UTME
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, yesterday, gave assurance that the 2013 examinations would go on as scheduled. This was contained in a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of the Board, Mr Fabian Benjamin and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Lagos.
The statement said that the reassurance became necessary in view of reports in some national dailies that the Federal Government may have cancelled UTME examination.
It said that the board wished to state that as a responsible and responsive organisation, it was not averse to innovation, changes and government policies aimed at improvement in the education sector.
The statement further reiterated that JAMB had not changed the date of the 2013 UTME for applicants seeking admission into the country's various institutions of higher learning.
It said that consequently, the board's 2013 UTME, slated for April 27, would take place as scheduled.
NECO staff express fear
With this development, members of staff of the National Examination Council, NECO, were yesterday gripped with fear following the purported plan by the Federal Government to scrap the examination body.
It was reliably gathered that majority of the staff of the Minna-based government agency were apprehensive of what may become their fate should the government go ahead to abolish the council.
When newsmen visited the council headquarters, yesterday, some staff who were at their duty posts were seen discussing the newspaper reports and their fate.
Efforts to talk to the Registrar and the Chief Executive Officer of the Council, Professor Promise Okpala failed as he was not on seat, while other officers kept sealed lips.
But a senior staff who spoke in confidence said they are yet to receive a copy of the report or directive from Federal Government.
He said: "As you can see, people reported for work today and we all attended to our schedules. It is true the report came to us as a surprise. We had to buy the newspapers to get the gist. We are sincerely disturbed, because in this country anything can happen".
Another female staff wondered why the Federal Government will accept such recommendation by the Orosanye's committee. She said: "Britain with lesser population has many examination bodies and here we are about to kill the only one we have. It will be sad if the Federal Government finally approves the scrapping of NECO".
"The staff strength of the council is over 4,000 and with branches in all 36 states including, Abuja what will happen to us all".
Stephen Oronsanye led Presidential Committee on the Retionalisation and Restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies had recommended the scrapping of the council along with 37 others.
The committee also recommended the merger of 52 and the reversion of 14 departments, in a move to safe over N862 billion between 2012 and 2015.