The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, recently announced the remittance of N5 billion to the purse of the Federal Government. As a show of accountability and transparency, this is highly commendable. As a proof that leadership can influence behavioral and institutional change in any system, this is exemplary.
Either way, there is doubtless a brand new JAMB under the leadership of registrar, Professor Is’haq Oloyede, the man whose impact as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Ilorin took the institution into the league of first eleven in Nigeria universities, in terms of learning, academic excellence and choice for many university candidates.
His predecessors in JAMB, would be greening with envy now because they could not be bother about such display of integrity let alone return surplus money to the central treasury. He ha not only shown the stuff he is made of, but has also displayed such candor in an even leaner times when the temptation to cook the books is present and even NI billion remittance would have still earned him accolades.
Indeed, JAMB registration fee were a subject of much public debate in the past that the National Assembly tried with negligible success to intervene. The agency officials put up strong resistance under the pretext that the agency was self-financing and accounting and needed the money to conduct stress free examinations for over a million and half candidates.
But the stress never ended and the clearly excess money was neither remitted nor fully accounted for as the officials probably saw it as a till they could always lay their hands on. Good, that era is going for good, as the Oloyede example should be hard to erase.
Even the strategy and tactics adopted by the Oloyede administration, which led to the detection of centers noted for exam malpractices and the arrest of culprits is unmatched by the previous administrations put together.
Nonetheless, much as we support Oloyede’s plans, efforts and exemplary leadership, we hasten to note that he and his officials must resist the inclination to get carried away by this initial success. The glee with which an official announced the N5 billion remittances contains the seed of such temptation.
According to the Board’s Head of Education, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, “This year, we have remitted back to government over 5 billion naira, the highest ever in the 40 years of the Board. This money was saved through the transparent and judicious use of resources.
“We call on other government agencies to emulate the Board in prudent management of resources so that much can be save, returned to government coffers to stimulate the economy out of the recession.”
Surely, the government does need money to stimulate the economy out of the recession but some of the best ways to do that is through institutional reforms, restoration of decayed infrastructure and the provision of enabling environment for work and investment.
Secondly, JAMB, as an exam body caters to a need that should not be interpreted in commercial terms, that is education. One of the saddest things about our country today is the commercialization of education, particularly where it matters most; the primary and secondary levels. Research has shown that many primary schools, especially private ones, are money-spinning centers for their owners who ensure pupils and students get good marks and are promoted to restrain parents from looking at their competitors.
In fact the warehoused-like structures of many schools is suggestive of the owners’ commercial frame of mind. Still, it is not for nothing you often hear officials speak of education as an industry!
The point is that education deals with the mind and the broadening of the student’s horizons and the purpose is defeated when it is quantified in commercial terms. Education therefore is simply education.
In any case, how did the Board come to the conclusion that money remitted would be used to bail the country out of recession? Last week, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr Anthony Ayine, disclosed during a session with the federal lawmakers that those two years since it came on stream, the Treasury Single Account, TSA, is yet to be audited.
Besides, JAMB as at today is still plagued with problems that stress candidates and parents to their limits.
Even the JAMB 2017 registration exercise, for example, was fraught with problems.
According to NOIPolls, “60 percent of the 2017 JAMB applicants experienced one form of difficulty or another during the registration exercise.
“Ironically, these problems arose from the fact that JAMB has introduced new measures to ensure ease in the registration process.
According to the polls the four major problems that afflicted candidates were difficulties in accessing JAMB’s website: According to the polls, 29 per cent of candidates experienced problems with accessing the official website to register.
The second was the registration process which 28 per cent of the candidates stated was generally difficult and cumbersome.
Thirdly was overcrowding at registration centers. The polls noted that 14 percent of the candidates said there was usually overcrowding at the registration centers and had to arrive early to beat others.
Lastly, there was the difficulty in generating PIN, for which the polls scored14 percent. Some of the respondents claimed they made repeated visits in order to register; 28 percent made two visits, 10 percent made three visits while 20 percent made several visits to complete their registration, thus further buttressing the difficulties faced by applicants in the 2017 JAMB registration process.
According to NOIPolls, “this suggests that JAMB needs to put more efforts in place to ensure an improved and more effective registration process.”
Moreover, there were reported cases of extortion, posting to distant centers and complications in printing e-slips, less than 48 hours to the final examinations. Many centers had to cancel their mock examinations last year and candidates were made to pay extra charges for corrections on their examination forms. The Board even admitted to canceling the mock examination centers because “they gave us wrong information.’’
Extra charges were part of the complaints. On JAMB website, it was stated, “Change of UTME subject combination is free. Changes for Name, Course/Institution, Passport and Date of Birth are 2,500.’’
There is no doubt that fraudsters capitalized on some of these shortcomings to con many of the 1,736, 571 unsuspecting candidates.
At any rate, JAMB has to put its house, a very critical one at that, in order. And to do so, it would require much of the money it sent to the FG purse, where, we dare say, it would end up in boosting its increasingly recurrent expenditure profile.
Additionally, we think JAMB should spare a thought for many parents who have had to pay all kinds of charges to register their wards by reducing the fees and cancelling sundry charges for penalties. Parents should not be seen to be funding government’s bloated purse through the back door. This may be permissible through other means, perhaps. But certainly not through an educational platform.