Monday, October 24, 2011

Minister wades into Senate, VCs rift over post-UTME screening

THE Minister of Education Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai, at the weekend gave an insight into what may have been the position of the Federal Government over the apparent logjam between the Senate and the Committee of Vice Chancellors of the Nigerian universities on the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation  Examination (UTME) in the country.
While the Senate through a bill of one of its members would want the post-UME screening scrapped, citing alleged exploitation of the candidates by the universities’ authorities, the vice chancellors said the retention of the exams was necessary to enhance   the academic standards of candidates admitted into the nation’s universities.
For the minister, the issue should be cautiously resolved as parties to it have constitutional roles to play in the  admission policies of  the universities especially.
Rufai spoke after the commissioning of some projects at the University of Ilorin, ahead of its 27th convocation slated for both today and tomorrow: “I am a university person and I know that at this time of Nigerian history, we are particularly interested in quality. Quality is what everybody is emphasizing now. Our mission is to ensure quality to cut across the entire sector.
“The post-UTME screening at least for now is something we should continue. We are pleading with the senators. I am happy that there will soon be a stakeholders’ forum and the outcome of it would determine the future. But if you are talking of my own personal opinion, I feel that the issue of ensuring quality is one thing that we should always be interested in.”
She added that the Joint Admissions  and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which is the body saddled with the responsibilities of conducting the UTME was a “baby” of the Federal Ministry of Education and the  National  (NUC),  noting that its work in preventing a multiplicity of admissions could not be easily jettisoned.
According to her, each of the universities has a role in deciding who is actually admitted, adding that “it is very technical and definitely I am sure the senators are also looking into this.”
Speaking on the recent public outcry over mass failure of candidates at secondary school exams, Rufai said the sad development should be viewed holistically as no single person or body could be solely blamed for the failure.
She noted: “We have been talking about the issue of mass failure for a while. Even last year we had a stakeholders’ forum and this year also we had also organised. But if you look at the statistics from the last five years till now, we have been moving on gradually. It was 11 per cent before and now it is about 30 or 31 per cent (success rate). Each year we are having a little increase and we cannot really say that we have passed. It is still a total failure.
“But what we are doing is to make people to realize that everybody is responsible for this. It is not only the Federal Ministry of Education, it is not only the state, it is not only the parents or the students even you journalists you have a hand in it. What are you doing about the schools around you? Do you have interest in terms of going into the school to see what they are doing and to encourage them?”
Rufai who said that the ministry could no longer continue to grope in  the dark over the needed solutions to the problem, disclosed that an enlarged stakeholders’ forum on examinations would “in the next few weeks” be called towards finding a long lasting solution to the problem.