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HOUSE OF REPS AND JAMB DEBATE

By NBF News
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The House of Representatives on Thursday last week held a debate or even a vote on whether the matriculation examination into higher schools managed by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) would remain or be scrapped.

At last the debate favoured the abrogation of the post-JAMB exams (the one the universities conduct)

The debate was on whether JAMB has outlived its usefulness as to die or to allow it live while the internal university admission system goes. If one goes, the other will remain because parents and other concerned persons see the two as double jeopardy to the one that funds the youths to undergo these two stages of admission.

Meanwhile, I know like you do that the major reason the House or anyone embarks on debate about JAMB is that the body has lost face. JAMB is now like an agency set out to stand in the way of the youth who embarks on the task of acquiring education. Sometimes when you go through what the body does - how people who you know are fit fail and those who cheated and are not fit in anyway not only pass but also pick award of highest scorers, you shake your head.

I knew a colleague and course mate in the university who made it a duty to stampede us on entry that he made the highest JAMB score and, therefore, arrogated to himself the genius status. At last, he was the first in the class to pick an 'F' grade in the first year. It got so bad that as the programme progressed, he started finding it hard to cope. Meanwhile, in the same class, the student who scored least and came through supplementary admission later emerged the best, not just in the class but one of the best in the university.

Cases like this abound, and then you question how JAMB assesses people to arrive at who is good or not good. In the beginning when JAMB was given birth to in 1978, it was a good agency, reliable and fit for the task entrusted on it. With time JAMB was jammed by a mad cow on rampage called profiteering, and it had its brain blown off. JAMB became a loose cannon. It went mad and started galloping towards death and destruction. Finally, it died and the ghost of the dead JAMB started parading the streets of Nigeria as the real agency we knew. JAMB has gone mad in articulation of the right way to conduct a qualifying exam that has the seed of integrity in it.

Meanwhile, as it lost its brain to organize a credible exam, it acquired more dexterity on how to make more unjustified earning. It conducts exams all year round and spins billions of naira everyday from the parents/guardians and even youths who sponsor their education to feed fat and do worse things.

JAMB went so berserk until the universities decided to halt its rampage by inventing their internal mechanism to re-examine the examined in order to sort the JAMB chaff from the grain.

At last, none of them seem to have solved the problem, not because the problem is intractable, but because we embarked on solving it from the wrong point.

Parents, students, JAMB, the school system and the larger and holistic society are all culprits in this gang-up to exterminate sane education and admission system. We have said no to morality and decent approach to education pursuit. We prefer to lie to our consciences and the outcome is the debate over JAMB or no JAMB or the internal university equivalent.

In a nation where the parents rig elections to win at all costs, like the House members debating JAMB existence, don't the children hear of the plans to frustrate sanity? Won't they learn and apply rigging at their level? In a society where parents are members of all manner of evil groups where they kill and maim, will their children be doing the wrong thing to join killers on campuses?

In a society where parents collude with teachers to sell exam results and steal out question papers prior to the exam, JAMB officials take money to make available exam questions to highest bidders, can a debate in the legislature cure anything?

I have a teacher cousin who shocked me some years ago with a revelation that parents entice them with bribes so that their little children would come first in class. That is in nursery and primary school level. I heard on good record that there is this particular school in Port Harcourt, one of the high class ones, where the first position has become PDP positions that rotate from one person to the other. It applies in so many other places.

On this bad day in 2004, I saw a man come to the gate of my house in Lagos where a phone operator does his business. I was there to buy recharge card when I heard the man making calls. The discussion was interesting and I stopped to eavesdrop. He was speaking with a student in an exam hall in Abuja asking if he got a text message from him containing the answers to all the 'obj' questions of the exam going on. He gave him the assurance that if he copies the answers he had no problem. Before he dropped, he urged the person in Abuja to text his e-mail address so he can avail him the answers to the essay or subjective questions that would hold later. I was simply bemused to watch this man drop the call and walk down the street to a private school on the street. On inquiry, I was told he was a teacher there. Yes, teachers now aid exam fraud.

When a certain Prof. Salim was JAMB registrar, he once stormed Surulere Lagos on an exam day to burst a 'special' centre where exam supervisors and their parents cohorts collect and pay huge sums of money to move their special children there to pass in a special way. These later emerge best JAMB candidates. When they gain admission, the parents continue with the 'sorting' to keep them passing. When they graduate, they come back home to tell the parents that a certain employer wants to sleep with them (ladies) before they will be employed or wants money (men) before being employed even when they are unemployable. When they come for IT training in your office, you start coaching them from reciting the alphabet and how to string simple words into sentences. After watching all these, you ask yourself – where exactly are we headed?

Moreover, at the work place, the employer takes the person that brought reference from a big parent and not the one that passed well. And the one that laboured sincerely to pass in school will watch helplessly and question the benefit of sincerity. He faces the temptation of teaching his child tomorrow to cheat like others.

We eroded the foundation by making younger ones believe that hard work avails not any longer. We have farmed our responsibility to our child as parents to the teacher and the teacher alone. We are only part of their training to the extent of paying their school fees and taking them on exotic trips. As per seeing how they cope in school, oh no, we are too busy to do that. Then our magician children will just grow up like weeds to imbibe the right attitudes. Lie.

Everyday, we turn and juggle our education calendar and policy. Some of us did eleven years in primary/secondary. Later, Prof. Babs Fafunwa came in as education minister and introduced the 6334. That never paid. Oby Ezekwesili came with 934 - nine years of primary or basic school, three of senior secondary and four of higher education. But with time, we find the futility of hiding under baseless nomenclatures to 'fine-tune' our battered education system. We only tinker with names and not funding or the proper foundation. We never asked, was anything wrong with the system people passed through earlier and emerged better-trained persons.

Truth is that we have not told ourselves the truth that we have not made up our minds to solve the problem. Now JAMB and the internal university exams have crashed like tornado-bashed plane.

On the day we tell ourselves the simple truth of returning to the basics, we will heal education, which is just as ill as other sectors we killed as well.