WHAT do you expect when 340,000 candidates who passed the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination cannot find places in the nationâ€™s higher institutions?
Professor Dibu Ojerinde, Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board calls the deficit in admission â€œsurvival of the fittestâ€ and advised the affected candidates to reapply next year.
If he wants to be more forthright, he would accept that we have a system failure in our education. A further admission would be that an annual surplus of 340,000 â€œqualifiedâ€ candidates who cannot be admitted would make most countries seek a solution.
This situation is not about the survival of the fittest as Professor Ojerinde would posit. It is a setting that would heighten the corruption that pervades the admission process. Professor Ojerindeâ€™s fittest could lose to the filthiest in the anticipated contention for admission.
In a system where scarcity of an essential service like higher education persists, people would resort to unwholesome means to gain admission for their wards. Each yearâ€™s admission emphasises the low number of places available, nothing is done to ameliorate the situation.
Of the 1.4 million candidates for this yearâ€™s examination, 867,000 scored the 180 cut off mark â€“ in other words, they passed. Only 527,000 admission places are available in all the countryâ€™s universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education. JAMB did not mark the papers of another 82,000 candidates because of errors in coding their answer sheets.
The easier part is to ask candidates who are not admitted to apply again. There are no guarantees that they would be among the lucky ones to be admitted the next time. They would join the leftovers of previous years.
As more candidates present themselves for the examination, in the full knowledge that passing alone would not earn them admission, they would resort to other means to be admitted, some of them illegal.
Places would be available to the highest bidders, a move that would have further adverse effects on the poor quality of students admitted. Affluence, power, might, influence would admit people ahead of scholarship.
The low number of admission places deserves to be addressed immediately if government wants to save a generation of Nigerian youths from wasting. One of the ways of doing this is expansion of the facilities of existing institutions, but this could be expensive and time consuming.
It is obvious the licensing of private universities has failed to create more admission spaces. They have limited capacities that can serve a select few. Their fees are also exorbitant and scare away prospective students.
Facilities of the National Open University of Nigeria should be made available in more cities throughout the country. It is also time courses of polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education were taught through the same methods as the Open University.
Another area that needs to be explored is online education. The major challenge is electricity, but it should not stop us from the immense â€“ almost limitless – opportunities of e-education.
Nigerians deserve education to fit into the global society that information communication technology drives.