The Senate Committee on Education at the weekend opposed the planned scrapping of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and National Examinations Council (NECO), saying it would “perpetuate the unfortunate pattern of policy somersaults that has persistently limited progress in education sector.” The Chairman of the committee, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, who said the committee would meet to assess the move, added that if the proposed scrapping took place, it would amount to another misadventure that would result in reversals in the next five years. According to him, attempting to scrap the institutions without addressing key problems facing the education sector such as poor access, quality, funding and institutional management, will only aggravate crisis in the sector. Also speaking on the same issue, the Chairman, Rules and Business in the Senate, Senator Ita Enang, has tasked the federal government not to be in a hurry to scrap the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) without due process. Enang argued that the scraping of the board and NECO would only come to effect after the blessing of the National Assembly. Chukwumerije, who said the move would create anarchy in the education sector, further noted that scrapping UTME would “increase temptation to university authorities to cut corners in obeying rules on carrying capacities and unaccredited courses” and as well create “new fertile grounds for mushroom unlicensed institutions.” He insisted that the scrapping would open a “Pandora’s Box that would surely strain the capacity of regulatory agencies and examinations, especially National Universities Commission (NUC), NECO and UTME” which he described as monitoring posts for the quality of studies in pre-university education. “They define the quality of the student entrants into our tertiary institutions. Their results serve as annual national indicators of quality of Nigerian education. Poor results in past years have set off national alarms. Consequently, eliminating them denies Nigeria of these critical check points to monitor national education quality. “In indicating the quality of education delivery, NECO and UTME results can be directly related to the quantum of funding invested in education. The huge disparity of funding between federal and state educational institutions is exposed by NECO and UTME results as the levels of investment in teaching and learning facilities as well as in staff welfare reflect directly on the achieved results. “Eliminating NECO and UTME therefore will mask this unfortunate disparity and state institutions in Nigeria can continue to produce poorly trained secondary students. Associated with the level of funding is the quality of institutional management. The poor secondary certificate results of students from poorly managed institutions are also exposed by NECO and UTME. Without doubt, good managers are more efficient in handling human and material resources and consequently produce top performing students. “Eliminating NECO and UTME will again deny Nigeria an opportunity to know the quality of governance of our educational institutions. The indications above show that the basic problems limiting the education sector are unrelated to the current intention of government to scrap NECO and UTME. It is my view that government should open the subject up for full discussion in order that the best interest of Nigeria and its teeming student population is primarily served,” he submitted. He also said NECO’s responsibility to the burden of West African Examinations Council (WAEC) would increase the latter’s workload and exacerbate the problem of poor handling of the certificate examinations of the ever increasing population of secondary school leavers which he said would exceed four million in the next few years, adding that clarity of national focus might be blurred. He noted that scrapping UTME conducted by JAMB established by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board Act (Chapter 193, LFN) “will emasculate JAMB of one of its primary responsibilities to set and conduct harmonised examinations for admission of students into Nigerian tertiary institutions.” Meanwhile, Enang who represents Akwa Ibom North East (Uyo) senatorial district, spoke during interactive section with journalists in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital at the weekend, saying the scrapping of the two bodies would be based on an informed decision. “When the proposals to scrap JAMB and NECO reach the National Assembly, NECO, JAMB, vice-chancellors and other stakeholders like student representatives, parents and others would be given opportunity to contribute to the debate. “But I would urge the president not to seek to implement this first because all these are established by law. “It should first of all bring the proposal to the National Assembly so that we can look at it. “And unless we repealed the law, the proposal scrapping cannot come into effect because the law establishing NECO and JAMB was an effort between the executive and the legislature. “And a law made by The National Assembly and assented to by Mr. President, the President cannot unilaterally kill it; he can only made a proposal on it so that we can discuss it. “I don’t want it to be like the matter of University of Lagos, where the pronouncement was made and later was sent to the National Assembly and there was opposition. What I want the federal government to do is ensure that it sent the decision to the National Assembly, let us discuss the pros and the cons, call NECO, JAMB, VCs, representatives of the students so that we can take an informed decision,” the Senator said. Enang said he was in support of the move to scrap JAMB and NECO as such would safe cost as the presents situation causes a lot of wastages. “I am in agreement with the federal government to scrap JAMB, NECO but retain WAEC; this is because when the students sit and pass JAMB, they are sent to the schools, the schools still conduct another set of examinations to admit students. “So it becomes a wasted and double effort therefore, the cost of administering JAMB at that level would be used in funding universities and other educational facilities and infrastructures.” “Do not forget that the president set up a committee which was called Orasanye committee and he made recommendations on reducing certain parastatal and making them more functional, I believe that this is one of such recommendations and I am in utmost support of that action of government,” he added.
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