The Need to Abolish the Quota System of Admission in Nigerian Schools

The Need to Abolish the Quota System of Admission in Nigerian Schools

The story of Thomas Goodness Shekwobyalo has exposed another problem with our education system – applying the quota system in university admission processes.

Thomas Goodness Shekwobyalo, a young lady from Niger State, scored 302 in her UTME (aka JAMB). She chose Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria as her choice of university, and medicine as her course of study. She sat for ABU’s post-UTME and scored 274, giving her the average of 288. However, despite her high scores in both UTME and post-UTME she was denied admission into medicine by ABU because the institution pegs its merit admission list for medicine at two candidates per state. Since there are two other candidates from Niger State that scored higher than Shekwobyalo, she lost out in the admission. As an alternative, she opted for Anatomy.

Though JAMB intervened in her case and compelled ABU to offer Shekwobyalo admission into medicine, her story has shown that a lot of candidates must have suffered the same fate and that many had no one to speak for them. It has shown that ABU doesn’t offer admission based on “merit” but based on quota system. It has exposed the fact that ABU, and maybe some other higher institutions, distribute merit admission on state basis, not based on academic performance. It also shows that it is possible that in a class where someone that scored 300 in UTME was denied admission, someone that scored 200 may be found.

The story of Shekwobyalo reminded me of what my mother passed through while seeking for admission into ABU, Zaria in the early 80’s. She wanted to study Home Economics and she sat for JAMB twice but missed admission both times. She claimed that people she performed better than were offered admission based on merit but she wasn’t. According to her, when she tried to see if she will be in the supplementary list (on her second trial) she was told bluntly that the only way non-indigenes could be admitted into departments that have high demands was through merit lists. Any other list that comes after that is for “their people”. She also claimed that she was offered Arabic Studies but she refused the offer because that wasn’t her interest.

Honestly, I thought my mother was making excuses for her “failure” (lol) because what she said didn’t make then. But now I understand better.

I don’t really know the reason behind ABU’s decision to process their admissions this way, but it is high time they reversed it. Education isn’t Federal Civil Service, where jobs are “shared” among States of the federation. Nor is it the private sector, where special positions are reserved for people from specific areas or families. Nigerians should be treated equally in every university in the country, irrespective of their states of origin.

The more I think about this admission “bias” the more I see reasons for the high number of “half-baked”, “unqualified” and “uneducated” graduates that filled our streets. If someone that wanted to study medicine (and is intelligent enough to do so) is pushed out of the way so that there will be space to bring in someone that struggled to pass Chemistry, Physics and Biology in secondary school, I think the whole system has failed humanity. This is exactly what this method of admission is doing. I have always known merit lists to be based on academic performance and never on state of origin. But thanks to Shekwobyalo’s case, we now know why it is difficult to gain admission into courses of choice in ABU, Zaria.

Another problem that arises from this method of admission is that a lot of people are pushed into courses they don’t desire. I know it will be advisable to continue trying until one gets the course of choice, but how long will you write JAMB before you find yourself among the best two in your state? By the time you try out two or three times and it didn’t work out, you will be forced to opt for courses that you find less attractive, just so you can become an undergraduate (and people like this don’t always do well in their studies). Some others may decide to change schools of choice or find other things doing.

It is good that JAMB has discovered what is wrong with ABU, Zaria’s admission method; it is time for them to call the school to order and make them change their method. It is also necessary that the concerned ministries and agencies monitor the admission processes of other higher institutions to ensure that tribalism isn’t embedded in their methods. Education knows no tribe, religion, age, race and sex; admission into higher institutions should also not put those into consideration. People should be admitted based on their academic performances; anything else is irrelevant.

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