The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has somehow managed to take time off churning out half-baked graduates as it savages the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) over reported failings in the mock test scheduled by the examination body. Its angst has nothing to do with the glitches that were caught in the test run of a new system being put in place by JAMB but rather has more to do with a long running animosity against the agency's current leadership and a desperation to maintain a status quo that has not done the country's tertiary education any good.
The union's chairman of the University of Ibadan chapter, Dr. Deji Omole, alternated between demanding the scrapping of JAMB and calling for the resignation of its Registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede. In other moments of frothing rage, Omole asked the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu to call Oloyede to order.
As if to remove any doubts as to the quality of teachers that Nigeria relies on to train our youths, the ASUU Chairman betrayed the deficit in the analytic skills of his likes and co-travellers by suggesting that JAMB was exploiting prospective candidates when in actual fact the entire cost of the entrance examination is way below the amount that ASUU members charge for one set of printed substandard study material.
Omole's tirade also exposed and confirmed a fact that many Nigerians had expressed concerns about severally. It is the fact that our so called citadel of learning have nothing to show by way of innovation and ASUU's kick against the digitization of the registration of students aspiring to be undergraduate clearly proves that its members would rather keep the entire country in the era of paper, ruler and thick back notebooks for registration, which is not only retrogressive but opens the pathway for manipulation and corruption.
The anger against the computerization of the entire process therefore apparently has more to do with anger about growing efficiency in tracking the number and performance of students that eventually get admitted as opposed to the past when schools and ASUU members conspired under different guise to scheme out those that pass the Unified Matriculation Examination (UMTE). Admissions were in that dark era usually based on some funny criteria that have no bearing on performance. In such instances, it was not unusual to hear of "(ASUU) chairman's list" that was usually populated by persons that have parted with thousands of naira in bribe to their would be lecturers to secure admission.
It is apparent that even as supposed academics and educationists, ASUU members caught up with news about the mock examination from the media. It is gratifying that members of this union still retained the capacity to read news and catch up with events in the real world as opposed to the utopic fantasies of perfection they have woven for themselves in the various citadel. The leadership of ASUU must have therefore also seen in the news how the police apprehended its members with firearms and how they are implicated in promoting cultism and campus gangs that have killed several undergraduates. They must read how their colleagues have graduated from cash for marks to salacious sex for marks. The news space and national discourse are replete with the harrowing experience of having to deal with the unemployable graduates that are being churned out while ASUU hunts for rats in a burning hut.
If they as much as appreciate the national imperative of reforming our education system in a bottom-up approach, they will understand that the changes that Professor Oloyede is implementing in JAMB are in national interest. The mock examination, in case the lecturers'union has forgotten, is meant to build candidates'confidence ahead of the real deal – it was a system in place in the heydays before the current crop of jobbers messed up the tutelage process with intractable strikes that achieved nothing.
We must as a nation free ourselves from the tyranny of vocal minorities like ASUU who raise dins each time they sense groundbreaking reform is afoot simply because they know such change would block the loopholes they exploit to game the system. Professor Oloyede must in the interest of the rest of us refuse to succumb to the blackmail of these charlatans that have made a career of holding the rest of us hostage.
Agwu is a public affairs commentator and contributed this piece from Lagos.