University admission setback further frustrates young Nigerians

The backlog of students waiting to write university entrance examinations and those on the queue to be admitted is shrinking job opportunities for young Nigerians at a time unemployment rate is through the roof.

Due to closures following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic over 70 percent of students who wrote the university entrance examination in 2020 are yet to be admitted. Many have also been unable to obtain the National Identification Numbers (NIN) required for JAMB registration.

“Students who fall into the backlog of JAMB in 2021, might also fall into another backlog next year. Which will make them gradually miss the employability age, especially when you see the ages that most private sector employers now employ,” Ridwan Muhammed, CEO of Astist Education Consulting, notes.

Sixty-five percent of Nigeria’s population are under 30 years, presenting an economic advantage, but due to fewer job opportunities in an economy marked by slow growth, Nigeria’s strength is turning to a handicap, as some jobless youths take to crime.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the fourth quarter of 2020, unemployment was at 33.3 percent, while youth unemployment was at 42.5 percent.

The youth working-age population between 15 and 34 years is about 45 percent (30m) of the country’s labour force estimated at 70 million. Also, almost 32 percent of Nigeria’s labour force has completed senior secondary school level, the highest compared to other levels.

Although there is no standard for age requirement for entry-level positions or graduate trainee jobs, it varies in different organisations with the most age being 26-27 years old.

Funbi Matthew, a management and human resource professional, says employers should discourage age limitation for employment purposes because it is not the age that determines a person’s productivity.

“What they need to look out for is the capability of the individual. That is why unemployed graduates should improve themselves so that age will not be a barrier for employment opportunities,” she states.

Passing the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by JAMB is required to gain university admission in Nigeria.

Data from JAMB show that annually over 1.8 million young Nigerians apply but not more than 35 percent of them are admitted into the universities. In 2017, 1.72 million registered but only 566,719 were admitted, in 2018, 1.65 million registered but 549,763 were admitted and in 2019, 1.8 million were admitted but only 444,947 were admitted.

Furthermore, in 2020 and as of May 2021, over 1.9 million and 1.2 million registered, respectively, but data on the number of admissions are not yet available, but we can say that the number of students who will be admitted will be lesser than previous years, according to sources.

The pandemic affected the educational sector as the academic calendars of all schools have been greatly affected. For most universities, the 2020 post-UTME screening exercise was done later than usual or not conducted in that year.

For example, the University of Lagos, a top university in Nigeria, has conducted post-UTME twice this year as it could not be conducted in 2020. JAMB students preparing to enter the school say the university plans to admit 70 percent in the first UTME and 30 percent for the latter.

“This is my third time writing JAMB. The admission process is tougher now. It is survival of the fittest. That is why I have been preparing more than ever before,” Ibukun Aderinde, a JAMB student, says.

Folashade Shinkaye, managing director of Sterling Books Nigeria Limited, says the country will be compounded with more social problems as a result of leaving a backlog of young men and women inadequately engaged. “For those backlogs, they have possible implications for the economy in the required time,” Shinkaye states.

Since established in 1978, JAMB has constituted an integral part of the educational system in Nigeria by setting admission requirements for all higher institutions of learning.

But the inadequate admission and poor education facilities had led to a decline in the need for university education as more people continue to seek better education abroad. For the 2019/20 session, the number of students seeking university education in the United State of America has risen to 13,762 from 4,499 in 2001/02, according to the 2020 Open Doors report.

While others who cannot afford to study abroad are losing interest in the examination.

“I am not writing JAMB this year because I am frustrated. I have written it five times already. I know that I will waste my time again. All I care about now is finding a job,” according to Marima Abukbuka.

Similarly, Taoseek Balogun, an educator who runs a JAMB preparatory centre in Agege, Lagos, notes that he has noticed a drop in the number of students that come for lessons.

In order to solve this problem, experts have suggested that both formal and informal learning opportunities have to be applied.

“What we need right now is a mix of labour- and capital-intensive employment. If we are going to ensure that we have adequate and decent job creation, then we should begin to rewire our policy that will cater for labour-intensive employment opportunities,” Ayodele Shittu, a lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Lagos, advises.

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