Stakeholders hail, knock Mamman over 18 years admission benchmark  

“The issue of age benchmark is not a new thing. It’s just that regulators have not been doing their work."

Stakeholders hail, knock Mamman over 18 years admission benchmark  
Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman
Stakeholders hail, knock mamman over 18 years admission benchmark  
Minister of education, tahir mamman

By Funmilayo Adeyemi

During a recent Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) monitoring exercise in Bwari, Abuja, the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman said admission to tertiary institutions will no longer be given to candidates below 18 years.
This directive was sequel to a discovery by the minister and his team, that some candidates in the range of 14 years to 15 years sat for the examination.
According to him, the younger candidates who ought to. be in the controlled space of their parents, were immatured to manage their affairs in vibrant tertiary school environment  and were responsible for some challenges in the higher institutions.
Mamman decried the activities of some parents, some of whom, he said were around the examination premises, for pressuring their underage students to get admissions into tertiary institutions.
According to the minister, the 18-year benchmark for admission into higher institutions, was in line with the 6-3-3-4 system of education.
NAN reports that the 6-3-3-4 system of education came into being in 1983 with the primary focus of meeting the educational needs of the citizenry and equipping youths with sellable skills that will make them self reliant.
With the 6-3-3-4 system, a child,  after the kindergarten and nursery education, which are optional, is expected to be admitted to primary school at the age of six and spend six years, also, to acquire primary education.
After completing primary school at age 12; the child is expected to spend three years respectively in Junior and Senior Secondary Schools and complete secondary education by 18 years when he or she would be riped for admission into tertiary institutions.
In 2006, however, there was a slight modification by the then Minister of Education, Dr Obi Ezekwesili, who introduced a new basic education policy.
Ezekwesili merged the six years of primary education and the three years of junior secondary education as basic education, thereby giving birth to a 9-3-4 system of education.
In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), stakeholders in the education sector expressed divergent views on Mamman’s adoption of 18 years as minimum entry age to tertiary institutions.
While some saw the directive as retrogressive  and attempt to divert attention from the myriad of challenges facing the tertiary education system others argued that it was a welcome development and its  implementation was long overdue to sanitise the schools environment.
NAN reports that shortly after the Minister’s directive, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) expressed its full support to the federal government.
ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview described the decision as ‘a welcome development”
“We are in full support. It is the right thing. What the minister said is the correct thing.
“The issue of age benchmark is not a new thing. It’s just that regulators have not been doing their work.
“In those days, you could not go to primary school if you were not six years old.
“Then you spend six years and finish at age 12; and then  by the time you get to secondary school you spend six years and then you graduate by 18,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, the National President, National Parent Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Haruna Danjuma, declared the support of the body fo the federal government’s 18 years age benchmark.
Danjuma told NAN in an interview that the national policy on education is unambiguous
on the age limit and it should be implemented to the latter.
Danjuma blamed parents for not allowing the regulations of 18 years age limit to work, while calling on the federal government to impose strict mechanism for its implementation which should be followed by every stakeholder in the education sector.
“This has been the national policy of education. If you can remember, It is only when you are six years old before you can be enrolled into primary school.
“However, some parents circumvent this, by rushing their children into the university at a very tender age believing that they are so bright.
“They compel their children to sit for common entrance in primary five and write WAEC in SS2 and this occur mostly in some private schools.
Some parents engage in this because of the high financial demands in the private schools without considering the implications on the mental development of their children,” he said.
When asked if the association had taken steps to sensitise its members to the implementation of the policy, Danjuma said every chapter of the association had been communicated on the benefits of adhering to the system.
“We had agreed that every state chapter should educate the parents, both private and public schools, on this education policy, especially at Parent Teachers Association’ meetings.
“We also told School Principals to discourage  any parent who comes to make requests for any inappropriate promotions because the national policy on education in Nigeria should be implemented and obeyed,” he said
A parent, Mr Owede Agbajileke, said 18 years benchmark for admission age into tertiary institutions would help to curtail mental and emotional abuse on students.
Agbajileke encouraged parents, whose children left secondary schools at age 14 to 17 to enroll them in skills acquisition for the period they would be at home before seeking admission into tertiary institutions.
“I am with the government on this issue. I could remember when I was in my 100 level at the university, we had a 15 year-old girl who will always cry whenever discussions touches on her.
“This particular girl is not emotionally prepared for higher education. She may be brilliant but what about her emotional aspect.
“Many of them who are not matured physically and emotionally are often molested by the opposite sex but someone who is emotionally matured and can handle situations will always resist any move by the opposite sex.
“I think we need to go back to the drawing board as a country and look for ways to engage those underage students seeking admission into tertiary institutions,” she said
Corroborating Agbajileke, a student of a Federal University, Chisom Jonah said many students who secured admission into higher institution at the age below 18 years, were not emotionally prepared for the rigours and demands of academics.
Jonah, a student in the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences narrated the ordeal of an underage student when they were in part two.
“In our 200 level, every students in our Faculty, studying, MBBS, Human Physiology and Human Anatomy were, usually, for the first time introduced to cadaveric dissection.
“On that day, when we entered the anatomy lab., a student, the youngest among us, collapsed and fainted upon seeing the dead human being to be used for our training.
“The student was rushed to the school clinic and upon revival, she said she was scared  and overwhelmed upon seeing the cadaver, couple with the smell of formalin.
” Our lecturer on that day underscored the need for students to be matured in age and emotion before seeking admission to university and particularly studying certain courses,” Jonah said.
Contrary to Jonah’s position,  however,, the umbrella body of students in the tertiary institutions – the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) – has rejected the decision by the federal government to benchmark admission age to 18 years.
Speaking with NAN, the National President, of the association, Lucky Emonefe, said there was no proper consultations with relevant stakeholder before the Minister announced the decision.
Emonefe  said the government agencies that have the responsibility to ensure adherence to the laid down laws, including WAEC and JAMB, were not doing enough in enforcing the age requirement.
He said :”If You are not up to  17 years, you ought not to be registered to write SSCE, NECO examination and UTME
“But, we have candidates below 16 years who had been enrolled by JAMB and admitted into higher institutions.We do not know what the minister will do about those already admitted
“We are putting on modalities to meet with the minister to take it up; because we believed that if government want to implement such regulations, there should be proper consultations with relevant stakeholders and student bodies.
“This decision cannot just be implemented immediately because people have enrolled for this year’s UTME already. They have paid JAMB and the essence is to be admitted into the higher institutions” he said.
The former Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, said most Nigerian universities pegged their admission age limit at 16 years, noting that this has been on for a long time.
Ozumba argued that if government insisted on the 18 years benchmark, there would be an exponential increase in number of students gaining admission to schools  outside the country,
The don called on the government to address many challenges facing the tertiary education, including poor funding, incessant strike actions and infrastructure decay, rather than creating unnecessary controversy
Dr Lovelyn Anabogwu, Facilitator at the National Teachers Institute(NTI) said 16 years is an ideal age for students to gain admission for  tertiary education because they were already mentally, physically, psychologically and emotionally suitable at the age
She equally submitted that exceptionally brilliant students, who left the secondary school at 15 years could also be considered for admission.
A parent, Mrs Alice Etuka said that in an age of advanced technology, savvy and vibrant youths Nigeria is endowed with,  it is retrogressive for a minister to propagate 18 years benchmark for entry into higher institutions
Etuka noted that technology had helped greatly in  making children to grasp faster because they had many resources to help them understand their studies better.
She, therefore, called on the government to reconsider the age limit and allow entry age into tertiary institutions to be pegged at 16 years.
“Times have changed and curriculum have been improved upon. Nowadays, both parents are working and as such enroll their children in school at a very younger age.
“Topics like addition and subtraction which were learnt in Primary schools in those days, are now being taught in Nursery  and the children are coping.
“Also, children in private schools can read as early as five years, so why do you want to delay their education because of a retrogressive policy?
“I call on the Minister to have a rethink on this pronouncement so that we will not drive our education system and  vibrant youth population backward,” she said.
Another parent, Mrs Ada James-Awodi, said 18 years admission benchmark is undesirable because of many challenges facing the tertiary education system, particularly, cumbersome admission processes in public schools and incessant strike actions.
She argued that many candidates with good O’Level results usually sit for UTME many times before they can secure admission to public tertiary institutions of their choice.
“If a child finished secondary school at age 16 and have to wait for two years more to write UTME and eventually could not meet the cut-off point for admission until after three of more attempts, what happens?t
“If such a child finally gets admission at 21 years, with the incessant strike actions in our schools, such a child may not graduate until, 28 years to 30 years,”.she said
James-Awodi called on the Minister to retract on the backward policy which could lead to Exodus of Nigerian children to foreign lands to seek higher education.
News Agency of Nigeria