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Tips for admission into higher institutions in Nigeria

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By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

JAMB recently released the results of Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE. Our blessed children have done theirs. Now, with the UTME results, I will say that they have handed the baton to us, as they turn their attention away to prepare for their WAEC and NECO examinations. May God be with them.
I am writing this brief article on what parents need to do with the UTME results in their hands in order to ensure their wards are admitted into our universities and other tertiary institutions without much difficulty. It is not my intention to write on university admissions in Nigeria generally. I have done that in 2006 (?) in the article, The Ten Commandments of University Admissions. Interested readers can refer to my blog.
This post, though prepared for some three yahoo discussions in Northern Nigeria, is in English for the benefit of other Nigerians who are not Hausa speaking, just in case they would be interested in it. What I will say is largely drawn from my experience in handling mass admissions for indigenes of my state when I was an adviser on Education in Bauchi and the recent efforts to secure admissions for my children in Nigerian universities.
The interest to write this advice, however was prompted by a bad experience last year. The best science student in St. Louise, Kano, a classmate of my daughter, applied to BUK last year. Her UTME score was 248. It is a catholic school. No cheating. She sat for the post-JAMB test after filling an online form provided by the university. Then the sad news: She didn’t gain admission into the university, neither for the medicine she applied for nor for any other course due to a technical problem in processing the post-JAMB test forms. Her admission was vitiated along with that of over 3,000 applicants like her, many of them I believe excellent students too, for no fault of theirs.
When my daughter informed me of her sad case I instantly called Hadiza’s father and got the details. Then I linked him with a lecturer friend at BUK. They tried but the university was adamant. Hadiza is now studying physics at Kano State University of Technology, Wudil. Wallahi, Kano has missed a fine doctor in that cool but exceptionally brilliant girl that was collecting prices in almost all subjects she was offering at St. Louise.
So parents and guardians, my first advise is take the admission of your children seriously. Don’t leave it to chance or to Nigerian bureaucracy. It is a battle. Please let us fight it for our children who have read so hard, who grew lean as a result of hardwork and who are yet to gain the capacity to survive the struggles for survival in Nigeria. I have been in this battle for the past ten years.
I will be very brief, giving just the important things to do.
1. Request from your child his UTME result. See what he scored. If he has anything 160 and above, depending on a number of factors, he may be admissible into a university, but even with slightly lower marks, he can gain admission into other types of tertiary institutions.
2. Weigh your chances, if need be a more informed person. If your ward has high scores like 240 and above, your worries may not be much, again depending on the course he applied for and the university.
3. If the scores are low, you may, depending on your assessment of chances, even need to change the course or institution he applied for, or both. Fortunately, even if your child was over ambitious in his choice, because children usually fill the forms while they are at school without consultation with their parents, you now improve his chances of admission by buying a GREEN CARD at the nearest JAMB office and making the necessary changes online. Please inquire from the JAMB office the dateline for effecting the alterations or else it may be too late. Just do it as quick as possible from the week following the one in which the result was released after taking an informed decision.
3. FIRST CHOICE of a polytechnic, College of Education or University, is what is used for admission. Hardly would any university listen to you if your child has chosen it as a second choice. From my experience, they often get annoyed with you. The list of applicants sent to the universities by JAMB is usually of the first choices of applicants only. Be very careful on this. It is a golden rule.
4. If you find out that your child is not likely to be admitted into a university, you may wish to try your luck in a polytechnic or college of education of his FIRST CHOICE. There, the cut-off points are usually much lower. This is one of the dividends of unifying the matriculation examination. Kudos to NBTE, NBCE, NUC and JAMB.
5. Also, play it safe by restricting your choices to your CATCHMENT AREA. The entire country is a catchment area for UNIABUJA.  Apart from it, I don’t think there is any with that wide net. Please let me be corrected on this if I am wrong. Then ABU is a catchment university for all states in Northern Nigeria. The same thing I think are UI, UNILAG and IFE to the South-west. Then other universities and institutions have their respective catchment areas in their zones and neighbouring states. If you are an indigene of Bauchi for example, BUK is not your catchment university, but UNIJOS and all universities in the former North-east are, as well as UNIABUJA and ABU as mentioned. Please pay attention to this golden rule too, unless you are sure that your child has the high scores that will place him on the national MERIT LIST of the institution he has applied for.
6. Once you have finalized on where the child has the best chances of admission, immediately establish a link with someone you know in the university or higher institution of his FIRST CHOICE. If you don’t know anyone, please find one by taking a trip to the place and meeting with someone in the department he applied for or in the academic office. Make sure you EARN his goodwill if you want him to be picking your calls and giving you the correct information. And depending on how well you EARN that goodwill, he may even be the one calling you and intimating you on the stage of the admission process. As a Nigerian you know what I mean. Haba! A beg, me I no dey for wahala if Lamorde catch una wo. But if you have a good friend there, ah, you may not need to go that far. It could even backfire especially in Northern Nigeria.
7. Maintain a regular contact with your link. Enquire from him when the admission exercise of the university will commence. (Note that different institutions in Nigeria have different academic calendars). Disturb him. Be on his neck, until your son is through, of course softening his mind with your polite mouth and smiling pocket, if necessary.
8. For universities especially, the post-JAMB, or post-UME test as it is called, may be necessary. Don’t miss it. Don’t joke with it. Ensure that your ward prepares for it as he prepared for UTME and WAEC, in fact even more. The post-JAMB scores are pooled with that of the UMTE to determine the admissibility of your child. But not all universities conduct it, and hardly do polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
9. Do whatever is possible to ensure that the name of your ward appears on the first list of admitted students; otherwise get it on the second. Even with the best promises, banking on the third list, or “VC’s list” as it is called, must only be the last resort for people with long legs. If you are an ordinary Nigerian, your final chance is the second list. Otherwise, better start preparing for the worst.
10. Finally, for universities that do not conduct the post-JAMB test but admit solely on the basis of UTME scores, ensure your child works hard during the first semester. If he doesn’t earn at least a certain GPA aggregate, he may be withdrawn immediately the results of the first semester are out.
11. One can easily foresee disaster for children of the poor in this Darwinina struggle given the fact that every parent or guardian will try to press all the buttons he has to ensure that his child is admitted. I will be very frank here.  Children of the poor must, first, put their trust in hardwork to acquire merit. That is the reason behind the merit list.
12. If the child cannot be that meritorious, it will not be a bad idea to try his luck in less score-demanding institutions or courses. Or he may even choose to take the long route through A-levels and diplomas in order to gain admission into the university directly later.
13. State governments could be of assistance. By building a good rapport with institutions in their zones, they can easily, from my experience, gain mass admissions for their indigenes regardless of their social status. This has worked in Bauchi when I was the Adviser on Education. Following the difficulty I had with the admission of my first daughter into UNIMAID in 2003, I sought the approval of the then governor to officially seek admissions for all indigenes of Bauchi state regardless of where they stay in Nigeria, as much as I could.
I will approach a VC and say, “Sir, I have come for the admission of Bauchi state indigenes. If your total admissions this year is so and so, as our state belongs to your catchment area, we will at least be entitled to so much number of entries. Give me your JAMB list, biko, I will work on it overnight, sieve out the names of students from my state who meet your cut-off marks and meet you with it tomorrow morning.”
The following morning the list will be there. Then a trick: I will remind him of a promise our governor made to build a lecture hall or hostel block for his university. I will mostly get all I requested and returned home happy. Back in Bauchi, I will usually exagerate to His Excellency the cooperation of the VC and demand that he instantly call the VC and thank him. The governor will set the machinery for redeeming his pledge, as I prepare to visit the next university.
Gladly, this effort was inherited by the Yuguda administration under the able leadership of his then Commissioner for Higher Education, Malam Bala Jibrin. I do not know much about the state of that programme now as I have lost touch with the government for quite a while now.
Other people can try it, depending on the “rules of engagement” relayed admissions on the ground.

The above, as I said is my advise to parents and guardians. It is a general guide because some universities may demand for more or less. People more conversant with the admission exercises can please correct any error I might have committed, a point that I omitted, or shade more light in the comment space below.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde is a renowned columnist based in Jos

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