University of Lagos & the Burden of Merit

It turns out that parent’s are upset that the University of Lagos has set the school’s admission cut-off mark considerably higher at 250, than the benchmark figure of 180 for all universities in the country, set by the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB.

These loving parents would also like the current JAMB registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde removed from office for upsetting them and their wards like he has.

But what are the details? JAMB says anyone with an exam score of less than 180/400 cannot get into any university. The  universities (like the University of Lagos) are then at liberty to set their cut off marks for the different courses on offer, as long as, no admission is granted to students with scores lower than 180.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Given the popularity of Unilag, 180 was clearly never going to cut it.” hashtags=”#lagos”] And so, after analyzing the number of applicants, which the authorities put at about 50,000 – 60,000, and with the university only able to absorb about 5,000 new intakes, Unilag has set it’s cut off at 250.

This is what has drawn the ire of prospective students and parents alike. So much so, that a peaceful protest was staged at the university gates for about four hours on the day of demonstration, with parents and their lawyers and hangers-on threatening to go to court over the matter.

To some people, this is what caring parents do for their children. To those old enough to remember the rigours of university admission, a score of 180 would be considered shameful, and once upon a time, no student or parent would even mention such a score in public let alone fight and demonstrate openly that such a result be accepted by university authorities for admission.

And of all universities, Unilag. Like all things Lagos, the demand for spaces is high. Very high. And therefore, only those with very good grades can expect to get in. So what informs the inability of these loving parents to understand the simple workings of university admission? Plainly put, places in top universities usually go to top students. Could it be then that these loving parents would expect their children and wards, armed with their 180/400 marks to get in before the students who scored over 250? 280? 300 even? And what would be the basis, first come first serve?

The truth of course is that once again we are witnessing but a microcosm of larger society. A society where morals have been so eroded, meritocracy has all but disappeared from our collective lexicon. Many do not know what it means, even more cannot spell the word. Parents actively assist their children get into schools the wrongest possible ways – bribing teachers, buying exam papers, insisting that children who have quite clearly failed their entrance exams, get into Federal universities before those who have faired better. Much better even.

But can you blame them? Those who have done better probably paid more, or paid the same bribes but to more influential persons to get the job done. That is the thinking hence the lack of shame displayed on the streets, in mainstream media, and on social media all of last week.

This sad reflection of the state of affairs in larger society is really what the “change” must address. The mindset. The current paucity of thinking amongst Lagos (and Nigerian?) youths and adults alike.

Lagosians must once again embrace the true spirit of excellence, and pursue said excellence in ernest. To be the Centre of Excellence, the building blocks of excellence must be taught and imbued by all of us, but most of all, by the youths and future leaders, future businessmen and women, tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

The Unilag case is a test for the new government to truly show that change is here. 180/400 is less than a 50% score. If most of the candidates scored less than 180, then there will be a case for the parents and their protest. Clearly however, this is not the case.


iam@ekoconnect.net… a Unilag alumnus

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