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Controversies as UNN imposes compulsory change of course

For many students given admissions to study courses of their choice at the University of Nigeria (UNN) at the outset of 2019/2020 academic session, being asked to change to other courses when they have already started lectures in the courses they were earlier admitted for came with a myriad of pains.

“We are talking about suicide. My sister is currently battling depression. This has caused a trauma in my family- my mum, myself, everyone is depressed,” a sibling of one of the students being forced to change her course of study from law to political science at UNN told The Guardian.

“I do not know what we are to do next but this is just unfair.”

Located at the heart of Enugu State, UNN is arguably one of Nigeria’s most prestigious institutions having produced great nationalists like Chinua Achebe, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Patrick Utomi, current Central Bank of Nigeria governor Godwin Emefiele and others.

Based on its rich history and pedigree in the league of tertiary institutions in Nigeria and Africa, it is the dream of many young Nigerians to be educated at the school. This, may not be the same for some students who got admitted into UNN at the beginning of the 2019/2020 session to study their dream courses before their current nightmare surfaced.

The issue
After three months of academic activities in their preferred course of study, medicine/surgery, pharmacy, law and nursing students began receiving text messages on their phones from the Joint Admission Matriculations Board (JAMB) on April 1 to change their courses.

One of text messages from JAMB read, “Dear, (students name withheld), University of Nigeria (UNN), Enugu State, want to transfer you from law to political science please visit www.jamb.or.ng/eFacility/login to download the CAPS Mobile app, to either accept/reject the program transfer order.”

The text message from JAMB did not specify whether the students will retain their admission or studentship of the institution if they reject the ‘suggested’ change of course.

But less than a week after receiving the text messages from JAMB, the school registrar Chris C. Igbokwe in a post on UNN website gave the students an ultimatum of two weeks to either accept the change of course or lose their admission as UNN students.

“This is to notify all candidates who were formally admitted through Supplementary Admissions into MEDICINE/SURGERY, PHARMACY. LAW AND NURSING SCIENCES, but who were reassigned to other related courses, in compliance with the directives from the Regulatory Agencies/JAMB to keep to approved Quota in those courses, that JAMB has placed a deadline of 30TH April 2020 to accept the courses so re-assigned in JAMB portal,” Igbokwe said in the statement.

Igbokwe said failure to accept the courses re-assigned would compel JAMB to delete their names from JAMB CAPS and replace with other candidates, resulting in students losing their admission.

Our concerns – families speak…

Note: The parents who spoke to our correspondent did not give their names to avoid their wards being victimised by the school authorities.

These parents said it was unjust for the school to force the undergraduates to change their course of study against their wish for unknown reasons, especially after they were initially given admissions in their preferred courses.

Some of the parents, however, believe that it could be because JAMB exceeded the limit for the number of students to be admitted for the courses.

“She has been depressed, crying since she found out that – It has been heartbreaking and we just wish there was a way out for this,” a mother of a student who resorted to leaving medicine and surgery to choose medical lab science as the school required of her.

Another mother, who preferred to be anonymous, said school fees and all other necessary registration had been completed for her daughter who was offered admission to study medical laboratory science.

“It is not fair,” she said while explaining that her daughter once got admitted to study biochemistry in UNN in 2018 after scoring 276 in JAMB but refused to take the admission and waited for the 2019 exam in which “she scored 296 to get the current admission.”

“You can’t force us to pay school fees for a course we don’t want. It doesn’t make sense, someone should pay for this – It shouldn’t be students paying for this.”

A lady, whose sibling got admission to study law but was asked to study political science, said it will be difficult to switch her course due to missed class activities which may lead to her having a poor result in her first year in school.

“The option of changing course in the second year is not feasible,” she said. “Excellent grades are required and these children are put in a position where they’ll have to be playing catch up when school resumes.”

She said her sister would have chosen to write another JAMB instead of choosing political science if the 2020 JAMB exam had not been written already.

If she eventually accepts to study political science, the undergraduate whose campus was in Enugu, the capital city of the state, while studying law, will have to move to Nsuka to attend political science classes.

She said it is not fair for students to be at the receiving end of the school’s negligence of supposedly over-admitting students beyond the limit given by JAMB.

Why students were asked to change courses – JAMB
Reacting to the issues, JAMB spokesman Fabian Benjamin said UNN and other institutions whose students were asked to change their courses are to be blamed for not working in compliance with the system of admitting students.

Benjamin noted that the students were asked to change their courses because JAMB’s Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) did not find them qualified to study those courses.

“CAPS is to help students make an informed choice and it is not imposed. If I applied for medicine and you want to give me biology, must I accept it,” Benjamin told The Guardian.

Asked why the students were admitted in the first place, Benjamin said the school did not initiate the students’ admission process in CAPS from the onset and were forced to later register them on CAPS which suggested other courses they are qualified to study.

“After we did everything (revisiting the admission on CAPS), JAMB realised that many of these students do not qualify, so they had to give them other options that their score can take. They were not qualified for the programmes they were given. They were admitted because they have long leg. Any school with admission outside CAPS was trying to hide something.

“This (switching courses) is only for students that are not qualified for those courses (they were admitted for). All admissions must be conducted inside CAPS which selects students for courses their grades merit them to read.

UNN’s defence
Spokesman to UNN Okwun Omeaku declined to speak on the issue and JAMB’s response when contacted on phone by our correspondent.

In his response which came initially after calls and text messages were not replied, Omeaku said the change of course directive was the fault of the students that were asked to switch courses.

“There are guidelines on our website and the students did not meet the guidelines,” Omeaku told The Guardian.

When asked why the students were admitted without meeting the school ‘guidelines’, Omeaku kept mute on the issue.

He promised to call our correspondent back on the phone after he had spoken with the school’s registrar Chris Igbokwe

He, however, did not call back or pick our correspondent’s calls again.

Omeaku later sent a text to our correspondent on Friday, 8 May, saying “I don’t have the right answers for you right now. I have to consult with the right departments from Monday, hopefully.”

On Monday, Omeaku did not pick calls from our correspondent to provide the answers he promised since Friday.

UNN registrar Igbokwe did not respond to an email enquiry on the issue sent to him.

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