Fresh admission controversy has hit the University of Lagos as some candidates are accusing the authorities of high-handedness, CHARLES ABAH writes.
For no fewer than 57 candidates, who participated in the 2015/2016 Foundation programmes that would enable them to study Medicine and Surgery at the University of Lagos, this September seems to be the longest month that they have ever witnessed in life.
In fact, since September 9, these candidates have not known peace, considering what they called high-handedness of the authorities of the university.
According to them, having passed all the necessary qualifying examinations that would enable them to proceed to the medical school, having spent hundreds of naira in terms of tuition and other sundry fees – undergoing a foundation programme – the authorities of the university are now scheming to abort their dreams.
Already, they have written to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rahamon Bello, demanding that the authorities should urgently look into their case.
In the letter dated September 20, 2016, the candidates, under the auspices of 2015/2016 Foundation MBBS, noted that denying them admission to study medicine in the ivory tower would be akin to a miscarriage of justice.
They copied the registrar of the university, director, School of Foundation Studies, provost, College of Medicine, as well as the Joint University Preliminary Examination Board in the petition.
Parts of their letter read, “The School of Foundation Studies admitted over 800 students into its programme with a promise that those who scored AAA (16 points) in all their courses shall be admitted to 200 level to study Medicine. We were asked to pay a huge sum of money – about half a million naira.
“The university tested us with a curriculum and at the end of the exercise, 87 of us obtained the required A’s. As if the management was happy about the less than 10 per cent pass, it came out with another fresh directive, which seems to call a ball that went over the bar a goal. The university said that it could only admit 30 students.
“Are we now being told that the university is nothing but a business centre and the JUPEB programme is nothing but a fraud? We hereby demand justice. This is but a rape on the collective intelligence of Nigerian students and an attempt to reduce the citadel of learning to a mere business venture. No sane society will let this go unchallenged. The university should provide reasons why, despite the recession in the country, parents will be made to cough out such whopping sums on empty promises.”
Our correspondent gathered that each of the candidates paid non-refundable acceptance fees of N25,000; N350,000 tuition; N7,500 medical insurance; N25,000 for examinations; N700 for syllabus, and N850 for biometric identity card. Besides, the candidates made personal arrangements for their accommodation for the one year that the programme lasted.
Beyond the fees, the narratives by some of the affected candidates and their guardians are the type some people will describe as touching.
“I have a B.Sc in Nursing from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. I graduated in 2009. No fewer than 800 of us enrolled for this programme last year and only 87 of us obtained the required three A’s to study medicine. With this, admission to the college of medicine would ordinarily be automatic but the authorities are changing the rules mid way into the game. This is not so in other universities.
“To study medicine in many other universities, one requires only 13 points, but here we all obtained 16 points. Yet, the authorities of UNILAG say they do not have space for us. I know how I struggled to make these grades. I know the psychological stress that I passed through to enable me to achieve this success. This programme nearly cost me my marriage as I struggled daily to cater to my husband and two teenage children.
“Why would I suffer the consequences of lack of space when they admitted so many candidates in the first place? The Federal Government needs to intervene in this matter; otherwise, we shall spend another year at home due to no fault of ours. Today, the authorities are asking us to go for such courses as fishery, botany, cell biology, psychology. Please, when has it become a crime to pass an examination? After having a degree in nursing, they expect me to start another course in fishery,” the candidate, who craved anonymity for fear of victimisation, said.
For another candidate, Adesewa, the decision of the university management will cut short her dream of becoming a medical doctor. The young lady, who said she obtained her WASSCE in 2013, noted that she had forfeited other admission placements just for her to study medicine.
She said, “I abandoned the admission I got to study Bio-Chemistry at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State in 2013 just to study medicine. In 2014, I sat for another UTME and obtained 68.75 aggregate marks. The cut off that year at UNILAG was 70 marks. In 2015, I enrolled for this foundation programme. Now, see the frustration I am facing again.”
But the Director, School of Foundation Studies, Prof. Oluwole Familoni, said the university did not promise any candidate automatic admission for medicine. According to him, both the candidates and their parents knew ab initio that the university had limited spaces for medical students.
He added, “There was no assurance of automatic admission for any candidate. Of course, we could not have done that because the regulators, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, would not allow us to admit more than 100 students.
“Agreed, the 87 candidates did well, they cannot force the authorities to admit them all to the College of Medicine and that is why we have given them the option to enrol for other programmes.”
On why the institution enrolled hundreds of candidates for the programme knowing that it had limited spaces, Familoni said it was a competition thrown open for all interested candidates.
He noted, “We could not have enrolled only 30 candidates for the foundation courses because we have only 30 spaces for them. It is akin to seeking employment in an organisation. Every firm has the right to select from the millions of applicants, those it considers suitable.
“We did not force them to purchase the forms. It’s a pity that they want to destroy the image of the university. They can go to court if they feel so aggrieved. Some persons tried it recently and they lost the case in the court. You cannot force any university to offer you admission.”
But a retiree, Mr. Joseph Taiwo, who said that he sold some of his personal effects, including his car, to ensure that his son sail through the foundation programme, noted that his family had not been in lively spirits since the news got to them.
He added, “When we initially received a report that he was among the few that obtained three straight A’s, we went for thanksgiving in our church. But that bubbling situation has died down in my home. We have all been wearing a mournful look since September 9 when news filtered that only 30 of them would be offered admission. Ordinarily, I would have sent him overseas to pursue the same course but I do not have the wherewithal.”
Appraising the development, the Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign, Mr. Taiwo Hassan, said the handling of the situation by the university was wrong.
“What UNILAG has done is very wrong and unacceptable. It amounts to changing the rules in the middle of the game. What the university has done is a violation of the rights of the students and I urge the affected foundation students not to take this lying low. They should stand up and organise themselves to challenge this injustice legally and politically. No one should accept that nothing could be done about this.
“As far as the ERC is concerned, we believe that this routine violation of students’ rights by UNILAG is one too many. Early in the year, about 102 undergraduates, who came into the university through the UTME for Medicine and Surgery were treated in the same way. Now is the time to say enough is enough to the impunity of the authorities,” the ERC helmsman said.