A fifteen year old brilliant boy had applied through the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, JAMB two years ago. He wrote the UTME where he emerged a superlative scorer and promptly secured admission to study a prestigious course at one of Nigeria’s oldest universities in the South West. His highly elated parents promptly paid the necessary dues needed.
A curious professor asked the innocent looking boy for his date of birth. It turned out that, carried away by his school certificate credentials and his UTME score, admission officials did not conduct due diligence on his age.
He was underage. Not old enough to be in a Nigerian government-owned university.
“Sorry son”, the professor told the young boy, “come back next year when you are 16 years old”.
The boy cried and was inconsolable.
Nigeria’s universities central admissions clearing body, JAMB has once again released it’s results for the 2019 examinations held recently.
Ekele Franklin, a 15-year-old Imo State native has emerged as the overall best candidate in the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), released on May 11, 2019.
He made an outstanding score of 347 marks.
While many older students with a score of less than 200 could be admitted, Ekele Franklin may not be offered admission into his first choice, University of Lagos (Unilag).
Reason: His age.
Franklin emerged as the best in the list of over 1.8m candidates but following the National Universities Commission (NUC) minimum age rule for admission into the university which public universities strictly enforce, he stands disqualified to register as a student of the University of Lagos.
High school fees paying private universities could, owing to perhaps their strict monitoring of students, as some commentators say.
Understanding the trauma that this poses to young and impressionable minds, Prof Greg Ibe whose first son is said to have gone to the University in the United States of America at 15, felt touched.
Incidentally, he’s the Chancellor of Gregory University, Uturu in Nigeria’s South East. He has therefore instructed Gregory University to open it’s doors and offer scholarships to the two Igbo students denied admission by Unilag on account of age.
And he said there’s nothing wrong in a 15 year old going to University at that age.
The second best candidate with 346 marks – 16-year-old Emmanuel Chidiebube is from Abia State with just one point less than Franklin, while 17-year-old Oluwo Isaac Olamilekan Oloyode from Osun State came third with 345 marks.
Several factors propel many child prodigies to leave secondary school at age 14, and in some cases, less than that. Pre nursery care is getting better and better in Nigeria and modern teaching aids are helping the young develop skills faster and better than their grandparents did in their time.
Therefore creating a road block for the young and impressionable minds at University entrance gates shows that the Nigerian system has not yet matured into guiding bright minds that are 15 and below in the country’s ivory tower.
Asking a high flying academic prodigy to cool off at home for a year or two before attaining the age of University admission can have very negative consequences.
The child can lose academic steam and never get the balance or ambience again. Being idle can throw them into bad company that may pose a challenge to the society.
It is either that the Universities get it right on how to integrate the young and brilliant into the system, or let the Federal government find some work, either teaching in kindergarten schools for them as they nurture and make them feel special in extra studies, as hope for the future. Nigeria must take the development of human capital very seriously.
Developed human capital is what has made Singapore evolve from the backwaters of a Third World country to First World in very short strides. Perhaps 20 -30 years. Nigeria cannot afford to halt the progress or forward movement of its egg heads.
If the country fails to nurture it’s young and brilliant, other countries would be very willing to snatch them. Visit the UAE space centre. A lot of the brilliant engineers there are from diverse countries of the world. They were enticed with good conditions.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.