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UNILAG promised us medicine, but gave us botany — Candidates

UNILAG VC, Prof. Rahamon Bello
 
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.
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