The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has unveiled a five-year strategic roadmap for inclusive access to quality higher education in Nigeria – 2024-2028.

Available statistics indicate that there are over 27 million Nigerians living with one form of disability or the other, including visual, hearing, physical, intellectual, and communication impairment, with stakeholders expressing worry about scanty attention being given to their education in the country.

But Oloyede, in his opening remark at the First Conference of JAMB Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG) in Abuja, said the board was ready not only to facilitate access but also to ensure equity as special arrangements had been made for inclusivity of people living with disabilities to acquire tertiary education.

He also frowns at the circumstances where parents choose courses for their children living with disabilities who are seeking admission into tertiary institutions.

While reacting to the comment by the National President National Association of Visually Impaired, Stanley Onyebuchi, at the event, Oloyede, warned that the Board would no longer condone such a practice, which in most cases leads to denial of candidates’ opportunities to pursue their dreams.

The JAMB said: “In the case of the student who wanted to study law, her stepfather said he could not allow her to go as far as Calabar to study law but asked that she be enrolled in Kaduna State University.

“This is because the course she was interested in was not available at the university, but the father asked her to study special education.

“We have now taken a decision that henceforth, just like with regular admissions, no parent will be allowed to have a say in the admission choice of candidates with disabilities,” he said.

On his part, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Chris Maiyaki, expressed the Commission’s readiness to introduce Courses and programmes that would deepen national capacity towards meeting the noble objectives of providing equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.

“Where necessary, decisions arising from the Conference requiring the review of curricula would be given the needed attention, in line with our resolve to continually update and develop globally acceptable minimum academic standards for effective delivery of university education in Nigeria.”

“The National Policy on Education provides for inclusive education for all Nigerians. The Policy clearly stipulates that “persons with disabilities should be educated in regular schools along with their non-disabled peers”. The theme of this Conference is, therefore, very apt as it is in consonance with the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education (CADE 1960) which defines education as “all types and levels of education, the standard and quality of education and the conditions under which it is given’, he said.

Meanwhile, the National President of the National Association of Visually Impaired, Stanley Onyebuchi, had said that some of their members faced some sort of rejection from tertiary institutions in the areas of their choice courses.

Onyebuchi said when PWDs sought admission to tertiary institutions, some of the institutions castigated them, saying they were not meant to be their institution.

He added that the economic hardship occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy had taken a toll on its members as many of them no longer continued their education.

“I want the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities to take note of our complaints.

”If it means a sensitisation visit, we don’t mind going around because education is key to our success for us, the visually impaired persons; anything that will hinder us from achieving this, we will not take it.

“Also, the increment in the tuition fees has discouraged our members from going back to school. I want to suggest that since the government wants our children to be out of the streets, there should be free education for all persons with disabilities in all the tertiary institutions,” he said.

Declaring the Conference open, the Minister of Education, Prof Tahir Mamman, said the Federal government was paying attention to ensuring that every society member has equal access to education.

Mamman said that equal opportunity to higher education must begin with inclusivity while calling on tertiary institutions and their communities on inclusive access for PWDs.

“We must work by focusing on an accessible learning environment where physically appropriate environment is needed and an inclusive curriculum for all students.

“Support services should be readily available in the institutions, faculty and staff training who will be sensitive to the need of the diversity must be put into consideration.

“All information from application processes in the format that will suit the PWDs must also be ensured,” he said.

The Ministry, however, promised to continue in the delivery of President Bola Tinubu’s mandates by focusing on policies that promote inclusivity and unity.

The Conference has the theme:” Towards Increasing Equal Opportunity of Access to Higher Education in Nigeria”.