Creation of JAMB is a misnomer – Prof. Aziba
The problem is obeying the law; and doing the right thing at the right time – Dr. Ofuafo
By Neta Nwosu
Reactions laced with annoyance and frustrations have continued to trail the bundle of unhealthy developments from the Nigerian entrance examination board for tertiary institutions, Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB). The entire exercise of 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) from the point of registration to sitting for the examination and release of the results have been trailed with varied controversies and agonizing experiences of candidates and parents alike. The Punch newspaper’s editorial of Tuesday, June 29, 2021, enumerated and evaluated the issues that have hindered the smooth operations of this year’s UTME, as it described university admissions in Nigeria as “fraught with pains, misery, physical danger, and corruption.
” The Punch editorial read, “ Across the initial 700 Computer-Based Test centres nationwide, widespread technical hitches, delays, electricity outages, and gross incompetence marred the exercise, according to media reports. Having transitioned from the manual test system to the CBT a few years ago, these hitches and stress are inexcusable. Speaking exclusively with The Catholic Herald Newspapers, Prof. Peter Aziba, Professor of Pharmacy and Toxicology, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, said “I totally, agree with claims that JAMB is bedeviled with all the vices indicated in these assertions.” Dr. Philomena Ofuafo of the department of Religious Studies, University of Lagos, stating in another vein said that every Nigerian youth thinks if he doesn’t go to a university, then, he is a failure.
“That is why you would see someone writing JAMB ten times, all in the name of gaining admission into the university, when he could easily get admitted into a Polytechnic or a College of Education without stress. According to her, another problem is also due to “limited spaces in the university and limited learning aids” which are essential, as far as university education is concerned. She explained further, “An average university in Nigeria has the capacity of admitting up to 4,000 students per session, if properly upgraded with modern facilities and adequate funding. Our problems of ‘admission’ in this country is basically of limited space for overpopulated youths hungering for knowledge. “Other reasons include, bad leadership, education policy, federal character and quota system syndrome. As well as University politics, bad Secondary schools as well as examination”
The Punch newspaper listed the bundle of impediments of the prospective undergraduates as they strive for admission to universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education. “Their collective trauma includes but is not limited to the tedious online registration process, fees, restrictions on the single use of a mobile number for a candidate, and sharp practices by officials and test centres. With candidates struggling with ePIN and USSD payment systems, JAMB had to extend the registration to May 29. “This year, their woes were aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. On examination days, many travelled long distances to reach their test centres early in the morning, despite a nationwide curfew that ends by 6am Some candidates had to travel across states, paying exorbitantly for transport and lodging to sit the examination. For a computerised examination, this is totally unnecessary, a financial and physical burden for parents that are struggling to get by.
“Another ungainly aspect of the 2021 UTME is that JAMB pretended not to be aware of the dangers associated with the coronavirus pandemic by directing candidates to obtain their National Identity Number before they could register for the UTME. This reflects Nigeria’s inability to think out issues. During a pandemic, the heavens will not fall if candidates did not register for the UTME without NINs. This amounts to treating the youths – regarded as the future of the society – with disdain. “Apart from that, the registration for NIN by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is anarchic, sordid, and primitive. At an early age, it exposes the candidates to the prevalent open corruption in Nigeria. Many of the candidates paid to get enrolled for NIN. This alone should have made the Federal Government and JAMB shelve the NIN requirement for 2021 until it becomes seamless.” JAMB has faced numerous challenges in its push to fully automate its process, from registration to conducting exams and result checking. Some of its biggest problems have come in its adoption of Computer-based Testing (CBT) for the conduct of its examinations.
According to several media reports, candidates at centres mostly in Lagos, Kaduna and Abuja were stranded due to system malfunctioning. For instance, at the Sweet Valley Educational Centre, located at Governor’s Road, Ikotun, Lagos, one of the Correspondents of www.nairametrics.com learnt that out of at least 800 candidates who registered at the centre, only 30 were able to sit the examination. A statement issued by Dr. Fabian Benjamin, JAMB Head of Protocol and Public Affairs, said the affected centres failed to live up to expectations, hence the decision to delist them. “Candidates posted to any of these centres, are required to await further directives, by checking their profile, email addresses, and SMS on their registered phone, for a new date,” Benjamin said. According to Punch newspaper, on the initial examination day, some CBT centres could not cope, due to digital hitches. The Editorial further read, “In a Badagry, Lagos State, centre, power failure marred the examination.
In some other centres like Ikorodu and Ogba, those scheduled for 9 a.m, could not sit the examination until late afternoon. In the end, some of the papers were cancelled. This is traumatic for the candidates who had prepared all year only to experience such a harrowing time. JAMB estimated that it lost an income of N5.8 billion because of the NIN requirement. “Worse, JAMB unilaterally closed 24 CBT centres on the first day. By the third day, the number had climbed to 50. JAMB Registrar, Ishaq Oloyede, accused those centres of poor conduct, incompetence, and aiding examination malpractice. This does not add up, and it misses the point. It is wrong for JAMB to ask candidates to re-register and sit their examinations at different CBT centres. JAMB is laughing all the way to the bank, but who is paying the cost of the trips to the newly allocated centres? What of the stress and danger that come with the disruptions? It could partly explain why some undergraduates are running helter-skelter, at the point of graduation because JAMB had not issued admission letters to them. These are youths, and are still fragile; they should be better treated.” JAMB board de-listed 25 centres out of 800 approved for this year’s exam nationwide.
The centres, spread across 11 states, were delisted, right in the middle of the exam period. The board said the de-listing was due to regulatory concerns, as the affected centres were no longer suitable for the satisfactory conduct of the exams. Long before then, several JAMB candidates had protested the inclusion of the National Identity Number (NIN), as well as linked phone numbers as part of the registration requirements. While it is yet unclear how that particular problem was resolved, the board said 95% of UTME candidates met the NIN requirement. It also said NIN helped the board uncover up to 500,000 fake candidates. JAMB compelling candidates to obtain NIN during a COVID-19 pandemic, before they can register for the UTME, has attracted mixed reactions. “It wasn’t right considering the timing, and the epidemic,” Dr. Ofuafo stated noting that the idea that everyone should obtain NIN wasn’t new. “JAMB has muted the idea since 2019, saying that it was going to be a prerequisite for registration in 2020. Excerpts of JAMB’s statement read, “Candidates are enjoined to register, as the board will no longer be responsible for the capturing of candidates’ biometrics, ahead of the examination, as all information required, will be uploaded from the data captured by the NIMC”.
Nigerians didn’t respond, until sanctions were introduced. The problem with us in Nigeria is obeying the law, and doing the right thing, at the right time” the University Don stated. Continuing, she remarked, “The Punch’s Editorial has said it all, due to digital hitches and technical hitches. Not lack of proper planning. Our greatest problem in this country is electricity. However, JAMB should have known better and put everything in place. The idea of blaming DISCOs and passing the bulk, should stop. We always blame others for our failure.” Prof. Aziba, added, “CBT Centres can’t function appropriately in a country, where power generation is epileptic, you can’t maintain power supply. JAMB is a confused body that ditches out contradictory directives without proper thinking, hence it is very unstable body. I am not surprised at all. “Again, what is certain with JAMB, is uncertainties. It’s a shame putting the future of our Children’s education with JAMB. It is a body that should be scrapped. Let us return to years past, when universities conducted its entrance/admission examination.” Last week, JAMB mandated that candidates who sat for the UTME to access their results using the 55019 USSD code.
Barely, 48 hours later, JAMB announced suspension of the use of the USSD code to check their results, due to challenges experienced by the candidates in the use of the code. The USSD code has malfunctioned, and as such was suspended by the board. Dr. Fabian Benjamin, JAMB Head of Protoccol and Public Affairs said, “It has come to the attention of the Board that the result checking on USSD code 55019 is saddled with some challenges. Consequently, the Board hereby directs all candidates to visit JAMB portal to check for their 2021 UTME result,”. Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, JAMB registrar, further advised them to take these steps: Visit https://www. jamb.gov.ng; On the menu bar lick on e-facility; On the page that shows up, click on UTME 2021 Main Results Notification Slip. Dr. Ofuafo noted, “Lack of seriousness and poor preparation. Fire bridgade approach. On the other hand, it is the problem of technology. JAMB quickly rose up to the occasion within 48 hours, that is an improvement and accepting responsibly for any lapses. If we don’t try, we can’t get it right. We are always quick to pass blames, instead of looking at the brighter side of issues.”
Commending JAMB for releasing the results on time compared to past experiences, Punch newspaper accorded the annual hitches of the conduct of UTME to the centralization and monopolism in administering examinations for all applicants to all Nigerian public and private universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. The Editorial stated in part, “Still, the annual ritual of hitches might not end because JAMB suffers from one main affliction: it is a centralised omnibus examination body for universities, polytechnics, mono-technics and colleges of education. And like all bureaucracies, the competitiveness that drives efficiency and effectiveness is sorely missing. Worse still, the examination body is carrying an avoidable burden. It should be reformed.” Prof. Aziba shared a similar opinion, “The creation of JAMB is a misnomer, coupled with domination agenda. In the days when universities conducted its entrance examinations things were better done.
As for me, JAMB should be scrapped.’ The Punch puts to the table solutions, as it shared experiences from other climes. “Unlike the monolithic JAMB, admission into tertiary institutions in so many countries is highly decentralised. In the UK, former Cambridge Assessment, now, Cambridge University Press and Assessment, a non-teaching department of the University of Cambridge, provides educational assessments for over eight million candidates in over 170 countries; scripts are marked by over 30,000 examiners, every year. There is also the Russell Group, a collective of 24 high-level educational institutions across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that share admission processes. This is the way to go.” According to Dr. Ofuafo, the problems of admission into Nigerian University would be history, if governments are willing to make education available, accessible, acceptable, and adaptable. In her words, “The right to education, also involves four key actors: The government, as provider or funder of public schooling; the child, as the bearer of the right to education; the child’s parents (the first educators), and the professional educators, namely, the teachers, who are willing and well – motivated, to provide the right knowledge.”