With the numerous complaints of network failure experienced by candidates at this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which started at the weekend across the country, experts have stressed the need for the Computer Based Test (CBT) centres to get fibre optic connectivity and fast internet broadband to prevent future occurrences. Funmi Ogundare reports

 

Though the 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), expected to last within two weeks starting from February 27, is in its fourth-day, there have been myriads of complaints by candidates writing the examination.

Issues raised by the students border on server problem or interrupted electricity, which they claimed might lead to their failure in the examination.

A total number of 1,589,175 candidates applied for this year’s UTME, which also included 201 visually impaired, across the country and eight other foreign countries.

The Registrar of the board, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, had explained that it was the first examination it would be conducting under the presence administration, and that the board after the closure of registration had to reopen its portal for candidates who couldn’t complete the process of the 2016 registration to do so.

According to him, “the board wants to use this opportunity to clearly state that the federal ministry of education and JAMB will not be doing this again and prospective future candidates should take note as registration will close as indicated on our advertisement.”

He noted that the examination has grown to be a vitally indispensable getaway  to tertiary institutions in Nigeria with a great measure  of performance and integrity emulated globally in spite of increasing number of candidates and other challenges which the board’s management has consistently devised ways of addressing.

THISDAY monitored some of the centres, including Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH); West Midland Communication Limited; Ikeja, Electronic Test Centre (ETC), and in JKK Ikorodu Road in Lagos, where a number of candidates complained about one issue or the other relating to server problems.

In YABATECH, where about 180 candidates were accredited for the examination, a candidate called on the board to look into the issue of faulty computers provided for candidates by Computer Based Test (CBT) centre owners.

Another candidate complained that the frequent shutting down of computers and power generating sets kept interrupting his examination and he could not finish at the stipulated time.

The Coordinator of the board’s national headquarters, Lagos Annex, Dr. Beatrice Okorie, also complained about a brief poor network at the centre, adding that, “out of the 180 candidates assigned to the centre, only one was absent. Candidates came in as early as 8.30 am and the examination started by 12noon, we only had a brief problem with the Local Area Network (LAN) at this centre, but the examination went without hassles and there was no impersonation.”

A Professor of Computer Science, University of Lagos, Dele Longe, decried the conduct of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) using the Computer Based Test (CBT) by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), saying that the planning by the board was not adequate.

He expressed concern that some rural areas in the country are still experiencing challenges in electric power supply and access to computers, thereby making candidates to travel far to locate their centres, as well the  recent inconveniences faced  by candidates who protested  over the poor network  system and slow servers.

Longe stressed the need for the board to still allow the dual approach; CBT and PPT, noting that it could be something that could take up to four to five years to get to perfection.

According to him, “We are too much in a hurry. I am angry. When you want something done properly, you must plan and prepare properly, the planning was not adequate and that is why you have the confusion. They need all the devices and computers such that the students don’t need to move to a far distance which will create confusion.”

He also stressed need for the board to do a statistics of candidates who can use CBT and those who cannot, noting, “If you have about 95 or 96 percent of people and the basic infrastructure are not there, it’s a problem. Everything must be put in place before putting the country into that kind of chaos.  It’s confusion and demoralisation on the part of candidates.”

The Dean of Education, University of Calabar, Cross Rivers State, Prof. Florence Obi, had said the CBT is a good idea, but expressed concern that candidates from rural communities who have never seen computers may not gain admission into the university.

She said there is need for the federal ministry of education to ensure that all schools in the country have access to computers.

“I come from a village where there is no light and because there is no light, there is no business centre in that place, and I am just wondering if my own people have been cut-off completely from university admission now that there is CBT. In the first instance they don’t know what computer is like, how much more, telling them to travel to a long distance where there are computers will not work out. Parents cannot even afford the money for these children to even travel. We still have a lot to do.”

She expressed concern that the country is not giving a second thought to its educational system, saying, “we like to experiment on things that will not really work for our system, it’s as if we are putting the cart before the horse and we don’t know what we are doing. We haven’t thought about the people in the rural areas.”

On how to overcome the challenges of network being experienced by candidates at the centres, an ICT expert, Mr. Michael Okeke, said the JAMB centres should have a fast broadband internet connection, which can help boost the server and ensure that candidates spend less time trying to open web page and focus more time on answering questions.

He added that the CBT centres can use fibre optic connectivity as is being used in developed countries. “Connection happens at the speed of light and fibre optics is designed to eliminate zero downtime,” he said.

A parent, who identified herself as Mrs. Amanda, said it is obvious that JAMB has not perfected the art of CBT, as most of the accredited centres still experience technical hitches during the conduct of the examination.

Rather than jeopardize the future of the candidates, she called on the board to consider reintroducing the Paper and Pencil Test (PPT), pending when the country will be fully ready to adopt CBT as the sole mode of conducting examination.