JAMB UTME: Policy, System Should be Reviewed

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As the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) prepares to administer its Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in May, University Dons who have been monitoring the development, said despite the challenges confronting the board, it should review its current policy to enable candidates surmount the problems, improve on its system, while calling for support from Nigerians. Funmi Ogundare reports

The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), has always been enmeshed in controversies over its activities in the last few years, the controversies are getting louder this year, with the registration process which brought untold hardship to candidates; and the delayed cancellation of the mock Computer Based Test(CBT) for the 2016/17 matriculation examinations.

As a result, the Board had to extend the registration date for the 2017 UTME and also extended the deadline for sale of forms and registration for the exams from the earlier announced April 19 to May 5. The exams body also postponed the 2017 UMTE from May 13 to May 20, attributing the postponement of the mock to the failure from its technical partners.

The Registrar of the Board, Is-haq Oloyede, consequently, apologised to candidates for the sudden changes, saying, “we could not go on with the mock examination and hereby announce extension of the registration exercise of the 2017 UTME. This is because the appropriate rehearsal and test-running of the new system has been substantially achieved. The plan was to trial-test the readiness of our facilities and address the challenges that may likely confront the main examination.

“At this moment, we have realised that the plan to hold this mock examination was good for us. We are now in a better position to achieve better than we would have done without this trial testing. This is why the exercise is at no cost to the candidates.

“It is our strong conviction that this exercise is an experience for us. Our systems analysis has revealed interesting findings that will engender a seamless and successful 2017 UTME exercise.”
These may not have gone down well with some sections of the society as they called for the scrapping of the board or that its functions should be modified drastically.

According to reports, “a key problem behind JAMB’s failure is the unnecessary centralisation of the admission process, which puts much more pressure on the board than it could cope with. Ever since it was created in 1978 and subsequently, given sweeping powers by Decree No. 33 of 1989 to conduct the matriculation exams and also process the admission of students into the tertiary institutions, it has been struggling to cope with this mandate. It is now time to devolve many of those functions to the respective institutions or scrap it altogether.

Some other analysts have asked the Registrar of the Board, Professor Ishaq Oloyede to voluntarily resign his position for the lopsided nature of the ongoing JAMB registration.

The Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) University of Ibadan Chapter, Dr. Deji Omole had described the registration problems being experienced by candidates as major set-back and may jeopardise the ambition of candidates who are interested in higher education, while calling on the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu to call the Registrar to order not to make life difficult for the children of the masses who yearn for quality public education.

According to Omole, the cumbersome registration procedure introduced by the JAMB registrar has succeeded in wasting the time the candidates were supposed to be using to read at fraudulent registration centers.
He reiterated the call of the union for the scrapping of JAMB, and that universities must be allowed to design its standard examination for its own candidates.

Despite the criticism being thrown at it, however, the Spokesperson of the Board, Dr. Fabian Benjamin told THISDAY in a telephone conversation that, “what Professor Oloyede has done is to improve on what has been on ground. We need everybody’s support to change the narrative of education in Nigeria. The Registrar of the board believes that the N5000 we are charging for the registration is too high. He wants a situation whereby we can do exams with less than N5000 and save money for government to use for other services, including internet capacity.”

Emphasising on the problems candidates face at the points of registration, he said, “from the study we have conducted , we discovered that the more time we give to candidates, the more likelihood we are going to extend. Last year, we only used three banks for registration, but this year, we insisted we were going to use all the banks as well as Interswitch and we were using over 600 centres this year, and for each centre we insisted that we must have open distribution points of about 100 .

“In Lagos, for instance, we have 59 centres , so if you have 100 distribution points , that would translate to about 7000 distribution points. This means that at any point in time, you should be able to register 7000 candidates at a go. Why are we having crowd? That is the challenge everybody is talking about.

“The crowd we are having is because at the first week of registration, a lot of banks that were supposed to get this PIN, didn’t start on time and the pressure mounted . Is this enough reason why Nigerians are saying we should jettison what we were doing?”

Reacting to the issue of profile creation by the candidates, Benjamin said, “If we look at the registration, we said candidates should create a profile and do registration, we had to capture 10 fingers because we discovered that candidates will register three or four times using different fingers at the point of biometrics then they will write the examination at different locations and choose the one they score a high mark in.
“Somebody once complained that he registered in Lagos and was posted elsewhere. If you check our website, you will see the traffic of candidates doing one type of correction or the other. We want to ensure that in 2017; candidates don’t come to our office to do this correction.”

On the readiness of the board for the UTME, the Spokesperson said, “ we are ready and we are going to do mock before the exams, we are yet to arrive at the date. It’s not as if we could not do the mock, but we discovered that a particular section of the country couldn’t get it right. So we reasoned that if they couldn’t get it right, then we should put it on hold. The mock exams were meant to test our facilities to see how ready we are.”

Benjamin confirmed that five persons were arrested by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps for various registration infractions, saying that they were brought from Oyo, Ogun and Ogun to Abuja where they confessed to their misdeeds.
According to him, “JAMB had given access code only to accredited CBT centres to partake in the registration exercise, but these operators in turn used the privilege information at their disposal in connivance with Honey comb centre and Bright international for percuniary motives, and creating confusion for the board, as procedures, guidelines and standards were compromised.
He said unknown to the fraudsters, the access codes are personalised coupled with features to detect abuses aimed at circumventing the registration process.

“They fraudulently tried to manipulate the system to give a semblance of the Board’s platform to deceive candidates as if a valid registration have been carried out. The suspects deployed fake biometric capturing mechanisms and super-imposed registration slip just to satisfy the curiousity of innocent candidates that their registration was successful and on the day of the examination, such candidate’s data would either be edited, or not found on the data base, such candidates would not be verified during the examination proper.”

Benjamin noted that the board wants to ensure that candidates don’t suffer subsequently when they get to tertiary institutions saying, “if they don’t do it now, they will start running up and down correcting one information or another. These are the challenges we want to address now. So we require the support of Nigerians for us to take education from where we are now, to the next level.”
Inspite of the challenges the Board is confronted with, some university dons avered that the board should be given time to deliver with the reforms being carried out and that it should also review its current policy to enable candidates surmount the problems.

A lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, Dr. Tunde Akanni said, “I dare say JAMB is ambitious with its strides which inevitably are accompanied by some challenges . As an academic, who uses available facts to undertake assessment, I personally believe that JAMB needs to be given sometime to deliver with the reforms being carried out. This year, within four weeks, no fewer than 1.4 million candidates had managed to register in spite of the orchestrated problems. ”

“As for the mock exams, JAMB declared it free and no one feels like commending that. The man who pioneered CBT exams at UNILORIN ahead of JAMB, wants to take it to zero malpractice, no applause still.” Some centres still collected money against the rule. What other forms of sabotage will such daredevil not contemplate to survive now that there is no scratch cards to misappropriate in collusion with corrupt JAMB staff?

Akanni stressed the need for Nigerians to be patient till the board runs the first examination, while expressing confidence that it will be fine.
“He deserves our support, ” he said.
Another of the department of History and International Relations, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Dr. Habeeb Sanni said the board needs to extend the registration period to give more room to candidates.
A former Dean, Faculty of Law, Kogi State University, Professor All Well Muzam stressed the need for the students to be exposed early to computer methods so that they will know what is required of them.

“I do realise that there might be difficulties, but on the part of the stakeholders who think it is the way to move forward , let us modernise this process and let the student be aware that this is what is required of them, and start early to be exposed to the computer method . To the authorities at the schools, they should also start to provide these facilities and ensure that the students are conversant with them ; and let them know that this is where modern education is going.”
He added that for candidates who are coming from rural areas , the school system ought to be revolutionised in such a way that not only a partial population of students can benefit from it but it should be across board irrespective of where they are living .

“They should be sensitive to these development and therefore make adequate provisions for them . If they are not familiar with the method of the exams, they may not do well , some students may not be able to enter into the tertiary institutions at first attempt maybe because of this problem , they spend one year and get conversant with the process, knowing that they will face it again the next year, and by then, they will would have been proficient in it, ” Muzam stressed.

He expressed concern about the difficulties the candidates may be facing saying that many of them are new to the method of testing, but that it could be beneficial to the system in the long run.
“The board after realising that the facility is a challenge, should be able to do something for the candidates and ensure that the system improves. The board should also review its policies so that all stakeholders can benefit,” he advised.

The former Vice Chancellor of Fountain University, Osogbo, Professor Bashir Raji argued that there is every possibility that a lot of potential students who are eligible to be offered admission could be denied due to frustration and lack of the board’s capacity to get things done at the right time.
“The impact of the shortcomings in the ongoing JAMB registration on university admission is obvious. This will further compound the yearly admission bottleneck that has been there.

He stressed the need for JAMB to think outside the box by putting all the required mechanism in place for smooth registration and the actual examinations.
“The Board should also be pro-active by planning long ahead of the exercise. After all, it is a yearly exercise and once. Inadequate time for proper planning should not be an excuse,” he said