JAMB must be commended for doing a good job

One major proof of the downward slide in the education sector in Nigeria is the growing cases of examination malpractices. Reports from the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) reveal that the vexatious issue, rather than abate, has been on a steady rise. This has become a cause of grave concern considering the destructive effects on the education sector. Today, rather than read their books and prepare adequately for exams, the first option many students at various levels look for is the opportunity to cheat. It is even more disheartening that some parents connive with their wards to perpetrate this social malady.

With the results of 34,120 candidates withheld for examination malpractices and 50 ‘professional examination writers’ arrested, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) last week released the 2019 UTME results. JAMB registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede disclosed that 116 exam centres have been blacklisted, including one in Delta State which allegedly bribed exam officers with N1.7m. “We have recovered the payment voucher and the concerned staff are being investigated, but they claimed that they received the bribe because their lives were in danger,” said Oloyede. He noted that the exams recorded multiple registrations with one candidate, for instance, registering for 23 times.

JAMB has been helped by technology. About 200 candidates involved have reportedly been arrested and they have all confessed to the crime. JAMB has also secured the conviction of five of the arrested examination ghost writers. Yet the problem persists. While biometric identity is a unique feature that could aid in the elimination of registration cheats, JAMB has little or no time for a verification exercise in a country where data do not speak to themselves. Even though the National Identity Management Agency captures enrolees and gives them a temporary card, the background check and cross matching takes months.

With all these, it is only natural to do more screening to ensure that what will be presented to tertiary institutions are deserving of admission. But what this shows also is that previous results released were not thoroughly screened. While serious nations are seeing higher education standards as part of the heated contest for development and leading edge in every discipline, Nigerian authorities are not paying enough attention. Today, no Nigerian university is ranked; and that is only half the story. Many of the graduates are barely literate. The relatively literate ones are uncreative and unproductive. The corporate labour market shuns them. That is why we must support the efforts of JAMB to sanitise its examination process. We must curb all practices that sully the reputation of Nigerian certificates abroad.

Meanwhile, in trying to solve a problem, JAMB has created a bigger one. To check results, candidates would have to text their details to a Code which costs N50 per SMS. Some have sent as many as six times without seeing any results. All they keep getting is: ‘Your request has been received and is being processed, you will get response shortly. The service will cost you N50’. This is clearly unacceptable and JAMB must deal with it immediately.

To the extent that examination malpractice portends great danger to the quality of our human capital and by extension, our workforce, a thorough overhaul of our education system should be initiated and implemented urgently to curtail this malaise. It is a national shame that requires the involvement of all stakeholders to eradicate. We must precipitate a return to the days when academic excellence and hard work were rewarded just as sloth and mediocrity were punished. We must commend JAMB for their efforts.