JAMB: Getting It Right At A Great Cost

By Zainab Suleiman Okino

JAMB could well have received kudos from many quarters after the painstaking weeding process and institutionalising sanity under Professor Oloyede in the last few years. Unfortunately, there are still people who are determined to spoil the broth for JAMB, because they are used to cutting corners.

On April 11, 2019, I had the privilege of being in the company of a former minister of education, Professor Chinwe Obaji to monitor the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board/Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (JAMB/UTME) assessment that began that day. Our voyage took us through Government Secondary School and Babtist Academy ICT Centre in Karu; Federal Government College, Keffi; Nasarawa State University; Government College, Keffi and the ICPC centre in Keffi (which is in the bush – interior – but had a near perfect arrangement and hitch-free exercise). At the Jerega Academy, we heard of two interesting cases of a mason who survives on tiling, and whose fingers were not compatible with the biometric identification system because of the effect of cement on his fingers. Another pitiable story was that of a female candidate whose fingerprints could not just be verified for the second year running for no established reason or cause. She had no one to cry to.

On subsequent days, the former minister who introduced the post-UTME evaluation during her time, with her dogged determination to see things for herself, took us to JC Best Schools, Life Camp, Abuja; Bingham University; Aunty Alice School in Mararaba; Government Secondary School, Tudun Wada; SASCON Maitama, before heading toward Blue Ocean in Kubwa and JAMB headquarters in Bwari. In some of these places, cases of minor challenges of congestion, biometric verification and thumb printing, alongside overpopulation in some places, technical hitches, a dirty and crowded environment and inadequate cooling systems, were recorded randomly, but by and large, these did not detract from JAMB’s adequate preparation.

JAMB could well have received kudos from many quarters after the painstaking weeding process and institutionalising sanity under Professor Oloyede in the last few years. Unfortunately, there are still people who are determined to spoil the broth for JAMB, because they are used to cutting corners.

There is no doubt that almost all our institutions reek of corruption, anomalies, absurdities and business-as-usual tendencies. JAMB was no exception. And in our shared norms of accepting wrong as right, as long as we are beneficiaries of the largesse generated from the proceeds of corruption, it is all well and good. In the case of JAMB too, most stakeholders — from compromised staff to contractors to computer based testing (CBT) centres, candidates and administrators, most were accomplices in cutting corners to their advantage. Things only began to change in the last few years with the coming of this administration. With the Buhari government’s seeming intolerance of corruption and Professor Oloyede’s antecedents as a man who shoots straight and abhors cheating, a new lease of life began to emerge in JAMB. Since assumption of office, Oloyede has been ‘shaking’ JAMB, even to its foundation. The ultimate gainers are Nigeria, honest candidates and the Ministry of Education, with their no-nonsense minister, Adamu Adamu in charge.

In the beginning it was like a joke taken too far when Professor Oloyede took on most CBT centres which served as middle agents in the cheating game. His continued reforms subsequently started sending many of them out of business.

This year, 1,792,719 students wrote the JAMB examination out of which Ekele Franklin from Imo State came out as the overall best. He scored 347 but may not be admitted because of his age. He was 15 years old when he wrote the exam. Emmanuel Chidebube, 16, from Abia came second with 346 marks, while Isaac Olamide, 17, from Osun State came third with 345. 15,145 results were withheld for further clarification.

Despite this good news, JAMB still recorded some infractions from candidates, CBT centres and more. These include multiple registration, manipulation and deliberate destruction of power sources, while the examination was going on. Insatiable greed and desperate antics of parents and identity fraud; multiple registration too were recorded. According to the JAMB register, “someone registered as many as 23 times for a single examination”. The issue of biometric distortion is most surprising, given that as early as last year, JAMB warned, pleaded, advertised and urged all to adhere to laid-down rules and procedures, just to sensitise people on the new roadmap. A few repetitions of the ugly past this year is an indication that those who cheat do it deliberately and not out of lack of knowledge.

In the past, according to JAMB last year, the extortion of candidates during profile/email creation at cyber cafes, and the sale of the eBrochure, reading texts and eSylabus CDs – which should have been free and collection of gate fee at CBT centres were common. Other infractions includes the using of CBT centre emails and telephone numbers, instead of those of the candidates, the subletting of access codes to cyber cafes, going outside approved locations to register candidates and duplication of biometric capturing to multiple persons, were among the recorded breaches.

While most of these have been eliminated, identity fraud in the form of impersonation and multiple finger-printing are still common. In the last exam, a large number of impersonators wrote on behalf of candidates. Tutorial masters “specialised in recruiting professional writers for candidates by using direct names or their variants”. Some examples suffice: In Anambra, two centres registered a large number of impersonating candidates, whose results were eventually cancelled. At Aminu Saleh College of Education, Azare, an impersonator’s fingers were discovered in 42 persons’ registrations. At Bauchi State University, Gudau, one person is traced to the registration of 64 candidates. At Nasara Computer Academy, Maiduguri, 233 candidates had one particular finger included in each of their biometric registration.

Although arrests have been made and the inspector general of Police (IGP) has set up a task force in its intelligence bureau to track offenders, chances are that most highly placed people working in public service today were products of this scam, as such it is an old trick.

Going forward, and considering Oloyede’s transformation strategy, JAMB should prosecute and jail offenders. Already, 116 CBT centres identified as the main facilitators of criminal violations during the exam have been delisted; more should be made to follow suit. The faces and fingerprints of those who turned the UTME into a huge racket have already been identified, and some of them are as old as in their 30s or 40s, ruining the future of young chaps, while unfrotunately smiling to the bank. They should not be let off the hook; they should be tried and jailed as a deterring measure.

Over time we have bandied huge figures of people unable to gain admissions into tertiary instutions in Nigeria, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Out of over 1.2 million qualified candidates, there are just 43 federal universities, 48 state universities and 79 private universities, with a combined carrying capacity of 520,000 to 540,000 students. The onus lies on education managers and policy makers to proffer solutions to this uneven statistics of potential university students and available slots nationwide, although graduates have no industries to absolve them, thereby swelling our unemployment market. That is a story for another day anyway.

Curtailing multiple registration and impersonation, as the latest baggage that JAMB has to deal with in its reforms journey, begun over two years ago. Last year JAMB returned billions of naira to government coffers, recovered some of its stolen money, prosecuted staff and delisted many CBT centres in addition to the latest ones. To the joy of parents, the cost of the JAMB registration has been reduced. In sanitising a rotten system as happened in JAMB, it is not yet uhuru, but with a determined educationist at the helms, there is hope on the horizon.

(PM News)

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