• Writing materials challenge in Lagos
By Emmanuel Edukugbo, Samuel Oyandongha, Chris Ochayi and Dayo Adesulu
Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, was, yesterday, thrown into confusion when news filtered into town that three candidates from the state scheduled to sit for the 2011 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) organised by the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB, were killed in auto-crash in Abua-Odual local government area of Rivers State.
The examination itself suffered a setback after the biometric registration of candidates experienced difficulties in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, forcing JAMB to dump the system for manual registration. In Lagos, there were problems of absence of writing materials in many centres.
Though the identity of those who lost their lives in the Rivers State accident could not be immediately ascertained, sources told Sunday Vanguard that it occurred some distance away from their centre.
The car in which they were travelling, a Mazda, reportedly travelling on high speed so as to beat time skidded off the road at about 6 a.m. due to poor visibility and rammed into a palm tree, killing three of the occupants on the spot.
Eye witnesses told our correspondent that the Bayelsa candidates arrived Ahoada junction in Rivers State at 7 a.m. to meet up the examination commencement time and negotiated with the driver of the ill-fated taxi to take them to Abua when they met their tragic end.
It was gathered that attempt by sympathizers to save the lives of the victims was futile as they were already dead.
Two survivors of the crash, it was learnt, were rushed to an undisclosed hospital where they were at press time receiving treatment.
The news of the accident caused pandemonium in Yenagoa as parents of applicants who travelled to Ahoada for the exercise thronged the scene of the accident to ascertain the identity of the deceased persons.
Contacted, the police pubic relations officer, Bayelsa State, Emakpai Eguavoen (ASP), said the accident happened in a Rivers community and not in Bayelsa State.
In Abuja, the failure of the biometric system forced JAMB to revert to the manual system in the verification of candidates, which caused apprehension for most of the candidates who besieged the examination centres as early as 6.00 a.m., but could not be attended to by the Board officials due to the malfunctioning of the system.
The biometric registration had been introduced by the examination body to halt impersonation and other malpractices which characterised the conduct of the JAMB examinations in the recent past.
The biometric system is to capture the face, finger prints and other personal data of candidates just like how the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, compiled the last voters registration exercise for the conduct of the April 2011 general elections
A total of 1, 493, 603 candidates who registered for the 2011 UTME sat for the examination across the country and in six foreign countries.
Most centres across the FCT where the examination held did not commence at the scheduled time of 9 a.m. as the biometric machines were slow while some stopped working outright after some time.
The use of the technology resulted into a long queue of candidates.
This situation forced the Registrar of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, who was on the field monitoring the exercise, to issue a directive suspending the use of the biometric computer at all the centres, at about 11.00 a.m., hence the revert to manual verification of candidates.
Meanwhile, the twin problem of the biometric system failure and absence of writing materials for the UTME candidates in some Lagos centres created a huge setback for the examination.
Many candidates who arrived their various centres hoping for the writing materials which include pencils, pen, erasers manual calculators etc, were disappointed as JAMB which was supposed to have provided the materials free failed in its responsibility.
As was the case last year, JAMB had earlier instructed candidates not to come into the examination halls with any materials as they were to be provided free by the examination body.
However, yesterday offered a differed scenario as candidates face more headaches. In many of the centers visited by our reporters in Ojo area, supervisors as well as officials of JAMB made frantic attempts to ameliorate candidates’ woes by looking for an alternative means of saving the emergency.
Overall, the conduct of the examination was smooth, attendance by candidates commendable, and various acts of insubordination minimal.
In several centres in the state, turnout was massive as candidates came in early for verification to match the personal data captured during the biometric registration.
Finger prints and photos of candidates had to be ascertained by the computer scanners mounted in all the centres.
Not less than 500 candidates sat for the examination in each centre.
Security check was stringent as candidates were scanned at the entrance of the examination halls, to ensure nobody brought GSM handsets, calculators, bags, etc.