By Amaka Abayomi, Tare Youdoewei & Elizabeth Uwandu
Hitches such as server failure, not keeping to time, incorrect questions, power failure and candidates not printing out the right e-registration slips containing their centre/registration numbers, threatened to mar this year’s edition of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME, turning what was supposed to be a two-hour, 45 minutes exam to a four-hour exam.
The examination, which will run for 10 days, will have over 1.5 million candidates jostling for 800,000 admission slots in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.
The security is being handled by officials of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps.
At the centre at Yaba College of Technology, which was supervised by the Coordinator, National Headquarters, Lagos annex of JAMB, Dr. Beatrice Okorie, only one of the 180 candidates assigned to the centre was absent.
Okorie said; “though there was no case of impersonation, most candidates flouted the rule that states that they should come with nothing other than their pens and e-registration slips. They came in as early as 8.30am on Saturday but the examination commenced at 12 noon due to a brief downtime with the Local Area Network (LAN) of the centre.”
While only one session of the examination held on Saturday, Okorie said there would be two or three sessions daily in various centres for the duration of the examination.
The coordinators, ETC Nigeria Limited and Prime Innovation Institute of Technology exam centres, Mr. Olabode Idowu and Mr. Joseph Ebinum, both said their centres had no challenge save for a couple of late comers and those who came with the wrong e-registration slips. They added that the CBT has reduced, if not eliminated, the possibilities of examination malpractice.
Answers not in the options: Despite these comments, most candidates have nothing but complaints and regrets about the exams. Some candidates who wrote the exams on Monday said answers to some of the questions in the English Language test were not made available.
According to Basirat Jerah, whose centre was at the Yaba College of Technology; “The examination scheduled to commence at 6:30am started by 8:45am as a result of server failure, but the surprising aspect was that some of the questions in English Language were wrong as the answers were not in the options given. Only God knows what would become our fate as we pray JAMB officials would consider this when marking and grading us.”
Corroborating Jerah’s claims, Precious Ogunlele, who also wrote at the same centre, said: “Questions 11-20 of English Language paper were incorrect as the answers were not in the options. We only pray and hope this would be taken into consideration so as not to negatively affect our scores.”
When contacted, JAMB PRO, Dr. Fabian Benjamin said the portion in question is the comprehension part whereby they have to fill in the gaps.
He said: “You know these students are in a hurry to finish and most of them don’t take their time to go through the instructions.
Setting the questions
Even some candidates in one of the centres I visited pointed it out to me and I had to explain to them that in comprehension, you have to fill in the gaps. I can assure you that JAMB didn’t make any mistake when setting the questions.”
Recounting the challenges faced at her FUNAAB centre, Chinyere Ugochukwu, a student who took UTME last year but is resitting this year because she didn’t get into her desired university, said; “It was a 500-seater hall and we were given three hours, 30 minutes for Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English. Before the time was up, the invigilators told us to submit so that the next set of students can write. Most of us were there before 6:30am, we waited till 10am, why were they now hurrying us even when the system had not logged us out?
“Some of the English options had errors and there was small server issue when submitting, but they assured us that it had been submitted. The biometric verification and CBT technology has eliminated cheating such that to ask questions in the hall is of no use because my own number two can be the next person’s 20, and nobody will leave their own computer to look at your own to help you solve equations. From last year’s experience, it made me sit up.”
Candidates cry foul over irregularities: A candidate who refused to give his name, said: “JAMB is insensitive to the plight of candidates because I don’t understand how they want us to pass when calculators are not allowed, no rough sheets and we have only two hours, 45 minutes to answer 250 questions which most of us are unable to answer due to server failure or generator breakdown.”
Network and power failure
Another candidate, Ifeoma Josiah (not real name) whose centre was at Ocean Comprehensive School, Megida, Ayobo, said exams slated to start by 11am didn’t start until 7pm due to network and power failure.
Explaining why the examination started behind schedule, the JAMB Supervisor, Federal College of Education, Akoka, Mrs. Flora Usoh, said the students had to be examined and thumb- printed before the exam commenced. “That process takes time but aside that, the center has experienced no hassle as the students are writing and the systems are all working.”
Mr. Elujoba Abiodun’s daughter was among the first set supposed to write the exam at 6:30am, but that was not to be as she was still in the hall at 11:30am.
He had this to say; “Though the introduction of CBT is a welcome development as it has helped reduce malpractice, JAMB needs to improve in the area of keeping to time. We came all the way from Ogun State and met some people here as early as 6am, it is 11:30am and she’s yet to come out. JAMB needs to put its house in order, especially in the area of timing.”
For Mr. James Uzuagba, the paper-based test should not have been out-rightly cancelled but done alongside the CBT till the hitches of the CBT are overcome.
He said: “If CBT and paper usage are allowed, the delays we are experiencing will be minimal as some people will have the option of using either of the two and this will save time and reduce frustration.”
Meanwhile, JAMB Director, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, has assured all candidates that their results will be made available 30 minutes after they have left the CBT examination hall.
He said: “All 2016 UTME candidates will receive a graphical result of the examination via text message on the mobile phone numbers they provided during their registration. However, they can check their actual result online within four days.”