By Dayo Adesulu
STUDENTS and parents are lamenting the stress they undergo every year during the conduct of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME. They are urging the Federal Ministry of Education to prevail on the JAMB registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, to alleviate their sufferings.
They particularly frowned at the cancelled mock UTME slated for last Saturday, noting that the registration process of the UTME and the mock examination were cumbersome and fraught with irregularities. The aggrieved stakeholders observed that though the mock examination was optional, it however, showed how the main examination scheduled for May would have ended.
When the former JAMB registrar, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, initiated the Computer-Based Test in 2013, it was applauded by many in the sector. It was believed that it had the potential of bringing our examination system up to the 21st Century global best practices.
Having made it optional for candidates from 2013 and 2014, Ojerinde went further to make it compulsory from 2015 for all candidates. Thus, the Paper Pencil Test was eliminated in 2015 in the conduct of UTME examinations. In the first two years of the CBT, many students hailed Ojerinde for the development because it enabled candidates to purchase JAMB forms from the banks, proceed to cyber cafes to register online.
Moreover, candidates became more excited when they discovered that with the new CBT system, they would get their results within 24 hours through their mobile phones. Therefore, after a candidate has successfully registered, he received every information about the examination, centre and states. However, in 2016 UTME, the success story changed and many stakeholders began to sing discordant tunes as the examination was characterised by irregularities.
Many of the candidates that same year complained about the malfunctioning of servers, overcrowded CBT halls, faulty computers and frequent shut down of computers which according to them, interrupted the flow of the examination. Several candidates and parents also complained that aside posting their children to far away states for the examination, after the exam, they got conflicting UTME scores.
While some were awarded 40 marks, others complained of a deduction from previous marks sent to their GSM. The scenario angered many stakeholders who called for Ojerinde’s sack but the government ignored the call until his tenure expired.
However, when Professor Ishaq Oloyede was announced as Ojerinde’s successor in 2016, many accepted the appointment with mixed feelings, querying the rationale behind the choice of a Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence to man a computer-oriented empire. His predecessor, Dibu Ojerinde is a Professor of Tests and Measurement and Educational Administrator.
In his address, Oloyede promised to build on the existing computer-based test of UTME examination though with little modifications. The modifications, according to him include introduction of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in all CBT accredited centres across the country.
Speaking in 2016 during one of his meetings with CBT operators held at the University of Lagos, Oloyede said the decision to modify the process was made to avoid past errors and wipe out the noticeable irregularities facing the conduct of the examination.
He said: “We are in a period of change, and what that means is that everything we have been doing must be reviewed. Whatever we have been doing right will have to be reinforced while what we were doing wrong will be changed.” He, therefore, mandated that every accredited CBT centre must have 250 desktop or laptop systems in a single room, with about 25 backup systems before being qualified to hold the examination.
Oloyede further maintained that during data capturing, the 10 fingers of the candidate must be captured, adding that any candidate whose 10 fingers cannot be captured by the CBT centres should be redirected to the headquarters of JAMB in FCT, Abuja. Unlike in the previous years when a prospective candidate could just walk into a bank and purchase a UTME form, every candidate in this administration must first create a profile in JAMB website, before proceeding to the bank to pay and obtain an e-pin. He also made optional, mock examination for candidates.
However, reactions from prospective candidates on 2017 UTME revealed that many of the modifications carried out by Oloyede on the previous process of registration and examination have made it more stressful for candidates. Since commencement of registration on March 20, candidates have been complaining of difficulties in obtaining their e-pins during registration. Just as hope of many candidates were dashed last Saturday when they went for the mock examination at the CBT centres, it was reported that most of the CBT centres could not connect to the main server at the centre, thus making it impossible for many candidates to participate in the exercise.
Candidates lamented that many of them had to queue for hours under the sun before they were called in for the mock. Some centres where they had already sat for the examination were highly disappointed as they announced to them that the mock exam had been postponed.
The JAMB registrar who circulated the information to the supervisors through a text message that Saturday, blamed circumstances beyond his control. Though he did not disclose what those circumstances were, it cannot however, be far from reports reaching him about failures to connect with the central server.
Failures to connect with the central server
Meanwhile, Vanguard’s visit to some of the centres where the mock examination was scheduled to hold last Saturday, showed the candidates under scorching sun waiting to write the exam. At Knowledge Ware Technology, Itire Road, Lawanson, Surulere Lagos, the candidates said they arrived the centre as early as 7.00am but had nobody to attend to them. One of the candidates said: “Ï am not feeling good because the rain that fell this morning drenched me. Now I am under the sun at 2.00pm still waiting to write the mock exam.”
Two other candidates at the centre, Musa Ahmed and Hassan Bukola, said the failure of JAMB to conduct the exam had left them demoralised as they had put all their efforts into it. At the Digital Bridge Institute, a centre at Utako, it was reported that the candidates were very disappointed that the test was shelved.
Miss Sarah Adeniyi, a candidate, arrived at the centre as early as 6.30am but could not enter the hall as at 1.30 pm. She was roaming around the premises. “I am so tired and hungry. I rushed down here thinking they would keep to time. Look at us under the sun since morning. I just feel like forgetting about this whole mock of a thing,” she lamented.
Where did Oloyede get it wrong from where Ojerinde stopped? It is apparent that Nigerians are not ready to be patient with any public servant who seems to delay their progress for no reason. Candidates are looking forward to seeing a problem-free 2017 UTME.