BY HAMIDU DANBAREWA
This year’s just concluded JAMB UTME exercise marks a milestone in the quest for an effective and efficient planning and conduct of national examinations for admission into tertiary institutions. The general impression among candidates, educationists and parents across the country where over 1.6 million sat for the examinations was that there were significant improvements and responsive innovations this time around which is a welcome development. This positive assessment is not a blanket commendation but rather an objective overview recognizing that the seemingly unavoidable hitches usually associated with the exercise had a lesser impact on the overall conduct of the examinations to the satisfaction of a greater proportion of candidates.
A candid review of the examinations exercise highlights the successful roll-out of the Computer Based Tests (CBT) as the main mode adopted after a critical analysis of the outcome of the transition from written mode coupled with strategising to come up with an implementation template for optimising the CBT mode’s effectiveness as the preferred option. From the performance record of the CBT as rolled out by JAMB it was evident that local factors and specifications were integrated into the software and hardware design and delivery systems particularly to address the peculiar challenges and expressed fears. The computer operation for inputting answers were over-simplified and minimised enough for even the “village students” to find easy to learn, especially with an abundance of free access to online/offline practice sessions that also greatly boosted enthusiasm for computer literacy.
Arguably, the most remarkable aspect of this year’s JAMB examinations is the tightening of screws on the long-running scandal of brazen and rampant examination malpractices along with the elimination of the sheer stress and anxiety associated with unnecessary prolonged delays in release of results to candidates. Almost miraculously, students (and parents) knew their results after 24 hours from the highly automated marking and delivery system deployed by JAMB through GSM/email channels very user friendly and convenient direct to the candidates with attendant relief and joy to over one million out of the 1.6 million candidates in the first batch.
The “expo” virus was also effectively combated despite its versatile resistance by the intelligent pro-active potency of JAMB’s CBT which not only compelled students to study for individual success but pre-empted and rendered futile various devious cheating tactics such that candidates sitting next to each other were not writing the same examination while closed-circuit cameras conspicuously kept vigil without compromise. So impressed were most educationists that the CBT was strongly recommended for all levels of education as a double edged antidote for two most deplorable ills of national examinations.
The nation-wide hosting of a network of 642 private CBT centers charged with provision of basic facilities and services for candidates was another practical demonstration of responsive strategy to ensure sufficiency of access within proximity of convenience to all candidates by incorporating private computer centers that abound all over the country into the examination infrastructure. Again, it was not just for the benefit of the candidates but also a veritable socio-economic incentive whose valuable impact during recession cannot be over stated. The sense of purpose exhibited here stands in sharp contrast to the culture of unresponsive repetition of failed initiatives that bogged down management of national examinations exercises especially JAMB for too long and sets the pace for progressive attainment of efficiency and effectiveness in conduct of future JAMB examinations.
The Professor Ishaq Oloyede led JAMB management obviously put on its good thinking cap and thrust its best foot forward in making such a marvelous debut on a tortuous terrain to the extent that the most common problems encountered were patently attributable to the hydra-headed attitudinal malady dubbed ‘Nigerian factor’ that bedevils governance in its entirety. Thus most of the woes faced by candidates, ranging from poor internet services at many CBT centres causing delays and disruptions, poor power supply leading to computer shutdowns, inability of the biometrics system to identify or authenticate candidates fingerprints, exploitation of candidates by overcharging them on registration and muddling subject combinations were directly linked to the CBT centre operators who had pledged hitch-free examination.
Equally disappointing is the apparent connivance of parents seeking fraudulent advantage for their children. Hear Professsor Oloyede : ““It is sad to note that many parents are bunch of disappointments. In their efforts to cheat the system, many were discovered to have engaged the services of fraudulent operators who in turn engage the CBT owners for candidates’ registration. In the process, problems arose. Many have been arrested and more may still be arrested. As long as we are here, the sanctity and integrity of our examination will be protected. All the private CBT centres where the issues have been identified with won’t be accredited by JAMB.” We have every reason to trust and encourage him to remain resolute in his avowed determination to stop the rot effectively and intelligently.
But there was an awesome silver lining to brighten up the JAMB profile in this year’s outing. The 306 blind candidates who sat for the examination lauded the Board for allowing them use Typewriter, Braille code and Stylus to write examination, expressing optimism that they will perform better than in 2016 when they were forced to use unfamiliar computers, making many of them to fail. They also said unlike previous years, JAMB provided them with free accommodation and feeding for four days. 127 blind candidates wrote the UTME at UNILAG, 69 blind candidates at Bayero University, 60 at the University of Nigeria Nsukka and 50 at the National Open University Nigeria, Abuja.
All said and done, 2017 has seen JAMB flying the much sought after change agenda in a positive and impactful manner backed by a combination of intelligence, innovation and initiative that indicates the “out-of-the-box” thinking sorely needed to move Nigeria forward. The challenge facing JAMB management is to maintain this focus on delivering improved responsive examination management as a matter of cardinal policy.
– Danbarewa wrote in from Jalingo