Irregularities beset 2016 conduct of UTME, release of results

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• As criticisms greet Senate’s decision on JAMB’s validity

A candidate, Rosemary Amadi (pseudonym), was meant to write her UTME examination at MTI, Onosanya Street, Surulere, Lagos, by 6.30 am. On getting to the venue by 6 am that fateful day, she saw a notice directing that all candidates should proceed to Huntville Technology Limited, Anthony, Lagos. Although the examination was rescheduled for 9.30 am due to change of venue, Rosemary arrived the second centre a few minutes after eight. According to her, there was a lot of chaos and disorderliness at the centre as candidates who were meant to write at Huntville were relocated to yet another centre.

When Rose, already distracted by the experience finally settled to write her examination, she had issues uploading complete questions for English language “as questions number 17 to 28 were blank and weren’t forthcoming”.

At Ikotun Comprehensive College, Lagos, the duo of Uju Obi and Benedette Efe complained that systems’ failure did not allow them to complete their examination. Efe said the buttons of the computer assigned to her and the mouse failed to function properly while Obi claimed that system failure frustrated them from completing the examination. Another candidate, Ekpo Victor, said his computer did not respond appropriately, and some questions in the science subjects he took refused to upload.

A concerned mother complained on RayPower 100FM’s ‘Political Platform’ last week Tuesday that besides power failure, her child’s centre had system failure, power outage and the candidates were eventually advised to answer only half the required number of questions. She wondered at the unpreparedness of JAMB and who would take responsibility for the calamity she was certain to happen when results come out.

Conflicting results

As if candidates had not gone through enough distress, the first set of the 2016 UTME results the board released were conflicting thereby putting candidates in dilemma. At first, The Guardian learnt that JAMB was giving bonus of 40 marks to candidates following its realisation that there were a lot of technical hitches and disorderliness in the conduct. Another group claimed they were awarded addition 20 marks.

A candidate, Evelyn Peters, frowned at the discrepancy in her result. According to her, “I scored 181 in one of the results I printed from JAMB portal and 221 in the second result. This was really conflicting. JAMB should rectify this fast and let us know our fate”.

Another candidate, Peter Olatunbosun, who sat for the examination at the Information and Communications Technology Centre, Delta State University (DELSU), explained that the first text message he received showed that he scored 241. According to the breakdown, he got 55 marks in the Use of English, 68 in Mathematics, 58 in Physics and 60 in Chemistry.

Surprisingly, when he went to a café to get the print-out from JAMB portal, he saw a new score that is totally different from the previous score. “I discovered I had a different score which is very low compared to my first score. It is really disheartening; after going through all the stress to write the exam in a far away state, I’m yet to know my score and the way forward. We are pleading with JAMB to do all it can to ensure that nobody is shortchanged and that candidates receive their exact score,” Olatunbosun pleaded.

But there is more to be explained by JAMB authorities in this regard, as some candidates claimed they have not received any additional score.

JAMB not ripe for CBT yet

However, the above scenario and many more issues that have arisen from the conduct of the all Computer-Based-Test (CBT) by UTME since it was made compulsory last year have caused some parents and stakeholders to doubt whether JAMB was really prepared for the online examination before it embarked on it.

A parent and an engineer, Mr. Desmond Peters, said from all indications, “it is obvious that we are not ripe for that technology yet. Technology-wise, we are not yet there. JAMB should have gotten it right in the area of technology before migrating to CBT. With all the negative reports, disorderliness, relocation, system failure, missing questions, lack of standard centre, conflicting results, among others, it will not be out of place if one states that JAMB wasn’t prepared for this great task. And it is unfortunate that our poor children are at the receiving end”.

Meanwhile, Head of Public Relations, JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, has informed that the registrar would be able to address the issues after the conduct of the examination.

Extension of JAMB’s validity and fee reduction

Perhaps, these and many more issues could be the rational behind Senate’s recent decision to amend the Act establishing JAMB by extending the validity of its UTME results to three years. The Senate also ordered a downward review of the examination fees from N5,650 to N2,500, even as it ordered that ‘change of course’ and other sundry charges relating to UTME examinations be made free.

The upper chamber took the decision after considering a report presented by the Chairman, Committee on Tertiary Institutions and Tertiary Education Trust FUND, Senator Binta Garba. The Senate, according to reports, had in 2015 mandated the committee to investigate the new JAMB admission policy and the unification of the country’s tertiary institutions’ examinations.

While reacting to the recent ruling by the Senate, Vice Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Prof Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi said the pronouncement was hasty, maintaining that the Senate should have thought it through before arriving at the decision.

According to him, “I also expected the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), especially the minister, and authorities of JAMB to have been carried along. The process should have required the Senate to pass its observations and recommendations to JAMB through FME for consideration and possibly other stakeholders in the system.

“The pros and cons would have been discussed to ensure feasible implementation nationwide. The opinion of universities and other tertiary institutions ought to have been sought and their views considered. I would have expected a public hearing on the matter.

The success or failure of the decision would have been determined by the extent of consultations”.

While noting that the decision might slow down the activities of JAMB, he said, “I hope the Senate, in the long run, would not call for the scrapping of JAMB, as that will be unfortunate. I expected either the FME or the board to convey a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the short, medium and long-term implications and forward recommendations through the normal channel to Senate”.

He continued, “There is a need for a critical and unbiased evaluation without any taint of political considerations to prevent the damage that inconsistency in policy does to our education system. Any change in policy should be given a time frame before implementation.”

Now that the fee is being reviewed to N2,500, Adeyemi said the upper chamber “should approve an increase in the subvention to JAMB to enable the board perform optimally. There is no gainsaying that any reduction in the expected and available funds would cripple the capability of the board. JAMB has a role to play by providing the cost per candidate for its examination and, with this reduction by Senate, expect a matching grant by government to ensure quality of the conduct of examinations”.

In echoing Adeyemi, the former Vice Chancellor of Caleb University, Prof Ayodeji Olukoju, said the resolution was ill-advised, as there were no due consultations before it was reached. While insisting that the legislators ought to have engaged all stakeholders, especially JAMB and heads of tertiary institutions before taking such decisions, he noted that to do otherwise “amounts to tyranny of the ruling elite or some vested interests.

“Ordinarily, the legislature acts as the voice of the people. To that extent, the resolution could be a ventilation of popular opinion on the subject. But then we must note that education is everyone’s business and the legislators have parents, professors and teachers in their ranks. However, it needs to be ascertained whether the JAMB Registrar was invited to advise the body. If not, it is an ill-advised move and, at worst a mere effort in populism. Neither of it is good for the running of a sensitive sector like education.

“Secondly, how does that enhance or erode the autonomy of the body? Happily, a resolution is just what it is, not a law. I expect JAMB to make a considered response to this resolution, which does not adequately reflect the views of all stakeholders”.

Olukoju continued, “JAMB should be allowed to make a presentation or submit a considered response. Heads of tertiary institutions, too, should make their input. The Senate and other supervisory agencies should allow institutions to function without undue interference, which is what we are witnessing. This is an abuse of oversight”.

In faulting the three-year validity of UTME results, he said, “It does not make sense to me. Each admission cycle is a test of candidates for that cycle. It is like running for office. The votes cast during a previous exercise do not count in subsequent elections. Making students try till they get in on merit helps the selection system and keeps them on their toes.

“I am aware that parents and students will be rid of the burden of fees and the stress of writing examinations. But the whole idea is to test and admit candidates for particular cycles of admission. This is not like the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) or bachelor’s degrees, with which you can secure employment”.

He further explained that UTME is a one-off examination to test ability for a particular purpose and “not a certificate earned after a period of study. Now, institutions will be saddled with having to plough through years of data to make a selection, with all the stress involved”.

A parent, Mr. Simeon Emokpaire, who also frowned at the resolution expressed that it will make admission process cumbersome.
He said the legislators should seek ways of widening access to tertiary institutions rather than extending JAMB validity.



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