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Editorial

JAMB Must Do Better With 2023 UTME

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Disillusioned adult citizens may have come to terms with the ineptitude and inefficiency of Nigeria’s officialdom, but it becomes a source of worry when teenage citizens are forced to have a taste of it. What becomes of nationalism or patriotism when the next generation understands that their country is a failure or that its salvation is long in coming? The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) may have planted this seed of hopelessness with the shoddy conduct of this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Board (UTME).

The UTME started on Tuesday and will run until May 3, 2023, in 708 Computer Based Test (CBT) centers across the country. No fewer than 1.5 million candidates are registered to take part in the exercise, which has widely been marred by system failure and technical glitches. Imagine a situation where a malfunctioning computer abruptly logged out a candidate who was already undertaking the test. After waiting unsuccessfully for the system to be turned back on, JAMB officials told her to return home and await a text message directing her to a new center where she would conclude her UTME. Three days later, the candidate is yet to hear from JAMB. According to the mother, she’s now so traumatized to even prepare for her WAEC and NECO examinations.

This is a slice of the plight of most candidates who were hoping for a hitch-free UTME. Is the country not inadvertently encouraging the growth of an already embarrassing number of out-of-school children? Smooth conduct of CBT tests should ordinarily not be too much to expect from an organization that had conducted a mock examination to plug loopholes in its operations and firm up preparations for the actual exam. The successful entrance examination for students aspiring to further their education should equally not be too much to expect from JAMB ten years after introducing the CBT model. Although the computer-based test was introduced in 2013, it wasn’t made compulsory until 2015. As such, what amounted to teething problems at the time shouldn’t still be recurring at this time.

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When the staggering resources at its disposal are thrown into the mix, it’s unjustifiable for the Board to be grappling with the sort of glitches and malfunctions that are already plaguing the 2023 exercise. Introducing ICT tools should ordinarily make life easier, not complicate matters for hapless students. From highbrow areas like Maitama, Ikeja, Lekki, and Asokoro to remote parts of the country, the story is the same as candidates had to endure harrowing experiences at the various CBT centers, all in the name of sitting for the unified tertiary matriculation examination. Yet, this is an exercise for which the Board has an entire year to plan and execute. How is it that after all these years, only 708 CBT centers are available to cater to 1.5 million candidates? This disparity led to the situation where candidates are posted arbitrarily to centers far away from their areas of residence.

Yet, the exams were scheduled to start as early as 6:30 am, with candidates expected to be at their centers way ahead of time for biometric verification. Those who come an hour late are even told to wait until next year when the exams will hold. However, it wasn’t as if the assessment body was raring to go. NAN reported a parent named Jumoke Ajayi as saying in Ibadan that “the systems were not working, the first batch that went in for the examination at 6.30 a.m were unable to access the examination as most of them went home crying and wailing.” Another parent, whose name was given as Ladipo, disclosed that 80 percent of the candidates scheduled for the early morning session were unable to write the examination.

JAMB even acknowledged in a statement by its Head of Public Affairs and Protocol, Fabian Benjamin, that “about 100 centers out of the 708 centers participating in the 2023 UTME exercise across the country experienced technical challenges that prevented their allotted candidates from successfully taking their examination.’’ Although it assured that candidates who were affected by these technical issues could print new examination notifications the next day to know their new scheduled sessions, many of the affected candidates are still in limbo. Such wait for redeployment and sundry challenges can be so debilitating that even if eventually sorted out, the performance of the pupils in the assessment test will be greatly affected.

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Nigerian pupils deserve better, and JAMB, which does not assess the candidates for free, must justify the fee charged for the UTME forms. Since the UTME continues until May 3, Naija News demands that the Board uses the remaining days of the examination to redeem itself and deliver on its pledge that no candidate would be denied the right to take examinations. As they do this, let the candidates be assigned to centers in their areas of residence so that they wouldn’t have to travel long distances to sit for the tests. This is to make up for the inconvenience, and disappointments suffered for no fault of theirs.

This newspaper is, however, mindful that it is not all tales of woes as the examinations went smoothly in some other areas. These successes are highly commendable, and we call on JAMB to leverage and export them to challenging centers. These perennial problems of power failure, internet downtime, computer breakdown, and the like must not be allowed to continue dogging the UTME. The Board must stop patronizing privately-run CBT centers where these glitches happen. The sufferings faced by UTME candidates make the case for the examinations to be decentralized.

We believe the regimented command and control structure in the tertiary education admission system has run its course. It’s time for individual universities, polytechnics, mono-technics, and colleges of education to conduct their own matriculation examination. This is more so as the candidates still get to sit for post-UTME tests even after all their troubles with JAMB. The most disconcerting aspect is that the assessment board’s failures and inefficiencies can cost candidates one full year of their lives as the all-important exams are only taken once a year. The onus is, therefore, on the assessment board to put its house in order, prove its relevance or else give way so that respective institutions of higher learning can fully take charge of admitting their students in line with global best practices.

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