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Concentrate On Seamless Examination Not Revenue Generation, Stakeholders Tell JAMB

Concentrate On Seamless Examination Not Revenue Generation, Stakeholders Tell JAMB

Over the past 45 years, the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been solely responsible for conducting tests and admissions for candidates seeking entry into universities. While the board has made efforts to overcome challenges and introduce innovative measures, it has faced criticism for prioritizing revenue generation over ensuring a smooth examination and admission process. OYENIRAN APATA reports.

The lack of coordination and disorderliness in the university admissions system predates the establishment of the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) through a legal instrument. The consensus among stakeholders is that the legal instrument, enacted as the Federal Military Government Act (no. 2 of 1978) on February 13, 1978, has failed to effectively address the challenges that led to its creation.

Under the current leadership of the Chief Executive Officer/Registrar, Ishaq Oloyede, a professor of Islamic Studies and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, JAMB has transitioned from paper-based examinations to computer-based tests. However, the effectiveness of this transition remains questionable.

After 45 years since its establishment, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, the Head of Public Affairs and Protocol at JAMB, shocked Nigerians by announcing that approximately 80,000 candidates were unable to take the 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) at their scheduled time due to circumstances beyond their control. These candidates had to sit for the rescheduled UTME across the country.

Stakeholders who initially commended Oloyede’s initiative to fully migrate to 100 percent Computer Based Test (CBT) expressed their concerns about the Board’s ongoing struggle with biometric verification failures during exams, causing frustration and inconvenience for candidates. The inconsistent biometric verification process has resulted in many deserving candidates missing out on admission opportunities. Biometric verification is a crucial step in the JAMB examination process, designed to prevent impersonation and ensure that only registered candidates sit for the UTME. The system relies on fingerprints to identify candidates, aiming to enhance the integrity of the exams and ensure that only legitimate candidates participate.

Discussing the conduct of the 2023 examination, Benjamin further explained that the affected candidates fell into several categories, including those who were verified at their centers but could not sit for the exam, those who could not be biometrically verified, and those with data inconsistencies, among others.

JAMB Struggles with Biometric Verification Despite Challenges

Despite the introduction of biometric verification in JAMB exams, issues related to impersonation and exam misconduct continue to persist, raising doubts about the effectiveness of biometric verification as a means of verifying candidates’ identities. The board identifies several challenges faced by candidates during the test. These include candidates who were registered for the 2023 UTME without experiencing any biometric difficulties but could not be verified on the day of the examination.

Another category comprises candidates who missed the examination due to an error in the address of the examination center. They were mistakenly directed to take the exam at a CBT center in Apo instead of Gwagwalada, as stated in their letters, resulting in their absence from the test.

Additionally, candidates were unable to receive examination notifications because their schools held onto their means of communication, such as their SIM cards, email addresses, and profile codes. Among the candidates who have not taken their examination are those whose centers could not accommodate the full capacity of 250 candidates per session, leading to batched sessions with some centers hosting only 150 candidates. Furthermore, some candidates’ data does not match with their assigned CBT centers.

Officials, CBT Centre Collaboration

In addition to technical issues, collusion among JAMB officials, CBT center operators, and candidates has contributed to examination fraud, further exacerbating the challenges. When planned infractions fail to yield the desired results, the culprits create disturbances. Reports suggest instances of complicity and fraud involving exam officials who register unqualified candidates, allowing them to use counterfeit biometric information during the exams.

According to a newspaper report, there have also been cases of candidates intentionally altering their fingerprints to evade biometric verification. These candidates engage in amputation or wear artificial fingerprints to avoid detection by the system. This raises concerns about the ability of biometric verification to detect and prevent exam malpractices, particularly given the sophistication of technology employed by fraudulent individuals.

Candidates in some centers also face challenges when the alternative power source fails, leading to a loss of exam time and the misplacement of candidates’ belongings.

Deploy Foolproof Software or Revisit Paper Option – Ambassador Oyewole

In addition to the aforementioned challenges, some stakeholders are calling for stringent monitoring and enforcement of biometric verification processes to uphold the integrity of the exams. Ambassador Oyedokun Oyewole, President/Chairman-Executive Council at the Institute of Information Management (IIM) Africa and founder of the International University of Information Management (IUIM) in Denver, Colorado, USA, has appealed to Prof. Oloyede-led JAMB to reconsider the option of paper-based tests. This would cater to the approximately two million candidates seeking admission to universities, polytechnics, specialized institutes, and colleges of education in the country.

Ambassador Oyewole, the IIM Country Chief Data Officer Ambassador for Nigeria, commends JAMB’s deployment of technology for conducting the examinations nationwide. However, he acknowledges significant challenges encountered during the exams. He suggests that these challenges could be mitigated by conducting proper testing of the new software/technology introduced by JAMB in various centers to ensure compatibility with computer systems. He emphasizes the need to screen all accredited centers across the country to ensure their readiness and capability to conduct the exams. Additionally, he proposes revisiting the modus operandi of JAMB and considering other options like paper-based tests alongside the current CBT method.

Dr. Oyewole urges JAMB to subject its ICT-enhanced system to constant review until it is fully fortified, sparing candidates, parents, and guardians from physical, emotional, and financial stress experienced year after year. While acknowledging JAMB’s efforts to sanitize the system by delisting centers involved in infractions and extortion of candidates, he recommends periodic reaccreditation of examination centers as part of examination preparations.

Furthermore, he encourages JAMB to prioritize the conduct of seamless and stress-free examinations rather than focusing primarily on revenue generation for the federal government.

“The examination body should reaccredit all examination centers, eliminating those that are technically deficient, to ensure smooth and trouble-free examinations. JAMB should prioritize the conduct of credible, seamless, and stress-free examinations over remitting funds to the federal government,” he concludes.

Revenue Target Has Deviated JAMB’s Focus

In response to the distressing ordeal faced by candidates during the national examination for admission into tertiary institutions, Comrade Adaramoye Michael, Acting National Mobilization Officer of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), expressed lamentation over JAMB’s association with pain, which has become a national embarrassment and a source of terror for candidates and parents.

“It is disheartening that JAMB has become synonymous with avoidable and, in many cases, absurd challenges. It has turned into a sort of yearly ritual where some innocent students must suffer due to the inefficiency of the board.

“What makes it even more ridiculous is the fact that the board had an entire year to plan for the exam. Moreover, it has been nine years since computer-based examinations were introduced, so the board is not new to conducting such exams.

“From our perspective at the ERC, the challenges witnessed during this year’s UTME indicate a fundamental problem at the core of JAMB’s administration.

“For instance, there are numerous requirements that must be fulfilled before a center is approved. The major ones include having a minimum of 250 desktops or laptops and 25 backup desktops or laptops with a minimum of 2GB RAM and Windows 7, as well as the availability of backup power supply and strong network coverage, among others.

“Regrettably, despite setting these requirements for centers, JAMB has been lenient with enforcement, and many centers still fall short, putting candidates at risk. Centers should provide security for candidates and their belongings, but candidates often lose their properties, especially electronic devices, during the exam. These are consequences of laxity and inefficiency on the part of the examination board.

“In our view, many of the challenges faced during the exam are avoidable and can be resolved through proper planning and funding.”

However, the ERC lamented that the government has not shown sufficient commitment but instead displayed a dangerous disregard for public education, and unfortunately, JAMB suffers from the same ailment.

“Unfortunately, over the years, the government has not demonstrated serious regard for public education, and JAMB is not exempt from this neglect. By now, we should have an ample number of well-equipped public schools where the seamless conduct of CBT exams can be ensured. This would also mean that UTME candidates would not be charged exorbitant fees for the exams.

“Therefore, the challenge with JAMB is a direct consequence of the challenges within the education sector, including inadequate funding and mismanagement.”

Expressing discomfort with JAMB’s sudden focus on revenue generation at the expense of a globally acceptable examination, the ERC urged JAMB to reconsider the extortion of students and parents through exorbitant examination costs.

“Moving forward, we believe the exorbitant registration fees must be addressed. In fact, there is no justification for subjecting students to payment when the exam could be made free and accessible to all. JAMB should be funded by the government through the Ministry of Education, but the reality is that JAMB has been used over the years as a means of generating funds for the government.

“According to a 2018 report, JAMB generated N46 billion in six years, not only from registration fees but also from other extortionate charges for result checking and profile code generation.”

The ERC described JAMB’s revenue-driven endeavors as pure commercialization of education at its worst, asserting that the commitment to meeting revenue targets has led the Board astray.

“This is partly why the UTME has been poorly managed in recent years, as JAMB’s focus has shifted away from maintaining the quality of the examination to meeting revenue targets,” added the ERC.

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