Why subject combinations become muddled up in UTME
What can be done to stop the yearly occurrence
Looking back at the hurdles in JAMB exam
By Chika Abanobi
Hillary Ashikodi, 16, and one of the candidates in this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) had chosen to read Law or Mass Communication (his second choice) at the University of Lagos.
And to that end, he registered for four UTME subjects that would help him achieve that dream: Use of English, Literature, Government and Christian Religious Knowledge. But on the day of the exam, Ashikodi who came with his mother, and armed with exam printout was shocked to see entered against his name strange UTME subjects he never registered for nor thought about.
In place of the four subjects he entered for, he was given Use of English, Government, Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) and Christian Religious Knowledge. Ashikodi who is not a Muslim nor for whom IRK is one of the required UTME subjects needed to read Law or Mass Communication, was so confused that he did not know what to do.
At the end, he decided to tick in answers he had no idea of what they mean, not to talk about whether they were correct or wrong, just to make sure the time allocated to it was utilized. There was no time to waste or wait, he was advised. Complaint could come later.
Complaint and investigation
Truly, complaint did come later at JKK House, the CBT centre at Ilupeju, where Ashikodi had sat for his exam, and at the time when Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, the Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and some of his officers that include Dr. Fabian Benjamin, the Public Relations Officer (PRO), were visiting to assess situation of things.
In the course of his informal interaction with journalists, Oloyede got to know about the case of Ashikodi and his mum who were somewhere downstairs lamenting their fate and asked to see them. Earlier, he had argued that most of the mistakes people complain about such as this issue of mixing up or muddling up subjects, as was the case with Ashikodi, are none of JAMB making as it is always a case of ‘garbage in, garbage out,’ an argument that the newsmen present took with a pinch of salt.
But he was to prove them wrong when his oral investigation revealed that the candidate who registered with one Ajibola Institute located on Oki Lane, Mende, Maryland, Lagos, allegedly with N8, 500 although an official of the institute claimed that the management collected only N700 per candidate as processing fee, had no exam slip but only JAMB subjects printout. The boy later claimed to have been registered in group.
So, how and why do such mix-up occur? Ashikodi himself threw some light on the matter when he said they were registered as a group. Prof. Oloyede argues that when such is the case, UTME subjects are bound to be muddled up especially if the staff doing the registration are half-baked.
“Sometimes they muddle up the subjects deliberately in a bid to extort more money from the candidates,” he said. “They do so under the guise of helping them to sort out the matter together with their syndicate.”
Many hitches of an exam
Apart from the muddling up of subject combinations, this year’s exam which is said to have been sat for by more than 1.7 million candidates witnessed many hitches including poor internet service at most of the CBT centres leading to some delay or disruption, obsolete or malfunctioning computer systems, poor power supply leading to computer shutdowns, inability of the biometrics capturing system to identify or authenticate candidates fingerprints, etc.
But during the interaction with journalists, Oloyede blamed most of the woes faced by the candidates on owners/operators of the CBT centres who he said had promised JAMB a hitch-free exam but ended up disappointing the body abysmally.
Expressing his disappointment with their performance, he promised a review of the number in next year exam while pleading for a massive erecting of CBT centres by the government, as soon as possible, that will be well-equipped to take care of many of the problems.
“I have gone round some of these centres. There will surely be a review,” he assured. “In Lagos, for instance, we had 65 private-owned CBT centres used for the exam. But I am not sure up to 30 of them will remain in partnership with us after this year.”
Oloyede who was visibly unhappy with their performance which he said fell below expectation leading to many sufferings for the candidates blamed them not only for poor technical services but also for exploitation of the candidates by overcharging them on registration, officially pegged at N5, 500.
“I am aware of centres where candidates paid up to N15, 000 before they could be registered. It is even the only seemly sympathetic ones among them that are charging N8, 500.”
He is not happy with the stress they put the candidates through after collecting so much from them. But he put part of the blame on the candidates themselves and their parents who chose to patronize some of the centres he said are ill-equipped to handle JAMB registration.
“I cannot help you if you cannot help yourself,” Oloyede told Ashikodi’s mum when she pleaded for his help in sorting out the matter and suggested having her son re-sit the exam over the subject combinations muddle up.
A candidate explains why it happens and how to solve the problem
But Olayode Favour Oluwatobi, one of the candidates who sat for the exam in one of the 65 CBT centres that Oloyede made mention of, and who emerged one of the best candidates with a total score of 287, despite the hiccups (see box story), said that the frustration that candidates faced during the registration may have something to do with JAMB’s inability to satsfy candidates’ expectations.
“I spent over one week trying to register for JAMB,” he said. “I went there on a Monday but the second week of registration was when I paid for the form and everything. I registered the following week on Tuesday. Within those days I kept going there. We were put under the sun. The centre was very far from my home. I almost fell sick because of the stress. Because of the stress, students try to find other ways of going about it.
“The major problem was the server. It was always going down. And, whenever the server goes down like that, you will wait for hours before it could come up. No progress, no registration. Everything was just stagnant. Candidates were made to stay, sit or stand under the sun. Registration was N6, 200. N5, 500 was for the form while the remaining N700 was for registration. For those who allegedly paid N8, 500 or N15, 000, the charge was not normal.”
Nor have the complaints stopped coming with the end of this year’s exam. “Some students complain that the marking was not fair,” Olayode said. “Some complain that some of their answers were correct but they marked them wrong. I also faced similar problem. I expected more marks than I got but for reasons unknown to me, I was given less than I deserved. I think there seems to be some problem with the marking guide fed into the marking machine to work with. A friend of mine who was so sure of getting a higher mark in mathematics, ended up scoring 65. I know him very well. He knows mathematics more than I do but it is a bit surprising that I scored more than he did.”
But these hitches notwithstanding, he is all for CBT rather than Paper and Pencil Text (PPT). He thinks it is far better. “CBT is much better than PPT,” he said. “Before you submit, if you made any mistake you can always go back and correct your mistake. But once you’ve submitted, it’s gone and you cannot retrieve it. It is the same like submitting your paper in any exam.”