IT is worrisome that the ongoing 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is recording hitches, despite the promise of a seamless exercise by the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede.
The UTME Computer-Based Test (CBT), which began at 642 centres nationwide on May 13, was reportedly marred by technical hitches at some centres. Reports from some centres indicate serious hitches, especially technical problems such as network failures, breakdown of servers and computer systems, and delays in starting the examination as scheduled. The examinations are scheduled to end on May 20.
More than 57,000 out of 1,736,531 candidates sat for the examination, in two sessions, on its first day. In some centres in Lagos and other parts of the country, the morning session that should have started at 7am was delayed till 11.30 am, almost five hours behind schedule.
Many candidates in Lagos were posted to centres in Ogun State to write the examination. The second day of the examination witnessed about 440,000 candidates participating. The examination at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, was disrupted by its students in protest against the closure of the school over a prolonged strike by its teachers. Following the disruption at LAUTECH, JAMB directed the affected candidates to take the examination on another date at the University of Ilorin.
We decry the incessant hitches in the conduct of the UTME in the country. Hopes that JAMB would have surmounted the challenges that marred the examination in past years were not fulfilled.
We call on JAMB to review the situation and come up with credible plans to improve on the administration of the examination. It is troubling that the CBT, which should have simplified and eased the conduct of the all-important tertiary institutions’ entrance examination, is still bedeviled by problems.
The pains the candidates are passing through to write the UTME could have been avoided, or mitigated, if the relevant JAMB officials had properly accredited the CBT centres. The posting of candidates from Lagos to Ijebu Ode in Ogun State to write the examination ought to have been avoided. No candidate, under normal circumstances, should be posted out of his/her state of residence for the examination, as such posting is destabilising, and places the candidate at a disadvantage.
To address this problem, JAMB and other stakeholders, such as the owners of the CBT centres used for the examination, must strive to get the technology right. The reports of malfunctioning servers, network failures, systems problems and starting of examinations hours behind schedule, must be done away with forthwith. The nation cannot continue to lament over network failures and server breakdowns at CBT centres, every year. Other countries conduct such entrance examinations without hitches. Nigeria should not be an exception.
We enjoin JAMB to learn the necessary lessons from the shortcomings of the 2017 UTME. The examination body should ensure the capability of the CBT centres to offer the needed service. Posting of candidates outside the states they reside should be avoided. If conducting the examination in one week as we have it this year is not enough, JAMB can spread it over one month and make use of the best CBT centres available. Those from which it had reports of malfunctioning systems should be avoided.
Already, the hiccups attending the 2017 UTME are resuscitating calls for a return to the old days when each university conducted its own entrance examination, without a central entrance examination for all admission seekers in the country. Let JAMB perfect the conduct of the UTME.
We want a situation in which candidates can walk into the CBT centres and take their examinations as scheduled without any hitches. That is what JAMB should aim at.
The challenge before Prof. Ishaq Oloyede and his team is to correct the mistakes of this year’s UTME before the next admission season.