BY CHIKA ABANOBI
ORDINARILY, there is no linguistic connection, whatsoever, between jibiti (the Yoruba word that loosely translates as fraudulence) and CBT (the abbreviation/acronym for the newly introduced Computer-Based Test by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for its Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination).
But thousands who felt short-changed by its human administrative snafu and technical/technological hitches, in this year’s exam, are ready to swear, with Sango or Amadioha, that there is little to choose between jibiti and CBT.
Out of the 1.85 million candidates who sat for the exam that started on February 27 and ends today, March 19, only few lucky ones, perhaps, have no sad story to tell. It was such that in one unconfirmed case, a candidate was said to have hanged himself, out of frustration, although there’s nothing to prove that JAMB’s human or technical errors were responsible for his decision to take his life, a decision which was said to have been prompted by his scoring of 159, which gave him no chances of admission into the university of his choice.
“I read it on line that a guy committed suicide because he scored 150 or something like that. I think that is very wrong. It is cowardice for you to commit suicide.” Mayaki Damilola said. “If there is life, there is hope. So, killing himself takes nothing away from the society.” Mayaki who sat for his own exam, on March 12, in one of the Lagos centres wants JAMB scrapped, for good, because, in his thinking, it has outlived its usefulness. “They keep diminishing candidates’ academic goals and, thereby, breeding criminals,” he lamented.
In Lagos, on Tuesday, March 15, other affected candidates who saw no wisdom in joining their departed colleague to the great beyond, in getting lost while searching for your lost item, as the Igbo would say, decided to take their own frustration to the Lagos State Governor’s Office and the State House of Assembly complex, located within a short distance to each other, at the Lagos State government secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja.
The protesters, which comprised the affected candidates, their parents and members of Association of Tutorial School Operators and operating under the aegis of Concerned Parents and Education Stakeholders, not only demanded for the cancellation of the exam but for the removal of the Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, over alleged manipulation and irregularities in this year’s exam. Others demanded for a rescheduling of the exam for affected candidates. A posting on JAMB website said that it has decided to award 40 marks to atone for the difficulties experienced by candidates during the exam.
Faulting the conduct of the exam, the protesters described it as a big sham never seen before in the history of public exams in Nigeria. A candidate, Maryam Animashaun, who sat for the exam at the College of Education, Oro, Kwara State, claimed to have got conflicting figures of alert on her scores.
“The first alert I received on the telephone from the board with regards to the examination showed that I scored 218,” she reported. “The second alert read 186, while the third one read 286. The surprising thing now is that I cannot print any of the results. On the website, the board claimed that I did not sit for the examination. Meanwhile, I sat for English, Government, Economics and Literature-in-English. I am confused. I do not know what to do now.”
“I am sure JAMB did not mark this year’s UTME,” another candidate, Kalasuwe Adeola, who claimed to have scored 220 in both this year and last year exams, insists. “If it did, why did they issue me the same result I obtained last year? In my printed result for this year, it was written 2015/2016 instead of 2016/2017. I sat for this year’s examination at the Bachel Model College, Lagos, on March 9. Unlike other candidates, I did not have any issue with my system during the examination.”
In another bizarre incident, one Olalekan Ajetumobi who sat for the exam at the same Bachel Model College, as did Adeola Kalasuwe, was marked absent by JAMB electronic system when he tried to check up his scores online, even though he got to his centre on time and fully participated in the exam.
“I applied to study Mechanical Engineering at University of Ilorin,” he told Saturday Sun. “I wrote the exam at a centre in Ipaja. At 6.30am, I was already at the exam centre. I logged into the system when the exam commenced but the system logged me out. I logged in again but it logged me out the second time. I complained to the JAMB official immediately but he asked me to wait for some minutes before logging in. I later logged in and completed my exam in Physics, Mathematics and English. I was doing Chemistry when the system logged me out. I logged in again but it logged me out with a response, “Exam FinJAMB official immediately but he ish”. I checked my result later and got another shocker, “Absent from exam.”
All these and more were what made the National President of Tutorial School Operators, Mr. Shodunke Oludotun, to accuse JAMB of arbitrarily awarding scores to candidates and issued a three-day ultimatum (which expired yesterday) to Prof. Ojerinde to give the candidates their real results or face the wrath of the affected candidates, their parents and the association.
“Many candidates were allocated between 40 and 60 additional marks,” Mr. Bunmi Elujula, one of the protesting parents said while urging the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, to do something urgently about the complaints of the candidates.
“What are the criteria for this arbitrariness? The strange thing is that JAMB started the CBT two years ago, why is this year’s exam a big flop? I have not seen candidates and parents complain this way about the exam in the past. I plead with the authorities to look into their grievances.”
Oludotun lamented the fate of over 10,000 candidates who he said missed the UTME owing to one problem or the other and others who had their marks deducted due to technical hitches from JAMB electronic unit.
“The protesters are the victims,” he said. “Their destinies are being finished by Dibu. Most of the protesters that had their exam in Delta State had the exam in a shrine. A lot of them got results before they sat for the exam. How will someone sit for Physics, Chemistry, Biology and the next thing he sees are Economics, Commerce and Government? We are appealing to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, to send signal to Abuja to stop the UTME.
If they don’t do that, we will go to Abuja.”
But in a statement issued by its Head of Public Relations, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, JAMB which accused some proprietors whose examination centres did not receive accreditation for the test, as being the brains behind the protest, advised aggrieved students to channel their grievances and complaints through its Public Complaints Unit.
Addressing the protesters, the Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Sanal Agunbiade, told them that they were in the right place to lodge their complaints and promised to take their case to the appropriate quarters.
For candidates outside Lagos who were not able to join their counterparts in the protest, the story remains, more or less, scary. The challenges ranged from lack of adequate materials or their late arrival, power failure and poor internet network and technically faulty computers.
Ronke Adeyemi who wrote the exam at Navy Secondary School, Adigbe, Abeokuta, Ogun State, complained of late starting and computer/Internet malfunctions. “After my exam slip was checked, I went to the biometric centre to confirm my identity,” she said. “Then I was directed to a hall inside the school to wait. We waited for more than one hour before we were called to enter according to our examination number. Then we were instructed on how to close the system and how to use the programmed calculator.
“Around 3:00pm, we started the examination. But about 20 minutes into it, none of us could open questions on pages 21 to 30 on the Use of English. So, we called the attention of the supervisors who told us to do the rest and come back to the questions later. After answering about 70 questions, my computer came back to JAMB homepage by itself. I was told to log in again. I did so and it continued from where I stopped. I tried questions 21 to 30 and this time, the pages opened. Nothing eventful happened until I got to the third subject which is Government and my computer started to log off again. I called the supervisor’s attention to this. He told me to wait till the computer boots again. When it did, he set it back to JAMB examination page and told me to log in again. Fortunately, I decided to check my results (English, Economics) and the last two questions I was about answering before the disruption. I clicked on them but I discovered the questions had changed. So, I did them again and continued to answer the remaining questions.”
Akele Joseph who wrote the exam at a centre in Iba Town, Lagos, Chisom Obiagwuna who did so on March 2 at Crawford University, Ibesa, Ogun State, and Charles Chukwebuka Njoku who sat for the exam at Awomama, Imo State, all report suffering the same frustrating experience with their computers as did Ronke.
Pius Agida Okoh who wrote the CBT at Nelkivedek Academy Keffi, Nasarawa State complained of rowdiness in the exam hall also due to frustrating computer systems and complaints from non computer literate candidates while Miss Queen Ochanya who had her exam at the same centre retems and complaints from non-ported failure of electricity power supply and the Internet system as their major problems. “Some of the questions did not come up talk less of answering them,” she said. “There was nothing we could do. We skipped them and it was recorded against us.”
So did Anna Musa Izung, Karshima Destiny (who sat for the exam at the State Library, Bauchi), Dickson Daniel Nwachukwu and Elisha Suzanna (at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University). Izung who wants to read Accountancy at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) had some problem bringing on the computer system assigned to her. “I clicked several times but couldn’t start initially until after about 30 minutes,” she recounted. “Another problem was that there was no room for corrections and cross checking.”
Emeka Okafor who had his at the Enugu campus of University of Nigeria, UNEC, had similar problem as Izung as it took him almost 30 minutes to get his system working. He to change computers for about five times until before he could start the exam
Karshima complained: “Many applicants were affected because they couldn’t finish as the time was too short,” he said. “I also know of candidates whose computer systems submitted their papers before they could finish.” Whereas Elisha sat for exam in four approved UTME subjects, she told Saturday Sun. “I didn’t see my English and Mathematics. They only sent Commerce and Economics. They sent me the results through text message and my scores for the two subjects released is 176 while the university’s cut-off point is 180. Up till now that I am speaking to you I am yet to see results of the two papers. I feel bad about the whole thing. A friend has been encouraging me not to worry that JAMB will soon release my Mathematics and English results. If I didn’t hear from them in two weeks time I will have to go to their office to sort it out.”
Paul Okwu, Gracious Abara, with their centre at Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education (Owerri) and Chidera Nwachukwu with hers at UNIK, a private computer and Internet centre at Owerri, respectively lamented of late starting of the exam, incessant power failure and faulty computer system. If you multiply the aforementioned problems and challenges, they are sure to hit thousands of candidates across Nigeria.
But it was not all knocks for JAMB. Candidates like Chife Simon Ezenuilo (Reg. No. 65928404BJ, with 207 as score and sat for the exam at UNZIK Digital library Awka, Uzor Marvelous Obinna (with Reg No 6659743AG, he sat for the CBT at the Ebonyi State University and scored 243), Ngozi Ekuma (with REG NO 9944510AD and who scored 233 in the exam), Mercy Alozie who hopes, with 200 score, to read Chemistry at Imo State University, Patrick Edwin Onah who wrote the exam at Digital bridge Institute, Jabi Abuja, and Helen Emayi who did at Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa State, had nothing but good words for JAMB.
“The CBT exercise was excellent and JAMB should move on with it,” Onah said. “At my own centre, it was done in batches and I was in the third batch. The experience was very okay. Everything was conducted very well, it’s just that the time given to us was not enough. As for me, I suggest that JAMB should continue with the computerized method of examination. What they need is to put more effort at improving the system.”
“From my own observation, the exam affected negatively mostly those who have no computer knowledge,” Emayi said. “But for those that already have some computer skills, it wasn’t a problem to them. I am only appealing to JAMB to reduce the price for their form. This will make it possible for those that are not financially capable to do their change of course and be able to even purchase the exam form.”
– With reports from Sam Otti, Jet Stanley Madu (Lagos), Peter Ogbonna Eze (Abuja), Paul Orude (Bauchi), Petrus Obi (Enugu) George Onyejiuwa, Owerri, Emmanuel Uzor (Abakaliki), Jeff Amechi Agbodo (Onitsha) and Segun Olatunji (Abeokuta).