By Ayodeji Ajayi
ThiS is certainly not the best of times for the Professor Dibu Ojerinde-led Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Recently, the national examination body which is solely responsible for the conduct of examinations for admission into universities and other tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria went through some form of “trials and tribulations” orchestrated by some misguided candidates and their parents. There is no doubt that the agonizing experience JAMB was subjected to especially in the hands of the candidates, their parents , as well as some unscrupulous stakeholders with selfish interests, has further confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that Nigeria is a country where anything unusual can happen.
Although protests, especially peaceful protests, all over the world, are veritable avenues groups of individuals effectively use to bring their grievances to the attention of lawful bodies for necessary action, the recent avoidable ill-conceived protests by some candidates that sat for the on-going Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) against what they reportedly described as “shoddy conduct” of the examination by JAMB was a way of calling the examination body a bad name in order to hang it.
The candidates, under the umbrella of Alimosho Youth Development Association (AYDA), reportedly complained that “JAMB subjected them to a computer-based examination despite inadequate number of computers, lack of power supply, difficulty in accessing examination centres and inadequate provision of security for candidates”.
If it is true that the number of computers was inadequate, was this not why JAMB, from the onset, planned that the computer-based test (CBT) would be conducted in batches at different designated computer centres and on different dates so as to eliminate any untoward development?
However, it is noteworthy that the Executive Secretary of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde has assured that his organization would attend urgently to candidates with genuine complaints. In this regard, he promised that JAMB would re-locate candidates who really experienced system failures at their examination centres to enable them re-take the computer-based examination. This is a clear indication that JAMB, unlike some government agencies whose functions are also critical to the educational development of Nigerian youths, is a listening partner-in-progress. It is not many right-thinking Nigerians with discerning minds that would readily agree with the aggrieved candidates that JAMB has “failed woefully” in its on-going efforts to implement the computer-based examination for admission into tertiary educational institutions. The protesting candidates’ call for cancellation of the on-going 2016 UTME since according to them, “it had failed in terms of evaluating the ability and capability of the candidates”, is ridiculous and laughable. If after JAMB has agreed to immediately address their genuine complaints the candidates still insist the entire examination should be cancelled, it means they are being unreasonable. Which other examination system in this age of information technology worldwide would be better than the Computer-Based Test (CBT) when it comes to accurately evaluating abilities and capabilities of candidates?
Those individuals and bodies urging JAMB to suspend the computer-based examination and revert to the former archaic and retrogressive pencil and paper procedure that encouraged myriad of crimes associated with examination malpractices, are enemies of progress. It is unfortunate and worrisome that while countries in civilized climes are using information technology to develop their various sectors, including the education sector, information technology is yet to be accorded the much needed attention in Nigeria.
By reverting to pencil and paper examination system, JAMB will again witness an era of large-scale examination malpractices across the country. This is what the advocates of return to pencil and paper system are promoting. Many of the candidates calling for cancellation of the 2016 UTME are those that cannot use computers. From all indications, such candidates must have performed woefully in the examination. As usual, with the support of their parents, they had embarked on protests using untenable reasons to advance their unpopular sentiments, selfish objectives and hidden agenda. If the examination is cancelled to satisfy the yearnings of the protesters and their parents, what will be the fate of candidates that have performed brilliantly in the examination and are anxiously looking forward to getting admission into universities of their choice?
If the examination is cancelled, there is no way such successful candidates can be adequately compensated for their concerted efforts, as well as the huge expenses incurred by their parents while preparing them for the examination. Cancellation of the examination should be rejected by JAMB which should ignore those calling for reverting to pencil and paper procedure. In this age of advanced information technology, reverting to pencil and paper system is like progressing forward by five steps and retrogressing backward by 10 steps.
It will be unfair for anybody to do anything that could injure the interests of candidates that have already passed the examination. While JAMB is making arrangement for aggrieved candidates with genuine reasons to re-take the examination, unsuccessful candidates should do the needful to succeed in computer-based examination. JAMB should be given free hand to operate without fear or favour.
Nobody or authority no matter how highly placed, should intimidate or stampede JAMB into taking decisions that could be detrimental to the interests of successful candidates.
•Ajayi writes from Lagos.