The 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) was written amidst the Coronavirus scare. CHIKA MEFOR- NWACHUKWU writes on the intrigues surrounding the exam.
The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) organised by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has come and gone, but the lessons it came with have come to stay.
The examination which came when the world was battling the COVID- 19 pandemic, went smoothly with little hitches. Amidst various closure of government offices and shift of events, many had thought that the examination will be shifted but the management of the Board had said no to the suggestion as it has put in place various measures to keep the candidates taking the examination safe.
It had revealed that hand sanitisers would be provided at Computer-Based Test(CBT) centres across the country for candidates and its workers taking part in its exam.
Speaking about the examination amidst the coronavirus scare, the Registrar of JAMB, Prof Ish-aq Oloyede stated that apart from what JAMB had put in place, CBT centres operators across the country have been very helpful to put some measures in place.
“I went to a CBT centre on Wednesday and I could see that even as good as our own precautionary measures were, the school proprietress provided better facilities in terms of screening and the layout was very impressive.
“I understand that many of the CBT centres made separate provisions against the coronavirus. You can trust Nigerians that when it comes to protecting our lives, we don’t joke with that,” he said.
However, the examination which started on March 14 2020 and ended on March 22, came with many challenges. While JAMB had announced that examination malpractices recorded this year were minimal to that of other years, the Board revealed that new dimensions of malpractices whereby people boldly impersonate others were discovered.
It disclosed that 149 candidates out of the 1,945,983 candidates who sat for the examination were caught for different examination infractions.
The infractions according to the Board include double registration, smuggled electronic device or mobile phone into examination hall, examination by proxy, faking vital information, attempt to cheat and unruly behaviour.
Others include forceful entrance, connivance to cheat, tampering with examination documents and double registration.
JAMB had revealed that as its tradition, it will not hesitate to withdraw the results of any candidates found to have perpetrated any form of examination malpractices.
One exciting thing about this year’s examination was the prompt release of results. Candidates were able to ascertain how they had fared in the exam a day after the examination.
JAMB had revealed that 99 per cent of the result of the candidates who took the examinations have been released, urging candidates to check their results by sending ‘RESULT’ to 55019.
Speaking on the release of the results, Oloyede stated that the Board has learnt from past mistakes and had put things in place to ensure that results are released within 24 hours.
“We have released results immediately because we have done certain things which mean that we are able to view the CBT centres in real time. Rather than going back to spend the number of hours used in writing the examination to check the centres, we have upgraded.
As the examination is going on, we have now assigned some important Nigerians across the country to sit down somewhere in different places and watch each of the CBT centres.
“So, it is not about going back later to cross-check, but in real time, we are now watching what is going on. If you go to our Information Technology System, you will see that we now have a monitor for examination malpractices. As the examination malpractices are occurring, we are seeing them from the headquarters and it is being uploaded.
“We have learnt from our experience last year. The majority of the malpractices that are supposed to be detected are being detected. So, if we need to cancel some results, we will then do so. This is because the anxiety of people waiting for long has now been removed,” he said.
While many will rate the conduct of the examination as good, some others have expressed displeasure over the conduct. Many of the candidates who had come late for the examination were shut out of the examination hall.
While coming late is a big issue for a candidate, those candidates had however heaped the blame of their lateness on the Board. Some candidates have alleged that the Board had posted them to examination centres and towns far away from their homes while some had complained of misinformation of address of examination centers.
For example, some candidates who were supposed to write their examination at the Global Distance Learning Programme Institute, Central Business District, Abuja and had arrived late for it had said that the Board had given them multiple examination towns which confused them, making it difficult for them to locate the venue of the examination.
They added that they had gone to Suleja and Mandala in Niger State to locate the venue of the examination which was written, Global Distance Learning Institute in their printed slip, only to be told that the center was in Abuja.
“It is the fault of JAMB and not candidates. JAMB provided multiple examination towns. This action confused these candidates because there was no clear- cut examination centre,” a parent of one of the candidates said.
Another candidate in Ogun State, stated that there was a wrong address on the slip he printed from the JAMB portal.
“My CBT centre was at Sango Ota but a wrong address was written on the slip I printed. Sagamu Town was written on the slip and when I traced the address to Sagamu, I later realised that the address was in Ijoko, Sango Ota.
“Immediately, I rushed to Sango to search for the centre and when I found it, it was late. I arrived at the centre at 9.42am. The address written on the slip was Ijoko, Agbado, Sagamu Town,” he said.
Responding to the issue, JAMB’s Spokesperson, Dr Fabian Benjamin, said that the Board has committed no error as the mistake was from the candidates.
He explained that the candidates have mistook examination centres for examination towns adding that the candidates who missed their scheduled examination cannot be rescheduled as their questions which were individually programmed had returned to the source.
Also speaking on the issue, JAMB registrar stated that many of the candidates had misinterpreted what examination towns meant.
In the past, Lagos Island, Lekki, Ikoyi used to be separate examination towns. But we discovered that some CBT centres connived with some candidates or their parents, largely their parents to engage in malpractice. They would plan ahead with those centres to engage in exam malpractice because they were sure their candidates were going to take their exam in those places.
“So, what we have now done is to widen the examination town in such a way that in Lagos, for example, you can’t see Yaba, Lekki or Ikoyi standing alone. You will rather have Lagos Mainland as an examination town. Candidates can then be posted to any of the centres on the Lagos Mainland,” he explained.
He challenged parents who have grievances with the Board on the issue to print out the registration slip of their child and see where they were posted to, adding that no candidate was posted outside the place that he or she had chosen.
He added that surprisingly this year, the Board had recorded many cases of lateness adding that it had no apologies for these candidates who were denied entry into the examination halls. The Registrar urged such candidates to wait until 2021 to take the examination again.
“The cases we have had this year surprisingly are candidates who came late to examination venues. If we say your examination starts by 7am, you are expected to be there before 7am. If we say the second session starts 9am, you are supposed to be there before 9am.
So, but we know that we do not start by 7am, we start screening and by 8am, we start the examination. So also screening starts by 9am for the second session and the exam starts by 10am. But we reserve the right to deny you entry into the examination hall once you come 15 minutes after 7am or 15 minutes after 9am. But we still tolerate. But once we have finished clearing candidates, we will go and push the examination. But we cannot because of someone coming late go and re-push.
“Your coming late to examination; you created it and we have no apology for it. You have been asked to arrive by 7am. I understand some parents were complaining. You were told that your exam starts by 7am and you came late and they said you cannot come in and that became an issue. They now said they came late because they could not locate the place on time,” he said.
He added that the right thing to do when someone is preparing for examination is to check for the center days before the examination adding that the Board will not tolerate lawlessness in its exam hall.
“In our days, the previous days, you would have gone there to see where you were going to take the examination. It is lawlessness or carelessness that is taking place. So, no apology. If you were to catch a flight and you came late to the airport, will you say the plane should wait for you or turn back for you? No, you wait for the next session. And for us, our next session is next year. So, we don’t tolerate such lawlessness,” he said.
Whatever the issues that might have arose in the 2020 UTME, many stakeholders in the sector have commended the great improvement in the integrity of the examinations under the leadership of Oloyede.
Speaking while monitoring the conduct of the examination, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Sony Echono revealed that he was satisfied with the general conduct of the examination.
“This year, we had some innovations; even at the point to take your exams, we take your biometrics and it is the only basis with which even your questions can be activated on our computer. Everything is moving smoothly, candidates are also adjusting to the CBT system, we are proud to have professor Oloyede who with his integrity and commitment has given this to us.
The added advantage of this is that we are transforming our education sector, digitizing our educational curriculum and that is what we want to show Nigerians. We had minimal hitches nationwide and we programmed it in such a manner that the students are able to access this examination.
“This is an effective mode and our universities are beginning to participate in the process because we all are seeing what is done and gradually, we will do away with some of the other supplementary procedures that they do,” he said.
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