For an examination written just once in a year, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) ought to do more to address the anomalies registered during the course of the 2015 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

The examination was migrated to the online platform completely this year. Unlike last year, when candidates had two other options – the Paper and Pencil Test (PPT), and the Dual-Based Test (DBT), this year, only the Computer-Based Test (CBT) mode was available.

When the JAMB Registrar, Prof ‘Dibu Ojerinde announced in November 2012 that the country would migrate to the CBT platform by 2015, few thought it possible. The CBT mode was first used for the UTME in 2013. Then, just a few thousands, who were compelled by the ‘unavailability’ of PPT centres, registered for the examination. Last year, a larger number had to register for the CBT and DBT because the numbers of PPT centres were drastically reduced.

Ahead of this year’s examination, which is a landmark year given that the examining body plans to bid farewell to PPT forever, JAMB assured Nigerians that the 400 centres it had accredited for the CBT mode had all it takes to deliver the examinations hitch free. It even de-accredited cyber cafes from registering candidates for the examination. The CBT centres took care of the registration. To be accredited, they had to provide up to 150 computers, alternative power supply, security, thumbprint scanners, and internet access, among others. Alas, when the examination started last Monday, the rate of system failure showed that JAMB’s accreditation process must have been faulty.

In many centres, the computers suddenly went off; and when they came on minutes later, the candidates were told they had submitted when in reality they had not finished. Another scenario was for the computers to come back on and the candidates found that their time had been running all the time it took for the technicians to figure out what was wrong.

Another problem was with the three-sessions-per-day schedule that JAMB prepared to complete the examination for over one million candidates in 10 days. It was a very unfriendly schedule. When I learn that the first session was for 6am, I thought that was not just possible – that the time was rather for arrival so the examination could start by 8am. However, JAMB actually expected the examinations to take place by that time. It did not work. For many centres, the examination was delayed for up to four hours. This was sad because after candidates must have made so much sacrifice to get to the centre so early, their effort was not rewarded but punished with a long wait.

What of the problem of computer illiteracy? This is the ICT age, we know, but what percentage of our populace is ICT-literate? In the cities, computer literacy is not such an issue. Young people have access to the internet because cyber cafes dot the metropolis and browsing time is quite affordable. There are also more opportunities for ICT training in the urban centres than in the hinterlands where funding, power, and facilities are almost non-existent, or where they are, moribund. Investigations by our correspondents revealed that many candidates from the north were greatly disadvantaged because of the CBT. Though simple to use, their lack of exposure to ICT posed a challenge for them. It must have been quite intimidating for candidates to use the computer for the first time to write a major examination.

Frankly, JAMB should have waited a few more years to go fully online. Like one parent noted, it is not just about releasing results early but also ensuring that the candidates had the opportunity to write the examination to the best of their ability in a conducive environment so they can perform well. Indeed, what is the point releasing results in two hours and the performance is unimpressive?

JAMB has to do something about all the complaints that have been recorded nationwide, which are not the fault of the candidates. One year is a very long time to wait to write another UTME. These candidates deserve greater respect than they got. They are not just a statistic; they are humans – with dreams and hopes. Those candidates who were forced to stop the examination before time, or write under duress after waiting for days, or not write at all because of distance and the like deserve a second chance.

Sadly, JAMB’s record of responding to complaints is not too good. The examining body exists to make the conduct of the UTME flawless. The welfare and concerns of each of the over one million candidates should matter to the authorities. I implore JAMB to act fast and act right!

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