With all the time and resources at the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s [JAMB] disposal to conduct hitch-free annual examinations for entry into Nigerian tertiary institutions, the recently concluded 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) was marred with logistic and technical hitches. The challenges encountered in 2019 UTME included late start of the Computer-Based Test [CBT] occasioned by inadequate number of computer machines, constant tripping off of the systems, and the very slow speed of biometric verification of candidates.
At many CBT centres, the examination started an hour or more behind schedule. At the Federal University Dutse, the examination that was scheduled to start at 1:30pm could not commence until 3pm. At the Mechanic Village CBT centre in Dutse, Jigawa State, the exercise experienced persistent tripping off of systems. Computers usually went blank each time there was a trip off of power supply.
Moses Okokon, a candidate at the Flourish Computer Centre, Uyo, complained that his computer alongside those of other candidates stopped working after answering about 20 questions. A candidate said, “At 1.30pm, they scanned our thumb prints and we waited outside till 7pm and nothing happened… When we started at 8.30pm, my computer did not even open at all but those who sat near me logged into the computer but monitors were blank.”
A parent told reporters in Bauchi that when his son went to his examination center on Saturday, he was told that the exam had been re-scheduled to hold on Monday and that his son would receive an SMS. He never did, so he went back to the examination venue on Monday and was told that the examination had taken place. Another parent in Bauchi said his son could not write the UTME at Oxford Science Academy on Gombe Road because when the examination hall was full to capacity, the remaining candidates including his son were told to await further directives through SMS, which never came. The hall had only 200 computers.
At the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic CBT center, some candidates missed UTME because their thumbprints were rejected. The candidates were told to submit their slips and come back later. A JAMB official told reporters that “We have recorded some negligible cases where the scanner failed to recognize some duly registered students.” A more critical challenge was the one witnessed at the Global Distant Learning Centre, opposite Federal Ministry of Finance in Abuja, where the official on duty confirmed that some Physics questions had no options because the spaces for options appeared blank on the computer. The same incident was recorded at ECWA College of Technology, Jos.
The 2019 UTME which commenced across the country on Thursday April 11, 2019 lasted till Wednesday, April 17, when the exam for the visually impaired candidates was due to hold. About 1.8 million candidates registered for the examination with more than 600 CBT centres accredited by JAMB across the country. Given the several improvements recorded by JAMB in the conduct of UTME in recent years, including the use of CBT mode of exam for all candidates, record time of 24hours for the release of UTME results and the discontinuation of the use of scratch cards for UTME registration, it is disturbing that the same challenges that undermined the smooth conduct of the examination since the CBT mode was introduced in 2013 are still bedevilling it.
Most of the challenges encountered by UTME candidates were occasioned by ill-equipped CBT centres accredited by JAMB to conduct the examination. JAMB should investigate all CBT centres where examinations suffered inexplicable delays or where the systems were tripping off. Any JAMB officials responsible for accrediting incompetent CBT centres should be sanctioned. JAMB should also refrain from further out-sourcing its services to ICT companies or engaging private secondary schools as CBT centres. It should confine such out-sourcing services to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education that have functional computer pools usually domiciled in computer science or engineering departments. This will forestall many of the challenges that marred the 2019 UTME.