Professor Peter Okebukola is the Chairman of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Equal Opportunity Group, saddled with the responsibility of overseeing candidates with special education needs for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). He is also the Chairman of Governing Council of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). He sheds light on some salient issues.
Your group which comprises of erudite professors and other stakeholders is said to have held a meeting with JAMB officials on ways to administer UTME for matriculants with vision impairment. What is the conclusion?
We were at the meeting to get the directives of JAMB on the group that we have been assigned to deal with for the 2019 UTME. The group deals with the blind as well candidates with hearing and speech impairments. About two years ago, JAMB Registrar, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, in his desire to make the ground level for all UTME candidates regardless of their physical challenge, formed the JAMB Equal Opportunity Group and asked me to chair the group and we have been able to conduct exam for blind candidates for two years now. There would be an improvement in test administration for the blind so we attended the meeting to get directives on new methodology of implementing the 2019 UTME for the blind, deaf and dumb.
Candidates normally sit in front of the computer to write the UTME but the methodology for those with vision impairment is different. We have some methodologies we have been using over the last two years where we depend on what the candidates are used to which is basically to use their Braille, stylus and slate while a few of them used laptop.
This time around, we have reviewed our two year operation and we want to brainstorm and get the directives of board on how we can improve on the administration of the UTME. We also want to start with the deaf and dumb candidates so we need a different approach.
There were instances in which normal candidates were caught impersonating blind candidates. Is this new methodology going to identify impersonators?
Any candidate that is not visually impaired, our group would know because JAMB would send us the questions and we would expect that candidatures would use their Braille and stylus and mark board or laptop as we read the question to them. So if you are not visually impaired, you have impaired yourself by coming into that set. We haven’t come across any impersonator in our centre in Lagos.
The new innovation by the registrar this year is asking our group to conduct an exam for the deaf and dumb in addition to the blind which we have not done before. The other one is that we have higher institutions that, that run special education courses such as the Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo. We are getting all the blind and deaf and dumb candidates in the South West Region to FCE Oyo, as their centre; so, they would have an environment that is ambient and one they are used to.
Do you have a rough estimate of the number of special candidates you foresee for 2019?
We are anticipating between 400 and 450 candidates this year. Last year we had close to 400 candidates. The good news for me is not just conducting UTME smoothly for special candidates but many of our candidates have been admitted into Nigerian universities; University of Lagos in particular admitted between 8 and 10 candidates.
Apart from the issue of special candidates, the registrar has brought some important transformations to bear in the last two years and one of them is the use of technology. The Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS) is to simply admission into higher institution; this has increased the efficiency of JAMB by about 80 per cent.
The board is able to track admission and administration of UTME and more importantly, I can see some intellectual activities in the board in probing how it conducts anything such as the number of UTME candidates and their scores, those with five O’ level credits and those who would graduate with First Class degrees after five years.
There were calls for NOUN applicants to write UTME and graduates to attend Nigerian Law School and National Youth Service. Are these calls physically possible?
The first one is on; the JAMB Registrar just told me that there was an interface between the relevant authorities and that NOUN candidates would be registered but would not write UTME. For Law School; it was on the account of the law establishing NOUN that made it a part-time institution that its graduates could not enroll in Law School, but we are trying to resolve that issue.
NOUN’s Governing Council is working with the University Senate to double enrolment; we have about 450,000 students and we are aiming for one million. More importantly, the quality of delivery of our programmes would be significantly enhanced so that in another two years, graduates from selected 10 disciplines, are going to be the best in Nigeria. We are working to improve the delivery system.