JAMB 2020: Matters arising

JAMB 2020: Matters arising

It is common knowledge that the JOINT ADMISSIONS AND MATRICULATION BOARD (JAMB) operations have improved drastically and dramatically since Prof. Ishaq Oloyede assumed the mantle of leadership. Improvements in administration – transparency, accountability and openness – has translated into zero-level tolerance for corruption, reduced examination charges, as well as handsome money into the Federation Account that was never before heard of. There has also been great improvement in the integrity of its examinations. JAMB as an organisation is nowadays viewed more positively by the generality of Nigerians. Thus, I dare to say that JAMB is better trusted by the public than any other Ministry, Department and Agency of government available – including the government itself!

It is, however, in the area of fighting examination malpractice and enhancing JAMB’s integrity that Oloyede’s JAMB has shone like a million stars. Cartels and cabals had held public examinations by the jugular. Crime in the examination sector had become big business, aided by cutting edge technology and dare-devilry innovations. It was a billion-Naira business by the time Oloyede mounted the saddle. Any administrator lacking in courage; commitment and principle would have backed out of the fight and joined in the racket. If you can’t beat them…

Oloyede’s coming has been a blessing to the country’s educational system. JAMB’s Augean stable has significantly been cleared. More than that, the Oloyede revolution – and I mean every letter of that word – has positively impacted not only JAMB but also other examinations such as those of WAEC and the institutions of higher learning themselves. Preventing leakage of examination papers before examination day was the first leg of the war against examination malpractice. Here, insider abuse loomed large and except for a no-nonsense administrator who would apply the rules and wield the big stick, the monster would ruin any examination from source. Technology and innovations have additionally been brought to bear to ensure that question papers are not printed and kept days or weeks before the D-Day.

Contractors and professional examination writers who help candidates write examinations have now been wrestled to the ground. The very technology the criminals have always leveraged upon has been seized upon to knock the bottom off their trade. The integrity of examination centres was herculean war that had to be fought. The fight is still on-going. Some of the Centres were blacklisted this year. While the process of weeding the bad eggs is on-going; compromised centres are now the exception rather than the rule. One innovation JAMB has experimented with to uproot examination practice is the appointment of Civil Society and Media (CSM) as monitors of JAMB examinations all over the country. It is a system that has worked and from which JAMB has reaped bountiful benefits.

For one, its openness and transparency engender confidence and support not only from the CSM but also from candidates and parents. Partnering with civil society and the media suggests that JAMB wants its feet held to the fire. JAMB’s revenue and expenditure profile; and its yearly remittance to the Federation Account in billions of Naira are open secrets, as they say. Additionally, there has been giving back to the society in terms of reduced examination fees, which helps to reduce the burden on candidates and their parents.

Recently, JAMB even volunteered to help the National Identity Management Company (NIMC) for it to better discharge its mandate. JAMB desires to partner with NIMC to further cut the ground from under the feet of fraudsters, identity thieves and impersonators desperate to compromise JAMB’s water-tight security measures. Making the system tighter is the name of the game; so as to be one or two steps ahead of fraudsters. I was one of the CSM people who monitored last week’s JAMB examinations in Lagos. I noticed the following:

Candidates now believe it is their performance that determines their fate in JAMB examinations and not who they know, who they bribe or how good they can cut corners. Parents now also admit that their connections are ineffective when they confront Oloyede. Better, then, to help their wards prepare well for JAMB examinations and scale through on their own merit than rely on “long legs” for help. CBT centres know they must not engage in fraudulent activities; the stick is applied once they fall foul of JAMB rules. JAMB’s employees know that integrity is the watch-word. Everyone’s name, reputation and integrity are at stake.

Another innovation at this year’s JAMB examinations was that results were released within 48 hours. Candidates did not have to wait till eternity to know their fate. As it is said that justice delayed is justice denied; so also examination results delayed are examinations open to monkey games. The above improvements notwithstanding, there is still room for improvement, as in all endeavours human. The peculiar traffic situation of Lagos meant that many students got to their centres late and were not allowed to write the examination. Lagos is notorious for its snarling traffic; a situation made worse by the recent ban on “okada” and “keke” in most parts of the state. Many supervisors were strict and failed to apply discretion.

Facilities provided for candidates were adequate in most of the centres – more than enough computers, so that faulty ones could be easily replaced; there was also waiting room for the next batch of candidates. But in all the centres, candidates who arrived too early had to loiter in adjoining streets. This is not good enough for security and comfort and must be addressed. Parents, too, must not be left to the vagaries of the elements. Because confidence level in JAMB has grown, less number of parents followed their wards to CBT centres. The country’s insecurity situation, however, was cited by parents as the reason they still “escorted” their wards to CBT centres.

Food and drinks vendors and other traders had a field day selling their wares in environments that were not hygienic. In view of the health challenges that can arise from anyone consuming contaminated foods and drinks, this must be controlled in future. Some centres were hedged in by classrooms with school in session; the noise pollution from the students distracted the candidates. Either the schools will close for the period JAMB is written or teachers rein in their students.

Searing heat made some of the centres uncomfortable. Many centres had only fans. In some, there were air-conditioners but not all functioned. Sufficiently cooled rooms favour students as well as the computer systems. All the centres visited made provisions for alternative sources of power but some generators packed up when it mattered most. Examination time table was thus disrupted with students and parents thrown off balance.

In totality, the margin of error was minimal, including failure of finger capturing. Each year as JAMB conducts examinations, the Board itself stands the scrutiny! It is my candid opinion that it scaled the hurdles the last time around.

Bolawole is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Punch newspaper

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