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Utme Made Easy . by Overcomer (m): 3:34pm on October 22
Abdulazeez Adeshina
National Open University of Nigeria
Bsc. Economics
200Level, Nigeria.
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About a month after the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) was held nationwide, not much is being mentioned about the examination. This is unlike in the past when, weeks to the examination, people’s adrenalin would rise, all because their wards or children wanted to sit for UTME. Preparations for the examination was so chaotic that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which conducts it would be in the news even weeks after, and for the negative reasons.

I recollect a personal experience when my son sat for the UTME in 2103. His centre was supposed to be the Sam Ethnan Air force Base, Ikeja, Lagos. I took him there pretty early; and that time being the peakof the Boko Haram insurgency, only the candidates were allowed to enter the premises after their papers had been checked at the gate. Candidates and others who had no business there were promptly turned back. I waited outside the gate for some time after my son was cleared and allowed into the premises, and when I had thought it was safe to leave, I returned home. My son too was rest assured he was in the right place only to be told alongside some other candidates about two hours later that they had been moved to Maryland Comprehensive High School in Maryland area of Lagos. The boy left the air force base for the new centre after losing a lot of time. He had barely 45 minutes to write the examinations which those of them who came late were allowed to write because the fault was not theirs but in the shoddy arrangement for the examination. It was a miracle that he was still able to meet the cut-off point for the examination. The rest is now history.

This year, however, not many people knew when the examination was held, apart from those directly concerned. The reason is because of the way and manner the examination was conducted this time around. Without doubt, the organisation of this year’s UTME is far better than that of last year. There were minor hitches here and there in last year’s examination; but even at that, it was far better than previous years’.

The noticeable improvement this time should be expected. One factor that cannot be discounted in this regard is the doggedness of Prof Ishaq Oloyede, JAMB registrar, to improve on what he met on ground and make the examination comparable to other examinations in other countries.

He came up with the idea of mock UTME, which is beneficial to the candidates as well as the board. While the mock examination aids candidates who are sitting for the examination for the first time to know what the examination looks like, it also prepares the board for the examination proper by making it identify areas of shortcomings so it could tackle them before the examination day.

In addition, the board, under Prof Oloyede came up with the idea of saddling some eminent Nigerians from the media, the academia, civil society organisations, etc. with the responsibility of finding out how things are going in all the centres nationwide during the examination, with a view to knowing where there were challenges so that such could be addressed immediately where possible; and where it was not possible, their reports would be a useful guide in the conduct of subsequent examinations.

The monitors were to report on things like network issues, security, stipends for those operating the computer based test (CBT) centres, etc. Obviously, this has contributed immensely to the vast improvement noticed in this year’s UTME.

But technology played a great role in the success story of this year’s UTME, whether at the level of payment for the examination, registration or even the conduct of the examination proper. The board was able to monitor and identify a particular computer system used by every candidate during the examination. It is therefore not surprising that some candidates’ results are still being withheld (still undergoing screening) due to reports of infractions committed during the examination. Apparently some of them must have violated one regulation or the other. While those who are found to be innocent will eventually have their results released, those in contravention of rules prohibiting items like wrist watches, pens/biros, mobile phones or similar electronic devices, calculators or similar devices, USB, CD, hard discs or similar storage devices, books or any reading/writing materials, cameras, recorders, microphones, ear pieces, ink/pen readers, smart lens, smart rings/jewellery, smart buttons as well as Bluetooth devices from the CBT centres may have their results cancelled.

Indeed, one could see a determined effort on the part of the board to ensure the integrity of the examination. So, candidates who had determined to cheat through one means or the other, including those whose parents were ready to buy results with mouth-watering amounts must have met their match in a determined JAMB not to make that easy for them, which is good for the examination. What all of these has done is to reduce cases of widespread examination malpractices, examination questions leakages, admission racketeering and many more untoward activities that had characterised JAMB operations in the past.

It goes without saying that the deployment of technology made some arrests possible during the registration exercise for erring CBT owners who refused to comply with the stipulated registration guidelines. Some of them were also arrested due to various infractions committed during the examination. In addition, the board has decided to blacklist any CBT centre that is below the stipulated standard in the conduct of its 2019 UTME. As if this was not enough, it also ensured that it was possible to monitor the conduct of the examination in all CBT centres from its headquarters in Abuja through the help of closed circuit television (CCTV).

But the transformation at JAMB was not a coincidence; it was the result of deliberate effort of Prof Oloyede. Since no one can change a decadent system without encountering challenges, especially from those benefitting from the decadence of the past, Prof Oloyede should be saluted for his steadfastness in the face of all odds, both from within and outside of the board.

He is barely 20 months old as JAMB registrar, having been appointed in August 2016. But then, what he has achieved makes it look as if he has been there for long. The point is that he hit the ground running. His other appointments must have given him the desired exposure that he needed to turn things around at JAMB. As a former vice-chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State; President of the Association of African Universities (AAU); member boards of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and the International Association of Universities (IAU), Prof Oloyede is imbued with the wherewithal to bring about the desired change at JAMB. But it is not all about experience and exposure. If many Nigerians at the helm of affairs in many other places bring their wealth of experience and exposure to bear on their positions, this country will be far better than it is today.

So, beyond the exposure and experience is the determination to make a difference. This determination to make a difference is what makes Prof Oloyede to stand out. It explains the saving of the phenomenal N8billion that he returned to government coffers in one year alone, precipitating, even if unintended, the government’s decision to probe past leadership of JAMB and other government agencies to find out how they had been spending public funds. The determination to succeed is also behind Prof Oloyede’s anti-corruption war at the board, which has exposed the underbelly of the system. What all these tell us is that things can be done well in this country as in other places. What is required is the resolve on the part of the managers to make things happen.

But the beauty of it all is that Prof Oloyede cannot do it alone; that is why he always acknowledges the contributions of members of the staff of JAMB, particularly those who have bought into his change agenda in the place. Oloyede only happens to be the driver; the servant-leader if you like.

This year’s UTME might not have been entirely faultless; but it is commendable at least to the extent that it was an improvement on past examinations. Of course, it can always get better.

1 Like

Itz Overcomer

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