JAMB’s far-reaching reforms
On March 18, 2019, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, announced at a critical stakeholders meeting in Abuja that it has put certain innovations in place for the successful conduct of the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME.
JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede, said “a robust item bank with appropriate safeguards had been developed by moving toward open examination with one million questions per subject,” while “a separate indicator had been created for the deaf to differentiate them for special attention at the examination centre.”
Oloyede’s announcement elicits confidence in the process and draws the attention of many observers to the reforms JAMB has initiated in recent years to bolster the credibility of the UTME exercise. Since 2015, the Board has devoted huge resources and energy towards perfecting its test administration and restoring its credibility, integrity, and public trust.
Just over six years, efforts to reduce the cost of governance and refocus government agencies had prompted the constitution of a 7-man committee led by Former Head of Service, Mr Steve Oronsaye. After painstakingly reviewing the roles of government agencies, the Oronsaye committee, in its 800-page white paper later released in 2014, recommended the continuous existence of JAMB as a central examination body for admissions into Nigerian universities.
But the committee insisted that the Board must improve on its standards and address the issue of integrity of its results, while drawing the attention of the Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission, NUC, to allegations of exorbitant fees charged candidates by universities for Post-UTME.
JAMB’s inadequacies were palpable. The process of conducting the UTME was fraught with irregularities and the integrity of its admission process was greatly challenged. Some candidates and parents pandered to the official corruption in the agency and merit was gradually relegated.
For a fact, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria openly queried the awful state of affairs and advocated outright scrapping of the Board. While the public picked on JAMB’s failures, the Board got busy with its various units and embraced reforms which have metamorphosed it into one of the most credible government agencies in recent years.
When it introduced full-blown Computer Based Test, CBT, in 2015, JAMB took a bold step towards self-restoration. Although CBT initially came with challenges of malfunctioning computers and in some cases, interruptive power supply, among others, it has proven to be the most effective way of reducing cost and removal of cumbersome logistic problems that characterised the Paper Pencil Test, PPT.
While its insistence on biometric verification, practically eliminates incidents of identity fraud that were rife with manual clearance, and ensures that only registered candidates participate in the UTME exercise, the CBT has greatly helped in minimising examination malpractice and other forms of irregularities.
A real determination to eliminate fraud and criminalities has been observed since Oloyede was appointed Registrar in 2016. One of his first steps at tackling entrenched corruption in the system was the elimination of the scratch card regime and the introduction of the pin vending, a process that ensures all funds generated flow directly to the government coffers.
Much to the credit of the agency, JAMB has continued to evolve ways of tackling new trends in examination malpractice with a broad base of monitoring technology in examination centres nationwide. Its ability to monitor individual candidates was recently accentuated by the Registrar; “we now have live reports on centres that registered every candidates. The time of registration, the officers who registered the candidate, the computer system used, the location of registration, among others, are now connected and linked to the central data bank, to ensure that we regulate the registration exercise.”
While incidents of malpractice are not completely eliminated in the UTME exercise, it is noteworthy that JAMB’s effort at enthroning transparency, accountability and prudent management of funds, as well as tackling unwholesome practices, has transmuted it into a symbol of integrity under the current administration. Its recent feat in administering credible examination won the patronage of agencies such as the police and other paramilitary agencies to administer their recruitment exams.
Going forward however, the board must take seriously the plight of candidates by ensuring its policies do not displace them on examination day as cases of candidates roving in search of their examination centres had been reported in the past.
JAMB must also continue to keep an eye on activities of CBT centres and ensure they conform with laid-down rules and sanction erring centres which have developed a penchant for multiplying the suffering of candidates with exorbitant fees and other forms of fraud.