The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, called an all-inclusive meeting of stakeholders at Abuja penultimate Tuesday to fine tune, that is, dot the Is and cross the Ts in its final road map to conducting a distinctive Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, it has scheduled for the third month of 2018. The matriculation examination for this year would run from March 9 to 17, 2018 while the warm-up exercise – mock examination – would be conducted in the first week of February.
Themed: Strategic Planning on Supervision and Evaluation of the Conduct of the 2018 UTME, the high-powered stakeholders’ meeting was held at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja on January 9 and was the arrowhead of the series of stakeholders’ meetings which kicked off on November 6 last year. JAMB had on November 6 held consultative meetings with mobile money operators; the banks and mobile service operators and technical advisors the following day and the November 8 meeting was held with computer based test centre owners and technical advisors.
The build-up to the March UTME also included a stakeholders’ meeting with state commissioners for education, National Assembly members, the Board’s chief external examiners and other stakeholders last November 15. The sale of application and registration document scheduled to run from December 6, 2017 to February 6 this year is currently running.
The Board had to shift its mock examination designed to tone up fresh candidates from January 22 to 24 to February in view of an ongoing Non-Academic Staff Union’s, NASU, industrial action in some tertiary institutions, an action that stalled the accreditation of “the Computer Based Tests Centres” in affected institutions.
JAMB ultimate push towards the March examination involved the honing of the expanded monitoring groups at the Abuja strategic meeting, which reviewed last year’s exercise and sensitized participants to the dangers to avoid and the Board’s preparations for an integrity-ladden exercise. .
JAMB’s Registrar, Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, outlined the improvements on the existing infrastructure and the strategic plan for the national task ahead saying: “Most of the features of 2017 UTME are retained and in most cases enhanced. But, in addition, some new elements are introduced to address current realities.”
“To achieve effective communication from the Board to the candidates, eliminate extortion of candidates by CBT centres and cyber cafés with respect to (email) profile creation and ease the process for candidates”, JAMB now “employs Short Service Code on the four mobile operators’ networks with candidate sending his or her name to 55019 on his/her unique cellphone number and receiving a profile code (attached to the phone number). The profile code will be maintained and used in all subsequent activities, including procurement of ePIN to purchase of application document”, Prof. Oloyede explained.
JAMB has created more payment platforms and outlets this year with “thousands of outlets across the country to procure ePIN.” Giving some of the outlets as mobile money operators, automated teller machines (ATMs), NIBSS supported USSD payment platforms he explained that the new ones complemented the 2017 partners such as banks, NIPOST, Remita and Interswitch.
“In the course of monitoring the registration exercise, we have discovered that a particular mobile service operator was engaging in multiple charging candidates for failed service. We have issued stern warning to Telcos to desist and ordered the particular service provider to refund the excess charges to the affected candidates. In the same vein, some banks were manually writing the ePIN for candidates as against automatic delivery to the candidates’ unique numbers thus creating the potentials for introducing unnecessary errors,” said the Registrar, adding that the organisations involved risked being blacklisted and disengaged if they failed to refrain.
The Board’s Registrar enthused that it had strengthened the CBT centres with a view to eliminating ‘VIP’ rooms where high bidders could cheat with ease, provision of toilet facilities and automation of some elements and other facilities to remove human errors. “A meeting has been scheduled ahead of the mock examination to share accreditation results with the CBT centres.”
Other innovation driven features for this year’s matriculation examination include a “more robust and fortified Custom Browser developed and deployed for accreditation exercise thus phasing out the use of optionally used other generic browsers.
“The 2018 UTME delivery software employs biometric authentication of the technical officers to receive examination on the delivery servers and activate it for the candidates. And the examination cannot be activated ahead of the scheduled time.” The policy on “no biometric authentication for candidates, no participation in the examination stays, Oloyede said with emphasis. The mouse driven computer system has been phased out and replaced with 8-key system thus eliminating the fears of mouse phobic candidates.
JAMB announced the prohibition of three more items – biros, wrist watches and calculators – in this year’s UTME. This is in addition to the prohibition of other devices that could store, transmit or receive signals. The unique feature of the prohibitions is that they extend to all the officials who would be on duty at CBT centres nationwide as well.
The Board is also prepared to frontally tackle smart cheating this time around. It convened a retreat late last year on the identification of the various technology devices that aid cheating and how to proactively contain them.
The sum total of the thorough preparations, said the Registrar, was to “build a repository and archives of technology devices and methods in use for examination practices to serve as reference and build awareness, identify and profile all possible threats of technology supported examination malpractice, develop effective counter measures to detect, deter and prevent all methods of cheating in the Board’s examinations.”
Prof. Oloyede revisited the extremes to which candidates and some parents went to up their marks. He mentioned the incidence of an examiner caught fondling with a female candidate and was appropriately sanctioned. To the amazement of all, the mother of the candidate sought the conversion of the abuse to bonus marks for her girl. Another offered to spend a night with a bewildered vice chancellor just to railroad her daughter through the admission process.
The January 9 meeting broke into syndicate session at which nine groups, chaired by a former JAMB Registrar, seven professors and a retired Lt-General, brainstormed on the modalities for effective monitoring of the March 9 – 17 UTME. The monitoring groups comprise the civil society, general monitors, high-powered/opinion leaders, NYSC directors and equal opportunity. Others are youths of virtues, peace monitors, Bwari (JAMB Headquarters) centre and chief external examiners.
For Prof. Oloyede and his changed JAMB, the 2018 UTME is an examination worth conducting. Consequently, and as the saying goes, it is a job worth doing well, very well.
JAMB has done its home work thoroughly and, other things being equal, the conduct of this year’s UTME will outshine the previous year’s and the credit would be due to the assiduity of the Board’s team under the leadership of Prof. Oloyede, with a profound ability to assemble the best brains in the country to achieve set goals for the Board.
––––Awolabi is a Lagos-based journalist