For the second time within a fortnight, the much expected mock United Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) has failed to hold, sparking criticisms, but the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede, has taken to the media space seeking to explain the hitches and plans to ensure that the examination proper is fraud-free and without technical hiccups.
He was on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) network news programme last week Saturday; and was, again, on Radio Nigeria network phone in conersation programme this Saturday. On radio today, almost all phone calls to engage Oloyede mysteriously did not go through in what a source said was “a managed event.”
Technical hiccups have been at the heart of the failure of the JAMB mock exams not holding.
Oloyede’s insistence on the use of mobile telecommunications service providers, instead of Vsat providers has been roundly blamed for the failure of the mock exercise.
When staff were deployed last weekend, the modems they were given were not activated and so did not download, according to an insider. “Even within Bwari Area Council where JAMB office is located, the Kogo Computer Based Test (CBT) center, just less than five kilometers away within the same council, could not download the tests.”
However, the good news is that after several attempts this week, two succeses were achieved Thursday and Friday.
A source said if the mock exams were not cancelled, it could hold next Saturday.
There are also fears that JAMB could bite more than it can chew if more candidates are registered for the main UTME exercise.
According to Oloyede, the Board is targetting 1.5 million candidates even though in the third week of the four weeks initially set aside for registration, 1.318, 337 were registered.
“Last year we registered 1,272,284. We added 200k. If we got 1.3 million last year, we believe we will be successful,” Oloyede said on a network television programme.
Oloyede explained that as part of moves to srop fraud in the exams this year, the Board is capturing all the 10 fingers of candidates. “You would need an 11th finger to beat this system,” he added.
He admitted that JAMB has less than 30 of the 649 CBT centers in the country, agreeing that though there are not enough centers in the country, this would not pose a problem for the United Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME).
He called on Nigerians who have the interest of education at heart and have the wherewithal to establish CBT centers because it is a profitable venture adding that there had been 10 to 15% increase in the number of CBT centers between last year and now.
According to the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, a university noted for being strike-free in all his years there, this year’s procedure for the UTME is not significantly different from the past, but is just havimg its internal mechanisms strengthened against fraudulent practices.
Explainig why the mock exams failed, Oloyede said the use of network providers was a new vehicle to conduct the free for all mock tests adding that he did not agree with the Vsat method which depended on use of bandwidth.
“If we have been able to live with networks failing we should live with what happened,,” he said.
On the Registrar’s position that one of the reasons the mock exercise failed was because the Board has never held mock exams, an insider said this was not completely true. “What about the trial tests in the past? It is just a change in nomenclature,” the source stated.
He added: “If you watched that interview on NTA, he was using trial tests and mock examinations interchangeably, so what is he talking about?”
The source spoke against the backdrop of the fretting of staff that the missteps of JAMB could lead to a fractured UTME which could embolden Vice Chancellors and governing boards of universities to begin a fresh push for independence that could lead to redundacy and eventual scrapping of the Board.
But the Registrar said on network television that he couldn’t promise there wouldn’t be hitches, but for well meaning Nigerians, he hoped, prayed and was committed to a good exercise. “I will give my best,” he stated.
Staff, it was gathered, have holding quiet prayer vigils for this year’s UTME not to fail, amidst speculations that a top official of the organisation was involved in a vendetta.
“The man’s wife was our staff and headed an office in a North-Central State, but she was by-passed for reasons not unrelated to not making it in a promotion exam. Another staff was brought to head the place and she left in us in a huff for the Open University. Now the husband has come to us and we fear he is on a vendetta. Many fear he is probably working from the inside for our failure. I don’t think so personally, but that is the fear.”
Another staff said of the top official: “When he first came, he was always not on seat arriving only in the late afternoons to work for less than three hours, but since the UTME came up, he has abandoned politicking in the city to face his job squarely in Bwari since failure is staring him in the face. I really think he wants to succeed, he just underestimated his new task.”