JAMB 2017: Examining Nigeria, By Hamidu Danbarewa

With the last batch of 85,000 candidates rescheduled for JAMB examination this year’s exercise came to an eventful and highly impactful conclusion. The successful JAMB outing under a new helmsman and management is a pointer to the pivotal effect of strategic deployment of human resources on the performance level of institutions. For a change, we saw a JAMB that was more proactive and responsive. The familiar challenges were adequately anticipated and contained with pre-emptive measures while the random encounters with unforeseen circumstances got nipped in the bud effectively.

To me, the most unique and profound impact of this year’s JAMB outing goes beyond the remarkable improvement in the management of the most crucial national examinations of candidates for our tertiary institutions already widely acclaimed. For the first time, JAMB was also able to conduct a forensic examination of the underlying factors responsible for turning the annual academic exercise into a seemingly unwinnable war against the hydra-headed malpractices of the candidates that eroded the credibility of the process and lowered the esteem of authenticity of our educational credentials.

The regular references to some of the episodes as they were encountered during the exam period by its “street wise” academician-cleric-social scientist Chief Executive, Professor Ishaq Oloyede with his unsparing candour, spotlighted the bigger picture of parental, stakeholder and social dimensions in what had been seen only as the result of dishonesty of candidates and incompetence of JAMB. However, this initiative was of secondary concern to the JAMB chief who never took his eyes off the exam ball. Even as it was dubiously dribbled round the axis of sabotage and criminality to counter his corrective crusade in an exercise that involved 140 examination towns, 642 Computer-Based Test Centres, 7,000 invigilators and monitors and 1,722,236 candidates, the professor persisted.

The compilation of statistical data on a range of devious devices deployed but detected before they could hit JAMB speaks of effective defense measures : As many as 1,386 candidates all identified and documented were found guilty of  impersonation, possession of prepared answer scripts, smuggling of foreign materials, possession of electronic gadgets including telephone, copying and spying from foreign materials, unruly behaviour, collusion and multiple registration and examinations. An incriminating cache of tools of exam cheats was also seized including shirts, slippers, belts, handkerchiefs among others. The casualties included 57,646 centre-induced malpractice results cancelled, 72 centres in 18 states delisted or suspended, over 696 candidates engaged in double or triple registration and 666 cases of candidates sitting for examination more than once disqualified and a criminal gang involving persons who deceived candidates into believing that they had access to UTME examination questions.

Among the deplorable tales of the unexpected activities reported include Computer-Based Test Centres who collected gate fees as high as N20,000, recruited thugs, deliberately created technical problems to assist candidates to cheat such as disabling CCTVs installed by JAMB, ran secret rooms where ghost candidates wrote the examination and colluded with candidates and parents to compromise the examination. A mother made a murky mark by offering an examiner payment in kind to help her child to pass and an invigilator was caught in a pass-for-sex escapade.

The report of the forensic examination was just as unsettling by closing –in on the contentious and confusing concept of Nigerian Factor with conclusive authenticity. The significance of this year’s 1.7 million examined candidates –highest in 40 years- is reduced to a tragedy of numbers after JAMB declares deadpan that 1.7m is not news-though it hit the headlines- but the fact that more than 50% of the candidates who presented did not even have the pre-requisite qualifications –which went unreported-! That must also be confirmation of an editorial strain of the Nigerian Factor!

But the leadership strain maintained its toxicity of ineptitude with JAMB finding that again, more than a decade after policy adjustment, over 70% of all candidates applied for courses in the Arts and Social Sciences, sharply deviating from national manpower development targets for 70 % priority to the Sciences. Not to be outdone, the generality of Nigerians defended their obnoxious titles to ownership of the notorious Nigerian Factor with typical geo-political attitudes on display. According to JAMB diagnosis of exam malpractices spread, Nigerian Factor is no respecter of the essence of federal character. Most affected states are from the South East and South South : Abia (381 cases), Imo (193), Anambra (152), Enugu (114), Cross River (78), Ebonyi (48), Akwa Ibom (44) while North West, North Central and North East supplied symmetry with the lowest numbers: Kebbi (1), Kaduna (16), Kano (29), Katsina (2), Kogi (7) Sokoto (25), Taraba (4), Zamfara (1).

The 2017 JAMB outing proves that candid exposure and critical analyses of the fundamental flaws of citizenship and leadership should be the firmest foundation to embark on any reform or apply deterrent in our quest for meaningful progress in critical spheres of nation-building. The existence of a transparent, credible and versatile institution devoted to promoting and maintaining high standards by dependable measurement and assessment mechanisms is a necessity to actualize a systematic overhaul and revitalization of Nigeria’s critical manpower sector. These achievements have already earned JAMB the responsibility for conducting a selection examination for medical doctors to work during the Jerusalem pilgrimage of the National Christian Pilgrimage Commission, NCPC. It will select 250 doctors from the 4,370 candidates to the meet NCPC’s desire for an improved selection system “based on merit, rather than bias.” If only our bureaucrats and political leaders can face JAMB………

Danbarewa writes from Kaduna

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