CLEMENT IDOKO and GLORIA OLOCHE write on candidates’ travails, the knocks and commendations surrounding the ongoing 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) registration.
VIRTUALLY all candidates for this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) have one story or the other to tell about their experience since the commencement of sale of forms and registration by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
A candidate, Paul Idikwu, told Nigeria Tribune that he spent almost a week to complete his registration processes, recounting how he and other prospective candidates had to queue daily in the scorching sun at the Global Distance Learning Institute, located in Utako, Abuja, one of the accredited UTME registration centres.
In fact, the registrar and chief executive of JAMB, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, had threatened to close down the Digital Bridge Institute when his attention was drawn to the chaotic situation there.
His prompt intervention saved many of the candidates further torture, as a lot of them had to be moved to other registration centres that were a bit free. The JAMB Computer Based Test (CBT) in Bwari was eventually used to register most of them in a seamless manner.
The story is the same in several other cities and towns across the country. In Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, a candidate, Morounfolu Kayode, recounted his ordeal.
“Each time we come here, we are ignored (by bank staff). I think even the bank staff don’t even make it any easier; (with their conduct), they don’t even seem to consider that registration will close anytime soon.”
Another distraught candidate, Odefenwa Ololade, said “one major problem that needs to be addressed is the network. Large numbers of applicants come here everyday, but few get attended to successfully.”
Onayemi Oluwaseun, owner of a private computer and tutorial centre, described the 2017 JAMB registration as problematic. He said it would have been a lot easier if JAMB had allowed private computer centres to partake in the registration exercise.
He also complained about the limited period of registration.
“Even when registration was done over six months, there were network and other problems, and sometimes people had to work all night to get registration done. How then can registration be comfortably done in just a month?” He asked.
Nigeria Tribune investigation revealed that the major challenge was the introduction of e-PIN Vending by JAMB to replace the use of scratch cards. In most banks and accredited centres for the UTME registration, the usual complaint is poor network service by the network providers.
JAMB’s e-Pin Vending is a process whereby students wishing to register for the examinations make an online payment and get a PIN with which they can upload their data.
The examination board has also listed few banks authorised for the PIN vending, including Union Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank, First Bank, Skye Bank, EcoBank, Fidelity Bank, Jaiz Bank, FCMB, Sterling Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, CBT centres and JAMB state offices.
Candidates were advised to visit any of the banks for the PIN before returning to the CBT centres to complete their registration, which includes creation of profile, capturing of the 10 finger prints and a passport.
An official of JAMB who explained the merit of the e-PIN Vending said it was introduced to prevent fraud that usually characterised the registration process in the past. The board wanted to ameliorate the plight of candidates who had to buy scratch cards for registration and another scratch card for checking results or even payment of fees or trying to access their data whenever changes had to be made.
JAMB also wanted to save candidates from the exploitation by cyber cafe operators.
JAMB acting zonal coordinator in Nasarawa State, Moses Akobu, also said: “In the past, JAMB asked candidates to buy scratch cards from banks and do their registration in the cybercafé of their choice. But the board discovered that in the process, candidates encountered problems such as mismatching of names and passports, which often created problems on the day of the examination.
“The new system is good because it is error-free and the JAMB will have a direct contact with all prospective candidates through their valid email addresses. The hitches they are experiencing now will soon be over.”
The hitches, coupled with appeals from both parents and relevant stakeholders, led to the extension of the sale of UTME forms and registration of candidates by two weeks.
Professor Oloyede, while announcing the extension and postponement of the proposed UTME mock examination said the decision was in the best interest of the candidates.
Instead of the 19th April earlier announced as the deadline for the sale of forms and registration, it was extended to Friday, 5 May, 2017. Examination dates were also shifted from the initial May 6 to May 20, 2017, to Saturday May 13 (for commencement) and 20 May, 2017 as the end of the examination.
While announcing the suspension of the proposed UTME mock examination earlier scheduled to commence on Saturday April 8, Oloyede blamed the board’s technical partners for the hardships being experienced by prospective candidates.
According to him, most of the accredited centres were given up to 100 access points for the registration of candidates, but most of them use only two or three, making the registration exercise very slow and cumbersome.
He said, ordinarily, about 100 candidates could be registered in a designated centre simultaneously, without any hitch, if the centres put into use the windows given to them.
Oloyede said the same thing affects the e-PIN Vending, as the arrangement with the designated banks was for them to sell the forms and generate the PIN for the candidates. But, according to him, most of the banks ask candidates to go to cyber cafes, create their profile before going back to obtain the PIN with which to complete the registration process at the accredited centres.
Mr Emmanuel Sule, another candidate, told Nigeria Tribune that he paid N7,500 against the stipulated N5,500 by JAMB, at a business centre for profile generation and PIN; and it took him four days to complete the entire process.
Professor Oloyede has, however, appealed to parents and candidates to endure the period of experimentation, saying once the technology is got right, the examination proper would be seamless and such difficulties would be eliminated in the future.
Meanwhile, a non-governmental organisation, the Nigerian Education Integrity Group (NEIG), says there are “invisible hands and powerful forces” desperately working to frustrate the positive reforms being put in place by Professor Oloyede at JAMB.
NEIG Director of Operations, Dr Obafemi Amzat; and Legal Adviser, Ms Elizabeth Coker, said there is a need to pray for the JAMB registrar because some “powerful forces and invisible hands have been working round the clock to frustrate and paint him in bad light.
“Our findings showed that Oloyede is stubborn to a fault, especially when it comes to saving government resources. He has challenged anybody that cares to investigate the resources in JAMB and compare with the services that are ongoing,” NEIG claimed.
However, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has expressed worry over the hardship prospective candidates are subjected to in trying to secure admission for their further studies.
The Public Relations Officer of NANS, Comrade Odebunmi Idowu and the association’s Senate President, Comrade Bamigbade Taiwo, asked JAMB to review the registration process so as to reduce the predicament faced by the candidates.
Despite the hitches, however, JAMB has registered over one million candidates of the projected 1,467,000 candidates for the examination.