I have written you an open letter on this subject before sir; so we may call this a rejoinder.
The CBT testing introduced some years ago by JAMB is a remarkable feat that many of us thought was impossible and conscientious Nigerians truly commend you and your team. But this year, events have shown that the peculiar challenges associated with Computer-based testing have either been downplayed or (as with the Nigerian thing) completely ignored. Let’s talk about these challenges Sir.
Literature Books: candidates start preparing for External examinations (UTME, WASSCE, and NECO) from Senior Secondary School One(SSS one). The impression in schools for the past three years was that the UTME recommended texts for 2016-2020 ended with the candidates who wrote UTME last year. Do not forget that JAMB have always harmonized these texts with WAEC and The current students have been studying 2021-2025 texts as released. Waiting until UTME online registration started to tuck new information into CDs is in very bad taste. Students need to study each subject for three years to adequately prepare for external exams! Please do your own research for yourself. Goggle new UTME Literature books for 2021 (or anything that close) and read the reactions in the comment section. It was sheer palpable confusion.
Technical Failures: Computer systems are electronic devices. They can glitch or develop technical faults from time to time. Power cables can be interrupted and the systems are turned off. I interviewed about 40 candidates while researching for this work. These candidates wrote 2021 UTME in at least 10 different centers in Rivers State. Eleven of these candidates reported that during the 2-hour examination, their systems went off or developed a fault of some sort. On the average, waiting times for restoring normalcy exceeded ten minutes! In one case, the candidate reported that a candidate’s foot knocked off power supply(though they were warned to move their legs cautiously, but aren’t they supposed to be teens?) and more than twenty candidates had to wait for almost twenty minutes before normalcy was restored. In between, rather than douse the tension, the candidate reported some unprintable rude remarks of the supervisors when exasperated candidates expressed worries.
NIN: Let us not discuss how this requirement literally ‘afflicted’ many families during the registration process for UTME 2021. It will be unfair to those who died in the imbroglio. Let us let sleeping dogs lie, it is now in the past. It is the information that are not editable(name, date of birth, LG of origin etc. etc.) that were wrongly supplied during the registration that bothers me. At least half of the candidates I interviewed mentioned at least one wrongly supplied data. In many cases, they showed me a copy of their NIN cards and the wrong information supplied in their UTME registration/Examination slips. On JAMB e-facility, it now costs N2500 to correct mistakes made by JAMB(Oh, NIMC!).
7:00am Examinations: Who ever heard of such a thing? One of the candidates I interviewed resides at Oyigbo West. The child chose Port Harcourt North as preferred Examination town but was posted to Elele! With the usual traffic, it will take at least 3hours to get to Elele from Oyigbo West (and that’s if one is driving and not making stops to take public transportation). Add the curfews and military checkpoints in Rivers State and the stories of ritual killings and you can imagine how early candidates can leave their homes. Little wonder then that one child out of the 40 I interviewed reportedly missed his examination. He arrived later than 7:00am! Whoever suggested the 7:00am examinations in JAMB may require a date with a psychiatrist, that we all accepted it, makes us all due too. I am only teasing now.
Port Harcourt North and South: to divide a State like Rivers into two zones and then post candidates who live in Oyigbo West to Elele is to say the least, most unthinkable. Sadly, this year, students, or at least the ones I interviewed in Rivers State, were not allowed to choose examination towns that would be most convenient for them. This created huge problems for families particularly given the security peculiarities of today’s Nigeria.
Feedback: I had thought that the mock exams were primarily for testing preparedness at the three levels: the board, the centers and the students. How then will the board evaluate preparedness without an effective feedback mechanism. At least five candidates I interviewed reported that during the Mock Examination, they complained about technical glitches, ten others said they complained about the wrong Literature books while one said he complained about three questions without options and two questions that referred to diagrams that were not provided. Is there a mechanism for collating these direct feedbacks? Or must candidates have the skill and resources to go online too? If these feedbacks were received, was there a press release to at least affirm the changes made on Recommended Literature texts?
The Panacea: Reschedule examination for candidates who wrote Literature.The board can live it open for only those who wish to rewrite with the books they have read for three years! Others who do not register to show interest for a rescheduled examination can maintain the one they have written. This may sound clumsy, but JAMB’s handling of information on recommended texts was clumsier. I encourage parents and candidates to speak with a lawyer if the board doesn’t look in this direction. If my ward was affected, it is an option I will critically think over.
Going forward, the board should (intensify) annual center validation inspection. All centers should be encouraged to switch over to laptops to eliminate failures due to power cable interruptions. Candidates who experience an interruption that lasted ten minutes and above should be eligible for a rescheduled examination where they so indicate and apply within a stipulated time frame. To make this work effectively, every center must have at least a certified supervisor sent to them to ascertain authenticity of claims during the exams.
Do we really have to say the board should shelve (for this year) charging students for correction of wrong information that JAMB (or NIMC) supplied? How can candidates pay to correct the wrong information you supplied?
7:00am examinations must stop forthwith! They are not feasible. I never wrote any examination that early; and in my time, things were tougher! Prof, you may want to share your experience in this regard, but even if you did write some wee-hour examinations sir, please, kindly spare our children that part of your agony.
Similarly, the board is encouraged to go back to the good old days when candidates can either choose towns directly, or at least choose a local government or a maximum of two LGs where they prefer to write the examination. Posting candidates far and wide like military personnel in our present situation is sheer wickedness and callousness. Finally, feedback mechanisms for Mock Examinations must be improved on very intentionally. If effective feedback mechanisms were in place, the board would have received the complaints on wrong Literature books and at least they could have disseminated the correct information on the extension of the use of the old literature books and then, even candidates in the most interior rural areas would have made necessary adjustments.
Professor sir, I am confident that you will consider these things carefully and critically. I salute you sir.
Prince (Comrade) Aku, U. H. Jr.
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