Stranger than fiction: How JAMB posted candidate living in Abeokuta to Zamfara for UTME
Some candidates, who registered for the last Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, were posted to centres outside their states. GRACE EDEMA writes about the loss, pain and demoralising experience most of the candidates suffered in order to sit the examination
While filling the form for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination at a cybercafé in Abeokuta, Ogun State, 16-year-old Rukayat specifically chose a Computer-Based Test centre in Ijebu-Ode.
However, when she printed her slip, she was posted to a CBT centre in Zamfara State.
She was devastated and sought the counsel of one of her tutors, Sarah Igwe, who posted the issue on an educational platform on Facebook.
Immediately she made the post on March 11, several other parents, guardians and educators shared various views of how their children and wards were indiscriminately posted to places outside their areas of residence.
It was gathered that most of the candidates were posted outside of their regions or states, contrary to their areas of choice while filling the UTME form online.
A mother, Kemi Adetayo, related on the thread that her child was posted to Lafiagi, a distance of 104 kilometres to Ilorin, Kwara State.
“I have been so unhappy since I saw my child’s centre; we reside in Ilorin and he was posted to Lafiagi for the exam. This issue has caused problems between my friend and I, even my husband. I really just don’t know what to do. It’s so sad that everything about our beloved country is unbearable and unbelievable. I’m just sick and tired of it all,” she stated.
Another parent, Eniola Lawal, said, “It’s so terrible; I didn’t believe it at first when my daughter told me that one of her classmates was posted to the East from Mowe, Ogun State, until I confirmed it. Thank God my daughter was posted close to our house, if not, she wouldn’t have gone for the exam.”
Igwe, in an interview with our correspondent, said Rukayat did not travel to Zamfara State to take the UTME due to insecurity, long distance and the deplorable state of the roads. But her parents ensured that their daughter applied for Joint Universities Preliminary Examinations Board’s test, which Igwe said the fee was usually from N250,000.
“I only used her as a case study. I know of many others in similar predicaments and the number of students affected is on the high side. I also know of five students from Ibadan, who were posted to Sokoto State. The five of them won’t be sitting the exams. This also happened last year but no one complained,” she said.
As stated by Igwe above, yearly, several other candidates were usually affected by these indiscriminate postings.
In addition, posting students outside their preferred local government areas is an age-long occurrence. A respondent, Adenekan Adeyemi, stated, “I registered for the UTME in 2009 here in Lagos, and I was posted to a school in Cross River State to take the exam. Having taken my time to evaluate the cost implications of embarking on such a journey as well as the risks involved, I had to forfeit the opportunity.”
Most of the young people, who either do menial jobs or their parents struggle to raise money to buy their forms, may forfeit a lifetime opportunity of higher education.
Some observers said such candidates would get discouraged and completely lose interest in the pursuit of education by going on the streets and get inscribed in their hearts that popular local parlance, ‘Education na scam’.
The cycle of wrong information continues as the younger generations are being indoctrinated by some of these candidates, who have given up on education to seek other means of livelihood.
Asides the fact that some had it tough getting the money to buy the UTME form, the physical and mental stress of travelling long distances to sit a two-hour exam could be depressing and energy sapping for teenagers.
Nigeria is now characterised by insecurity ranging from kidnapping, ritualism, rape, Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and herdsmen menace, who all operate unchallenged.
Igwe maintained that these were some of the reasons parents would not allow their children to travel long distances to take the UTME, especially to locations where they do not know anyone who could help keep an eye on their children. “Thank God that Rukayat’s parents are financially capable to register her for the JUPEB. What about parents at the lowest social strata of society? A lot of such that were affected and couldn’t get transport fares to go or register again are now roaming the streets with no interest in furthering their education, while some have opted for handiwork. So, JAMB needs to go to the drawing board and plan this well,” he said.
Likewise, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Obafemi Awolowo University chapter, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, said, “The act of posting candidates outside their zones/regions/states can only be described as insensitive on the part of JAMB. How can a candidate travel all the way from the South-West to the North-West or North-East to take the UTME?
“Is JAMB not considering the problem of banditry or kidnapping on Nigerian roads? There are reports of some unscrupulous elements kidnapping innocent children and eventually killing some. Mere witnessing such incidents can dent the psychology of a child.
“It must also be mentioned that Nigerian roads are death traps; innocent children, who are just coming up in life, should not be exposed to unnecessary risks on the terrible roads in the name of taking examinations. I even wonder how such candidate will cope after travelling on the roads for more than 12 hours! Well, I hope if this practice is true on the part of JAMB, Nigerians should rise up and speak up at such a dastardly act.”
The Chairman, Parents’ Forum, Babs Fafunwa Senior Secondary School, Ojodu, Mr Azeez Wahab, condemned JAMB for the indiscriminate postings.
“It is not safe to post students very far with the security situation in the country. Most of these children are not even old enough to travel. Why should someone fill a form in Lagos and be posted to the end of Ogun State for an exam that starts at 7am? JAMB should look in to it,” he said.
REASONS FOR LONG DISTANCE POSTINGS
A review of the conversations revealed that most of the commentators believed that JAMB always posted students to long distances so as to forestall examination malpractices.
Igwe said an official told her that it was done to curb malpractices in ‘special centres’, which are running the CBT centres, “but to me, the disadvantages are too many.”
Likewise, JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, explained in an online report that the examination body intentionally posted candidates for this year’s UTME far from their chosen towns.
He stated, “Based on our past experience, we realised that the narrower the examination towns are, the easier it was for those who registered candidates in teams and prearrange their centre allocation.
“So, what we did was to expand the centres by grouping states like Lagos into just between six and seven examination towns. If you had chosen Sagamu, it does not mean that you would sit the examination in Sagamu, because the examination towns extend to places like Akute and Ajuwon, among others. It is also to discourage malpractices.”
On the contrary, JAMB’s spokesperson, Dr Benjamin Fabian, said, “We don’t post candidates. Candidates choose where they want, but if you don’t register on time, there’s nothing anyone can do. Technically, it is either you choose another centre or wait till the following year.
In the same vein, the Head of Schools, Dobar Schools Ikorodu, Mr Durodola Ajani, said distance postings were caused by late registration.
He narrated that two years ago, his son registered late for the UTME and chose the Ikorodu CBT centre. However, he was posted to Iseyin in Oyo State to sit the examination.
Ajani said, “I am not making a case for JAMB, but postings depend on the time the candidates registered. Those who registered late were sent outside of their comfort zones. The available CBT centres would determine the posting.
“For instance, if you registered in Ikorodu and there are 10 centres there, immediately the centres get filled up, they send the remaining candidates out. Those who registered late are taken to another state to do the exam. It is a factor of the time you register for the UTME.”
Similarly, the National Treasurer, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Mr Segun Raheem, stated, “JAMB had been very consistent and considerate in its posting of candidates to examination centres before now; except in few cases by errors in the online registration, late registration or errors in postings. Some states may be overwhelmed by high number of candidates.
“These are reasons to relocate some candidates if any of these is correct, then posting such candidates far away from their states of residence, being teenagers, is irrational, unexpected and unacceptable.”
Ajani advised that early registration and accreditation of more CBT centres would prevent unorganised postings.
“There should be more accredited centres. As soon as we have more centres, such postings will reduce drastically; in the previous years, we had such cases too.”
In the same vein, Raheem believes that if modern technology is deployed in administering the UTME, the examination process will be less stressful for candidates.
“Why didn’t JAMB spread the days of the examination in the heavily registered states? In this age of digital advancement, why can’t JAMB develop an application that will make each candidate take the examination online in the comfort of their homes in a way and manner that will be devoid of malpractices? Advance countries do it,” he said.
An educator, Uduak Inokon-Ekpo, stated, “The best thing JAMB can do is to spread the exam period to one to two months instead of a few days. This way, no candidate will have to travel far to sit the exam. JAMB should not expose our children to danger, because they want to take the UTME.”
A parent, Keke Ikwen, also opined that it was a loss of money when candidates find it difficult to travel to far distances to sit the exam.
She stated, “If JAMB thinks it is late at the point of registration, why not stop the sale of forms or give people the venues available and let them choose? I don’t think these leaders even care about the citizens.
“All they care about is money. Imagine a state coordinator was asked if the phone number used in registering can be replaced and she had no clue and claimed that she would get someone to call the parent back with details but this was never done”.