The 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which ended last week was greeted with a tornado of criticisms. The marks scored by thousands of candidates were too low and many of them disowned the results.
Of the 1,546,633 candidates who sat for the 2016 UTME, 145,704 had issues of multiple results. A good example is that of a 17-year-old girl in Ejigbo, Lagos State, who scored 156 in the first result but got 196 in another result that was later issued. This is an incontrovertible proof of JAMB’s inconsistency, ineptitude and unreliability.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) therefore declares the 2016 UTME exercise as a colossal fiasco, a monumental scandal and a national embarrassment.
In particular, we denounce the timing of examinations as candidates were forced to start in examination centers from 6.30 am in compliance with JAMB time table. This arbitrary timing is also responsible for the absence of a whopping 23,577 candidates on the day of the examination.
In a country where power supply is epileptic and security of lives and properties cannot be guaranteed, this is strange, shocking, callous, insensitive and irrational. The examination body unnecessarily exposed our young ones and our future leaders to danger. Some candidates allegedly lost their belongings when they were attacked by hoodlums on their way to the examination centers.
While we commend JAMB for the quick release of results, we affirm that this was the examination body’s only achievement this year. The exercise was an abysmal failure in every other area. The fact that the House of Representatives has already condemned the exercise reveals the grave and nationwide concern it has generated.
JAMB’s rescheduling of examination for 59,000 candidates in 15 states, which the board announced yesterday, is an admission of its gross inefficiency. The board said it relocated 59,000 candidates in 15 states because of problems in some of the centres. This excuse does not hold any water. Neither can it extenuate JAMB’s culpability in the fiasco.
We are constrained to reject the exclusion of those who were absent on the day of the examination from the rescheduled seating. We contend that JAMB caused the ‘absence’ of such a large number of candidates due to its arbitrary timing as it made it very difficult for candidates to reach the center at such an unholy hour. Also, some parents and wards were likely to have restrained their children from leaving their homes at that dangerous time.
In addition, it has come to our knowledge that many hijab-wearing female Muslim candidates were either turned back at the examination centers or forced to remove their hijab before being allowed to enter.
We opine that even those allowed into the examination halls after being so harassed had been made to lose their orientation. Thus they were not in the right frame of mind to take an examination. Non-Muslim religious extremists usually do this to female Muslims to give adherents of their own faith an advantage over Muslims in the area of education.
For example, a religiously fanatical policewoman on official duty forcefully removed the hijab from the head of a 16-year old Muslim girl at the JAMB examination center located at the Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa, Ogun State, flung the hijab on the dirty floor and warned her not to dare pick it up! How could the little girl perform well in the examination after such an emotional disturbance?
This barbaric attack on an innocent girl occurred during the examination slated for 6.30 am on Saturday, 12th March, 2016. The poor girl had travelled all the way from her home in Festac, Lagos, the previous day, slept somewhere in Igbesa (more than fifty kilometers from home), only to be intimidated by a bully policewoman who should also be a mother of some kids somewhere. It is didactic that the JAMB result of the poor girl (an hitherto brilliant student) came out woeful as she scored below 200.
JAMB’s poor conduct of this year’s examination has also sparked off demonstrations in Lagos as thousands of candidates who sat for the exercise converged on the Lagos State House of Assembly four days ago (Tuesday 15th March, 2016). It has never been this bad and since the whole exercise exemplifies an aptitude test for JAMB itself, the national examination body can only be said, in all fairness, to have scored F9.
Going down history lane, we recall the decision of Nigerian universities to start conducting their own independent post-JAMB examinations. This decition was informed by public loss of confidence in the UTME exercise, JAMB’s inadequacies, its flawed examination policies, alleged corrupt practices among both its permanent and ad hoc staff and its arbitrary award of marks. JAMB’s word had become law until the universities decided to cut its wings. The rest is history today.
MURIC hopes that JAMB is amenable to correction. This is March and there is still time for the examination board to make amends before the demonstrations spread and before activists start getting the idea to #OccupyJAMB. Nigerian legislators are also waiting in the wings to put the final nail in JAMB’s coffin.
Cancelling the last exercise will certainly come with heavy financial implication. The examination body may not be able to afford this. We therefore suggest as follows:
1. JAMB should consider giving extra 25 points each to all candidates across the board in view of the fact that undermarking is the major flaw in the last exercise.
2. Future examinations conducted by JAMB should take the safety of candidates into consideration by starting around 9 am at the earliest.
3. Candidates should be given the option of taking computer-based or written tests using paper and pen.
4. Ad-hoc staff must be properly briefed and must not stop religious profiling of hijab-wearing female Muslim candidates.
5. JAMB results should be valid for three years.
6. The examination body should coopt security experts to its planning committees when preparing for examinations.
In view of the abysmal failure of this year’s UTME, we urge universities within the country to lower their cut-off points and rely more on their internally conducted post-JAMB examinations for admitting students into their various programmes.
In the event of JAMB turning deaf ears to this public outcry, we appeal to the Ministry of Education to wade into the matter, scrap the examination body and allow individual universities to admit students based on internally conducted entrance examinations, interviews, West African Examination Council (WAEC), General Certificate of Education (GCE) and other relevant results.
Finally, we charge the Inspector General of Police to investigate, fish out and punish the erring policewoman who maltreated the hijab-wearing female Muslim candidate at Igbesa. This should not be too difficult as the time and place of occurrence can be used to identify the police team which was on duty at that point in time. The oppressed female candidate has further described the policewoman who attacked her as tall, huge and dark in complexion.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)