The Joint Admissions Matriculation Board, JAMB, conducted another admissions test for its Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) candidates on 18 June, 2011.

As always, it was another season of JAMB‘s unpreparedness, a season of confusion, a season of arrogant and monopolistic high-handedness, a season of high administrative failure of a very high proportion, a season of anomie.

If the truth must be told, the reign of confusion and administrative recklessness in JAMB became worse during the few years of Prof. Dibu Ojerinde’s administration. It is a common trait in Nigerian administrators to pretend to effect changes in the system by bringing systemic innovations into such government institutions. This leads to award of contracts to bring in these new facilities and you will be shocked to discover that these contracts have been awarded on percentage sharing basis. And when faulty or decrepit equipment are delivered, moral authority has been weakened by complicity and so the system degenerates into chaos and confusion. The forgoing situation aptly describes Prof. Ojerinde’s biometric equipment. In most centres these machines were a cog in the wheel of progress as they were abandoned due to their disruptive rather than positive contribution. The Prof. should be grilled to throw the bidding process for the purchase of the biometric machines to public scrutiny. Nigerians are well known for importing 19th century European equipment into a 21st century Nigeria. The bank ATM machine is another good example here. JAMB should also be made to refund cost of writing materials to all candidates who wrote the 2011 UTME. This is because no writing material was supplied by JAMB contractors. The non-supply of writing materials by JAMB created a mental shock and disequilibrium for those candidates who did not know about this development before the examination day.

JAMB charges an exorbitant fee of N4,500 for its 1.5 million candidates. Government’s anti-corruption agencies must storm JAMB and unearth this grand scale corruption and ensure equitable refund of candidates’ unspent money to them. After all this is a new era of a government that’s anti-corruption, upholds probity and accountability. In 1978 when JAMB was introduced, forms were given out free as JAMB returned candidate’s postal orders in their envelopes. Forms were sold for N550 in subsequent years. That was the era of the pioneering JAMB Registrar Mr. Michael Angulu. Mr. Angulu belongs to the ‘’old school’’ of Nigerians who believe in probity rather than sudden wealth (and death) through corruption. And in 1986 Prof. Abdul Rahaman increased JAMB fees to N1,650 which was then consistent with the inflationary rate of that period. But N4,500 per candidate is by no means justifiable considering the fact that candidates are not getting their money’s worth and that government’s subvention to JAMB runs into billions annually. Prof. Ojerinde’s increase of JAMB fees to N4,500 is unjustifiable. JAMB’s nonchalance and over-confidence in governments’ disinterestedness in calling it to order could in the long run be its greatest undoing.

The massive failure in JAMB 2011 is enough to make a nation with men of good conscience weep uncontrollably for the future of their young generation. Or have Nigerians become so inured to suffering and deprivation after decades of unmitigated bastardisation by our insensitive and corrupt leadership? Or is it a question of ‘what touches me not, bothers me not’?

This mass failure was as a result of several reasons including lack of basic necessary materials like calculators for students writing mathematics, physics, and chemistry in JAMB. Candidates were forced to solve these intricate questions manually instead of through the calculator as provided for by JAMB. I bet some Professors in the sciences will flunk JAMB if given the time wasting option of manual calculation.

Other reasons for mass failure include the cumbersome biometric screening procedure which delayed so many candidates from starting on time. In most centres, the biometric screening device was abandoned as it became too epileptic and burdensome.

After such a rigorous and stressful screening by JAMB, candidates were bound to show signs of psychological fatigue and trauma which is another good cause of failure in examinations,

Another cause of mass failure is JAMB’s inefficiency and inability to mark scripts thoroughly before releasing results. What credit does JAMB get for releasing results just three days after the examination only to withhold – release and then finally cancel the same result?

JAMB has exploited unilateralism which is one of the characteristics of a monopoly. Who will challenge JAMB? Who will call JAMB to order? Are the top officials in the Ministry of Education not aware of this fetid mess going on in JAMB? Of course, they are, but JAMB has taken care of all of them – a la Nigeriana.

JAMB withholds, releases, reduces and cancels results as it wishes and no supervisory body calls it to order.

Does JAMB realise the holistic implications of its actions, inactions, its omissions and commissions?

The ambition of young students are thwarted and destroyed just like that as a result of JAMB’s inefficiency and corruption. These children are thereby frustrated, confused and therefore derailed into criminal tendency and so the national crime rate swells.

So many lives of these young and ambitious candidates are lost through road accidents while travelling to long distances to write their UTME examinations. One of the most ridiculous cases was in the 2010 UTME when a candidate claimed she was assigned to Alimosho Grammar School in Egbeda – Lagos from Cross River State where she resided.

On a yearly basis, Nigeria has lost so many citizens to JAMB’S outrageous logistics. Apart from death, so many students are robbed, raped, maimed and dehumanised in the shanty accommodation such candidates can afford. In this regard, Lagos is mostly affected as Lagos sites are shut so early and candidates are posted to Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun States and even beyond. JAMB can redress this anomaly by opening new centres in Lagos. Creating more centres in Lagos will be to JAMB’s advantage, as this will optimise utilization of resources rather than dissipating energy and resources to so many small towns and villages.

Also, the economy of a nation plummets when its students are denied basic and fundamental educational skills and opportunities. This is so, because skilled labour is one of the parameters of the technological growth and take off of a nation. A nation’s educational progress determines its economic. Political, democratic and social advancement in the assessment of the International community. Hence the late American President John F. Kennedy said “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education”.

Nigeria is not the only country in the world where candidates and even their teachers cheat during examinations.

In a report released in America on Monday 4th July 2011, 178 teachers and principals were involved in systemic cheating in 48 schools in Atlanta (Georgia) alone. 82 of these teachers and principals confessed to their interrogators. In Washington DC alone 103 public schools were accused of manipulating students’ results. The punishment for these teachers like pay cut and demotion was meted out to the teachers caught in the act. This cheating spree is a phenomenon in many states in America.

But in Nigeria, the sins of a few candidates are visited on every candidate in the hall because JAMB is too nonchalant and lazy to look for the offending candidates.

Rather than enhance and accelerate the educational advancement of young Nigerian students, JAMB has over the years frustrated and destroyed the bright dreams of millions of young Nigerians and turned their search for theproverbial golden fleece into a regrettable odyssey.

My painful submission and verdict is that JAMB should be scrapped not because Prof. Dibu Ojerinde has no clues to JAMB’s problems, not because the officials and supervisory ministry are smiling at the expense of Nigeria’s compliant and complacent masses, but because JAMB has destroyed the dreams and lives of so many young and ambitious Nigerians.

In its stead, the Federal Government should consult with other West African countries and set up a West African Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (WAJAMB) with headquarters in Accra-Ghana.

WAJAMB like West African Exams Council (WAEC) will perform creditably well. Over the years I have observed that WAEC has been inured from the putrid corruption that reeks in every Nigerian Office. This is mainly because WAEC’s head office is in Accra – Ghana. Of course, when the head is healthy the trickle–down effect on the whole body will be obvious. I am yet to see a Nigerian public office that is so isolated from corruption like the National Office of WAEC in Nigeria.

WAJAMB will be a great infrastructure asset to the whole of West Africa. Nigerian students will have greater advantage and opportunities in the whole of West Africa as against our internally limited options. Other West African countries will also be happy to have optimal capacity for their under utilized universities while also enjoying better academic facilities in our Nigerian universities.

A cross fertilization of intellectualism and experiences could flourish in the West African regional community if the ideas and of WAJAMB are further expanded to form a West African Universities Commission (WAUC).

WAUC will encourage a generation of intellectualism between Nigeria and her smaller neighbours like Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire etc.

WAUC will also expose and expand the corps of intellectualism into a broader and all embracing regional intellectual community of West African states.

An inter-university co-operation in West Africa will also direct the exodus of Nigerian professors from America to the smaller West African universities which will in turn lead to an intellectual renaissance in the West African community.

If the options are not acceptable to government, then we should revert to the pre–1978 status –quo of universities admitting candidates of their choice. Admission into universities then was a lot easier than the cumbersome procedures candidates now have to undergo, and in most cases, end up not not securing the admission after all the stress.

 

•Ben Nanaghan wrote this article from Lagos. E-mail: Ben Nanaghan@yahoo.com