The postponed 2015 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, billed to commence yesterday, nationwide, was again marred by some hiccups over the failure of internet servers as well as failure of the biometric machines to capture candidates’ thumb-prints and other data at some centres.
Another controversy which emerged was the complaints raised by candidates who registered for the UTME in Lagos State, but were posted to neighbouring states of Osun, Ogun and Kwara to write the examinations.
This development it was learned was as a result of shortage of Computer-Based Test, CBT centres in Lagos State to cater for the huge number of candidates billed to write the exams.
According to the Public Relations Officer of Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB, Mr. Benjamin Fabian, Over 1.4 million candidates will be writing this year’s UTME across 400 CBT centres nationwide.
According to reports from the University of Nigeria, UNN, Nsukka, Enugu State, where the UMTE was held at the Department of Economics, the first batch of candidates who were expected to start the examinations did not start until at about 3.30 pm due to lack of the internet.
Thousands of candidates who travelled from different areas to the centre waited endlessly. JAMB officials who were on hand asked candidates for batch two who were to write their own from 10 am to wait so that they would not come back on Friday for the CBT.
It was however, a success story at Oko Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State, where the institution had earlier established a CBT centre with about 2000 computers. The initial problems of lack of internet servers were rectified by some JAMB officials before the first batch started. About 24,000 candidates would write the examination in the school during the 10 days that the test would last.
This year’s UTME was initially slated to commence on Monday, March 9, but following some logistics problems, the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, JAMB, shifted the examination till yesterday.
However, despite the shift in date, which JAMB said was to allow it put its house in order, Vanguard gathered from some of the centres in Lagos, that the hitches persisted.
At the Island Computer College, XYZ Plaza, centre in the Ajah area of Lagos, candidates who showed up at the centre as early as 7.00am, could not begin their exams, as the College was said to be fixing its internet server which encountered technical problems.
The delay led to agitation by the candidates and their parents who had accompanied them to the centre. Save for the timely intervention of some police men and JAMB officials, the centre would have been thrown into confusion.
Similarly, at Chams City in Ikeja, the examination for the first batch billed to commence by 8am could not start until around 9am. Efforts by Vanguard to speak with exam officials proved abortive as none was ready to speak to the press over the issue.
This delay, it was observed forced hundreds of candidates for the second session to loiter around the Isaac John Street, where the centre is located.
At the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Akoka, there were about four candidates whose thumbprint did not match with what the exam body had on its database.
However, since other data provided by them during registration for the exams were correct, supervisors at the centre allowed them to be screened based on the exemption mode. This was even as three of the four visually impaired candidates expected to participate in the examination yesterday, showed up.
Some parents whose children or wards registered for the examination in Lagos State but were posted to neighbouring states to write the examinations lamented that they had to pay more for travel and hotel bills over alleged incompetence of JAMB.
Also, at the Certified Institute of Shipping, CIS, Magbon in Badagry, candidates who went to the examination centre yesterday morning, were said to still be at the hall as at 7.25pm, when an aggrieved parent called our correspondent on telephone to complain over the situation.
According to the parent, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Adeola, “When the candidates arrived the exam centre this morning, they were told that JAMB provided the centre with just 250 laptops. Of these, only 150 were confirmed to be functional that morning. Following this development, the candidates were divided into two batches. While the first batch was to begin their exams by 7am, the second batch was billed to commence by 10am.
“But as I speak with you, the first batch and the second batch neither wrote the exams, as the JAMB officials in the centre complained that the centre’s server had been down since morning. What is more worrisome is that officials of this centre have failed to address the candidates and we the parents, instead, the candidates have been locked inside the examination hall since morning without writing the exams.”
Adeola then urged the JAMB authorities, to cancel the examination and fix new dates, when they (JAMB) must have completely put its house in order.
However, reacting to the development, former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, NUC, Prof. Peter Okebukola, who lauded JAMB’s Registrar, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, for initiating the total CBT format for the 2015 UTME, however blamed the problems which marred the commencement of the exams in some centres on teething logistic problems.
Okebukola said: “I am sure this must be for logistical reasons and to ensure that candidates are best served in the most conducive environment to conduct a computer-based test. The technology has to be right. The security and surveillance against cheating has to be right. The power supply has to be right. The overall ambience of the environment has to be conducive for the candidate. To satisfy all these conditions next door for every UTME candidate is like asking for the moon.
“I suspect that transfer of candidates from one state to the other does not mean moving candidates from Oyo to Borno or to Rivers. It could mean the next contiguous state where facilities are more available. This may just be a few kilometres, perhaps less than 10 kilometres. We pray for journey mercies for all candidates. By the way, candidates for some international examinations travel to Ghana from Nigeria to take the exams in the approved centres. In all of these, every pioneering activity comes with its challenges. If you have to wait for utopian conditions, you will never venture into new territories.”
Also, reacting to the low number of CBT centres nationwide, placed at 400, the former NUC boss, said: “I believe these are the centres that have met JAMB’s rigorous quality standards for now. It is important that the standards are met and maintained so that candidates will not use slips in the standards as excuse for their poor performance. As more centres meet these standards in the coming years, I believe there will be an expansion and increase in the number.”
Efforts to get in touch with JAMB’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Benjamin Fabian, to react to the controversies proved futile, as his telephone lines were switched off at press time.