Point Of Order With Nonso Ezeani: JAMB And The New Wave Of Exam Fraud

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The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board was established by law under decree No 2 of 1978 as amended by section 5 of decree 33 of 1989 with a mandate to conduct entrance exams for secondary school leavers and other Nigerians desirous of obtaining placements into institutions of higher learning – Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, Colleges of Educations and other specialized institutions. Amongst other things, the creation of the board caused there to be a unified and acceptable standard for examinations to be administered on persons seeking admissions into tertiary institutions.

At some point in the life of the board, during the tenure of Professor Chinwe Nora Obaji as Education Minister, an idea was initiated for the introduction of what is now known as Post-UTME screening exam. At the time of its inception it was merely called Post JAMB screening. This exam fell within the purview of tertiary institutions whose responsibility it became to conduct the said examinations. Yours sincerely was among pioneer admission seekers that attempted the Post-UTME exams in Pavillion 2, at the University of Calabar, (UNICAL), Nigeria. This was after the idea had received the nod of the Nigerian Senate.

In recent time, the JAMB in its bid to enhance the quality of it exams developed a computer based test system. This system advocates a shift from the paper based test system which is becoming fast obsolete. It is important I state here that during the periods when the paper based test system was the adopted standard, incidences of fraud and misconducts were reported in several centres where examinations were scheduled to hold. Incidences of acts of fraud and misconducts in this circumstances included but were not limited to leakage of exam questions before exam dates (this is usually in connivance with dubious staff of the exam body), candidates going to attempt exams with already answered questions, candidates bribing invigilators to allow them enter exam halls with materials related to the papers they are attempting at the time. In some cases, persons not meant to attempt the exams (mercenaries) were paid to write exams for candidates that had originally applied for the said exams. The list is endless but for space constraints, I shall limit this discourse to the highlighted few.

The fact that results used to take as much as 90 days before they are released back then provided some dubious elements with sufficient leeway which to a very significant extent enhanced their nefarious activities. Fraudulent persons would usually catch into this opportunity to perpetrate their fraudulent activities on a higher dimension. Such activities included swapping already submitted scripts with fresh ones before they are marked and released subsequently.  This and many more anomalies the computer based test system have emerged to address. As noble as this development is, a major setback it has suffered is a form of apathy on the part of prospective candidates, many of whom were never opportune to be exposed to computers in their formative years in secondary schools. As a result of this situation, students still prefer the old method of shading answer booklets with HB pencils.

While I understand that the JAMB have embarked on some form of orientation aimed at preparing the mind of these students for this shift that will occur eventually, heads of school and owners of private tuitions service centres many of whom are not accredited by relevant government agencies  and exam bodies have capitalized on this new development to perpetrate a new kind of exam shadow fraud. The trend these days is that such Heads of schools approach their allies in both the exam body and commercial banks. The deal is brokered thus; they request to purchase application forms in bulk at government controlled price of N4, 500.00 only. They hoard these documents, and when officially exhausted, they release them in piecemeal to students at mark-up prices ranging between N5, 500.00 to N7, 000.00 depending on demand at each material point in time. As exam dates draw near, the prices of the forms increase as well. It was even reported to me few days ago that a certain lad who was always around to assist my parents service their power generating sets purchased his application form for N15, 000.00. I was alarmed and instantly commissioned a member of my immediate family who is more familiar with that fellow than myself, to help interview him with a view to finding out the truth about the rumour. The rumour emerged to be true. In fact, it was further confirmed that the fellow had also paid to be supported during the exam which he was also assured will be based on the pencil and paper shading system.

I queried further and more revelations emerged, prominent of which were:

1.That currently, there are no exam centres available in Lagos any more. Indeed, I am aware that two persons that registered to attempt the exams in Lagos State ended up been posted to centres in Ikot Ansa, Cross River and Ijebu Ode, Ogun States respectively in a manner that I am yet to fully comprehend as I write.

2.That forms are currently not on sale any more in banks, leaving prospective buyers in the mercy of school heads, cyber cafe operators, owners of private tuition centres and in some cases JAMB officials who now decide how much the forms will be sold for; and 

3.That where forms are bought and sold, school heads, cyber cafe operators and  owners of private tuition centres advice students to delay submission of such forms to give way for the JAMB to exhaust the 80% slot (I was told) it had allocated for the computer based test system.

The above scenarios are frightening not just because they are deliberate attempts to make the computer based test system fail but because more than ever, young Nigerians are being given an impression that ours is a society where the methods employed to achieve an aim doesn’t matter so long as that aim is eventually achieved. The schools are not concerned that the introduction of the computer based test system has exposed them as analogue institutions still operating in a digital environment. What they would rather spend more time and resources doing is to provide their already half-backed graduates with a way out of their current predicament. What will be the case if those set of students were to write aptitude test for job openings?

The banks cannot be absolved from this trend. Why on planet earth will a Nigerian walk into a banking hall and request over the counter to purchase say 50 copies of JAMB application form and worse still such person will be attended to? I’m yet to find an appropriate adjective with which the attitude of the bank in this regard can be qualified but it is noteworthy that it be pointed out to them and their allies that this is a clear act of economic sabotage and should be discontinued forthwith. The management of the exam board should rise to this occasion and make strong efforts to put a stop to this dangerous trend that is gradually gaining ground in society even though I am at a loss as to why secondary school leavers some of whom use BlackBerry devices, iPhone and other exotic communication tools are suddenly afraid of mere computers.

As a matter of national interest, the National Assembly should beam it searchlight in the direction of these unscrupulous elements. Legislations should be enacted to curb their excesses. This will better empower our security agents to go all out against them. I am of the opinion that while it seems more attention is been paid to tertiary education, our secondary education is gradually allowed to rot. How then will University graduates not be half baked when the tertiary institutions are suffered to mould from the scratch students that ordinarily should have had an element of orientation from home?

My stake in project Nigeria and my patriotic obligation to the Federal Republic of Nigeria have made it necessary that I said this much.

Follow me on twitter @NonsoEzeani1.

Ezeani, Chukwunonso Elvis is the Convener, Friends of Nigeria; the Green Group. He writes in from Victoria Island, Lagos.

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