The 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, is set to take place as from May 13 to May 20. It was initially scheduled to hold on May 6. An estimated number of 1.2 million candidates who are expected to sit for the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, are worried over the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board’s (JAMB) readiness to conduct the tests that have been re-scheduled for May 13 to May 20.
Confidence has been low since Mock exams that were meant to test the readiness of JAMB and its facilities for the exams were suddenly suspended. JAMB Registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, in a subsequent statement, blamed the unreadiness of its technical partners for the suspension.
“Meanwhile, the Mock Examination earlier slated for Saturday, April 8, 2017, has been put on hold. This is because the appropriate rehearsal and test-running of the new system [have] been substantially achieved. The plan was to trial-test the readiness of our facilities and addresses the challenges that may likely confront the main examination,” Oloyede said.
The technical problems that led to the suspension of the mock exams echoed the myriad of challenges encountered by candidates during the registration process.
Candidates complained of the tedious registration process, which starts with creating an online profile on JAMB’s website, to making payments at the bank for the online form, after which a pin is generated for the candidate. Finally, the candidate proceeds to a computer based test centre for biometric registration.
Two prospective female candidates were reported to have fainted at JAMB’s Niger state zonal office during a stampede. In another instance, two young boys were said to have engaged in fisticuffs over registration forms.
The process was also characterised by crowded banks, slow internet connection; the inability of some students to have their biometric data captured also delayed registration. As a result, many students took as much as two weeks to complete their registration.
At different gatherings, the JAMB registrar had reiterated the board’s readiness to conduct a seamless and stress-free examination. To achieve this, it introduced measures that it hopes will strengthen the process. In a bid to make candidates more comfortable using the computer based test, CBT, it introduced an eight key device that eliminates the use of a mouse.
At the opening ceremony of Strategic Planning Retreat on Monitoring and Supervision of 2017 UTME in Kaduna, Professor Oloyede said the eight-key device would eradicate the challenge of computer illiteracy and phobia for mouse by some candidates.
According to him, “From the general feedback on the adoption of the Computer Based Test mode, we have noted the challenge of computer, low-level literacy of some candidates, especially with the phobia for the mouse. This has been [partly responsible] for the call by some people for a reversal to the Paper and Pencil Test mode.”
“In order to ensure equity and level playground for all candidates taking Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, the board has designed a system that will allow candidates use only eight keys without the use of a mouse.
“All the candidates need to do is to press the letters A, B, C, and D for responses to questions and keys: P, N, S and R representing previous question, next question, submit and reverse, respectively, ” he said.
It may seem JAMB has moved on from the chaotic registration that it administered but the main hurdle is ahead. The UTME is the litmus test.
Candidates and the public will be nervous about the new system that has not been extensively tested for weakness. Although, JAMB believes that the 650 CBT centres approved for the exams will deliver a smooth exercise. Many candidates will hope that the eight-key device, internet connection and a possibly faulty registration process will not cut short their dreams of getting admitted into higher institutions around the country.
There are still about two weeks away from the exams, which is enough time for the board, its technical partners and other stakeholders in the educational sector to put their affairs in order in preparation for the UTME.