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Despite JAMB’s cut down on malpractices, challenges remain

These malpractices usually manifest through theft of question papers, smuggling in notes or textbooks

JAMB has taken a number of steps in ensuring that the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) is free of malpractices. With introduction of technology, though, drastically reduced, candidates have not ceased to explore ways of breaking the board’s efforts, Daily Trust reports on the efforts and challenges so far.

Over the years, the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) has been faced with the challenge of cheating by students during exams. Some candidates use all means available to cheat in the examination to get the required cut off marks to gain admission into the university.

These malpractices usually manifest through theft of question papers, smuggling in notes or textbooks, use of mercenaries and in some cases impersonation. This is even as the cheating is sometimes done in collaboration with officials, teachers, invigilators and parents.

In the quest to achieve efficient record keeping and eliminate manual registration, as well as tackle the rate of exam malpractices resulting from poor monitoring, the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) went digital by introducing the use of electronic system of registration in 2007 and Computer Based Test (CBT) in 2015, a process that enables candidates to register and write the UTME online.

The e-registration has over the years been modified for better and seamless conduct of the examination; though it is still challenged with fraudulent centre operators and poor network.

Explaining the processes, the Head of Public Relations and Protocol of JAMB, Dr Fabian Benjamin, said there are two basic phases to exam malpractice; the registration process and the examination proper. Basically, the examination starts at the point of registration.

“What we have done is to tighten the rope around registration. We introduced biometric at the point of registration and National Identification Number (NIN) and the process of sending candidates’ details to 55019 USSD code,” he said.

He said they introduced the NIN to check identity thief, impersonation and malpractice so that someone else cannot write exams for another person.

The biometric ensures that whoever is captured at the point of registration must be the same person writing the examination.

“Initially, JAMB relied on the use of passport photographs brought by the candidate for identification. That has now changed as “the photo must be snapped at the point of registration,” said Benjamin.

When candidates come to the examination proper, before they go into the examination hall, their biometric must authorize their entry and their questions, and “if anyone who is not the right candidate enters the hall, she/he cannot have access to the questions.”

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras have also been introduced “in all our over 700 centres to cover every nook and cranny of the centres” in such a way they monitor what is happening at the centres during examination, the JAMB spokesman said.

The footage from the exam is reviewed by officials to confirm there was no incident during the exams. Thus, JAMB has managed to bring down incidences of exam malpractices in Nigeria.

Another innovation against exam cheating is the individualization of the questions such that candidates may be writing for the same course but their questions are different.

Also, JAMB has banned parents from going to examination centres with their wards, suspended the use of email for registration and delisted 100 centres between 2020 and 2021 for infractions in registration and examination malpractice.

Since “these innovations (CBT) started, malpractice dropped drastically to less than 0.3 per cent and as we progressed, by last year, we were hovering around 0.01 per cent.”

Despite the progress made in digitizing the conduct of exam and reduction of malpractices, the board continues to witness challenges in the e-registration process as candidates find it very rigorous.

A candidate who simply gave her name as Maureen said she started the process of registration for JAMB last week Monday but up to Thursday, she was yet to complete it due to network problems.

“I am doing my registration in Mararaba, Nasarawa State. Up till now, I have not been able to do my fingerprint capturing; they keep saying there is a network problem from the JAMB office,” she said.

Maureen, while speaking to Daily Trust, said the registration officers kept telling them that the problem was from the board and that she had to return the following day, Friday, to try again.

Another candidate, Chibuike, who registered in Jikwoyi (FCT, Abuja) said it took him time to understand the registration process because he was unaware of the new processes like sending NIN to a code before buying the form.

“I had to call my aunt who made enquiries for me and told me how to go about it before I was able to start the process. It took me two days to complete my registration,” he said.

“But my cousin is not so lucky. He has been going there for three days but is yet to complete his registration. I hope there won’t be network issues on the day of the examination,” he said.

Meanwhile, a parent who does not want to be mentioned said CBT Centre owners appear to be frustrating JAMB’s laudable efforts.

He said his daughter started the registration at a centre in Central Area, Abuja and completed it after three days due to poor network or absence of network entirely. Yet there was a mistake in the printout.

The father, who expressed his disappointment with the centre, said his daughter’s state of origin was changed and when she complained, she was told that she had to go to JAMB office later to correct it.

“She wants to study Law and was told the school she chose is not offering Law and instead of allowing her to pick another school, they asked for her second choice of course and printed Mass Communication for her,” he said.

Speaking on the e-registration process, a student of the University of Abuja, Ferdinand Kenneth, said during his registration in 2019, he only faced the challenge of a crowded centre.

He said after spending hours waiting; “someone came to my rescue by helping me to get inside and get registered.”

“I did not face any network problem or wrong details in my form as some people had,” he said.

An educationist, Yussuff Oriyomi, said the processes adopted by JAMB are commendable and had reduced malpractices.

He explained that the challenge used to be the exam special centres before the introduction of CBT, but that has been significantly curbed.

On the instruction of NIN, he said: “Candidates are to register with their unique NIN and don’t often know their exam centres until close to the exam. This is a big check to exam malpractice in urban areas, but candidates in rural areas have to come to the urban centres for the examinations.”

He noted that given the prevailing sorry state of insecurity, kidnapping and banditry, it’s a huge risk for candidates from the rural areas. “And due to their low familiarity with the use of computer, this may slightly affect their performance in the UTME.”

Challenges faced the board

Speaking on the challenges faced by the board, the spokesman, Dr Benjamin, said candidates’ desperation to cheat despite all the measures they have put in place remained worrisome.

“People are still trying to see how they can cheat one way or the other and we keep arresting candidates who keep trying to break our rules to see if what we are doing is working,” he said.

He said as much as they are delivering and countries are coming to Nigeria to understudy the system, “Nigerians do not believe that a system can be as pure as we have come to be. That is a challenge and most times we do not get the kind of support that we are supposed to get.”

You can put a lot of technology to man the place but if the man who is put in charge does not have a patriotic heart some funny things would be done.

Meanwhile, the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, recently disclosed how the board is tackling the cases of those caught involved in malpractices and other vices.

He said more than 400 persons were involved in impersonation in the 2020 UTME.

Oloyede said the board would spend at least N500,000 to prosecute each case which amounted to a total of N200 million.

As humans remain the weakest link, despite the technological advancement, the importance of adequate infrastructure to support the effort of the board cannot be overemphasised. A good case in point is the epileptic power supply which hinders the effective functioning of the CCTV cameras.

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