The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, for admission seekers into tertiary institutions kicked off nationwide, yesterday, with different experiences by candidates, their parents and guardians, who thronged the examination centres.
While some candidates were lucky to be posted to centres where things worked relatively well, others had tales of disappointments and frustration to tell.
At the Global Distance Learning Institute, opposite the Federal Ministry of Finance, Central Business District, Abuja, candidates who came out very early to write the first set of the examination, scheduled to start at 8 am, were disappointed, as they could not start at the scheduled time, even as they were all quietly seated ready for the exercise.
On enquiry, an invigilator at the centre, who simply gave his name as Rilwanu, explained that the time was shifted by an hour. He, however, did not state the reason for the shift.
According to the invigilator, the delay was not due to technical hitches but the need to wait for instructions from JAMB, so that the time would be in tandem with other centres.
One of the monitors at the centre, Abdulrahman Balogun, said he had been to several centres such as Jikwoyi, Karu and Distance Learning Institute, saying it was a success story.
He said: “This centre (Distance Learning Institute) is supposed to have three sessions at 7, 9 and 11 am, respectively. However, they had some delay; it was not due to technical hitches but just to get the go-ahead from JAMB.
From the record, the first session in this centre was supposed to have 200 candidates, but 183 were accredited, 16 absentees and one unverified. As you can see, the second batch is already waiting. In all, we have close to 99 per cent success in orderliness and arrangements. Everything is perfect.”
At CBT centres in Lagos
Our correspondent, who monitored the exam at the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, and the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Akoka, found that the conduct of the examination did not record any hitch.
The candidates were all ushered into the exam halls at the scheduled time and there was no power failure.
A parent at the LASU centre, who gave his name as Femi Michael, said though he had reports that some centres experienced a power failure, that did not happen at LASU.
“The university uses this CBT centre for some other things, including their own internal examinations and have put everything necessary in place. My child did not experience any difficulties in writing his papers.
“However, I am surprised that after conducting this examination for several years, the same set of issues and problems still exist in its conduct. By now, JAMB ought to have got over such teething problems such as power outages, sending candidates to far away centres, among others,” he stated.
The situation in Osun, Oyo states
In some of the centres visited in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, students were seen at the centres as early as 6:30 am as the first set of students started the computer-based test around 7 am.
Security operatives, particularly personnel of the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, checked in the students at Excellence Educational Centre, Ayekale, using their examination slips at 7 am.
Also, at the JAMB registration centre, Service Area, Osogbo, the environment was calm as security operatives were on the ground to ensure the peaceful conduct of the exercise.
One of the students, who spoke to Vanguard, said the exercise was hitch-free as the computer systems did not malfunction throughout the duration of the examination.
The coordinator of one of the centres, Usman Adebajo, said the centres used for the exercise both private and the ones owned by JAMB had been tested to ensure that their computers would stand the stress it could be subjected to, hence, the reason for the smooth exercise on day one.
Vanguard correspondent, who visited some centres in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, observed that candidates were checked into the examination halls through the use of Biometric Verification Machines.
However, some candidates who encountered hitches during the verification process stormed the Ibadan office of the Board.
Lamentations by parents, candidates
For some candidates who wrote the exam in some parts of Rivers State, it was not a palatable experience, as observed by our correspondent who visited Elele, Ikwerre Local Government Area, Rivers State.
They were left cursing and swearing as network glitches marred the exercise.
From 6.30 am when the network failure shut out the first set of candidates from taking the test, the sets for 9.30 am and 12.30 pm also failed to access the systems to take the examination.
One of the frustrated parents told Vanguard, “My son registered in Port Harcourt among the earliest candidates and to be candid, I never felt comfortable with the arrangement when his details printout mentioned Elele, two local government areas away from Port Harcourt where he registered.
“You won’t believe it, we had to come the night before and stayed in a hotel. We live in Port Harcourt and he was scheduled for the very first set at 6.30 am. I never knew JAMB of today fixes exams for as early as 6.30 am in centres far from a candidate’s place of residence.
“This morning, getting here much earlier before 6.30 am, the children have been made to wait, that there is a network failure they would rectify. But the sets of 9.30 am and 12.30 pm have come in to meet the same challenge. My neighbour has confirmed her daughter who wrote at a Port Harcourt centre has returned home. How frustrating can it get?”
After hours of waiting to no avail, one of the officials handling the centre told the gathering of edgy candidates and parents, “We will send you text messages on when you will be rescheduled to take your exams. You can all go home.”
Also lamenting the fate of his daughter, Akin Adewole, who resides in the Ipaja area of Lagos, said he was left speechless when he saw that his daughter was posted to a centre in Ekiti State.
“She was among the first set of candidates to register for the exam. When the candidates were asked to print out their centres at the weekend, I was not expecting what I got. She was posted to Ekiti State from Lagos here she registered. That is unfair and it is more expenses being incurred on transport, accommodation, and feeding among others,” he said.
Assurances by JAMB
When contacted on the plethora of challenges faced by candidates, the spokesman of JAMB, Dr Fabian Benjamin, said: “The candidates should just exercise patience. No one is going to lose out, we can assure them of that.
”If any candidate is unable to write his or her paper because of system failure or any other factor from our end, we will reschedule such candidates for new dates.
“They will surely take the exam. We are working to ensure everything goes well. There is no cause for alarm.
”The Board is constantly working to improve the conduct of the exam, even though some factors are beyond our control.”
This year’s UTME is slated to end on May 3, this year with over 1.6 million candidates sitting for it. It was initially scheduled to begin on April 29 but was brought forward because of the need to conclude everything before the national population census to be conducted by the National Population Commission, NPC, and also the consideration for the conduct of the senior secondary school leaving certificate examinations to be conducted by the West African Examinations Council, WAEC and the National Examinations Council, NECO.