By Owei Lakemfa
Never in the history of the country has a major examination body set a date for national examinations and been incapable of even producing the examination questions, not to talk about the examinations holding. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) headed by a professor not only failed to hold the Mock Examinations on April 8 in any part of the country, but also failed in all the courses leading to carrying out its sole assignment of conducting admissions into our tertiary institutions.
When I was in my final year in primary school preparing for the First School leaving certificate and admission into post-primary school, the teachers drummed it into our ears the trite that, “Pupils do not plan to fail, but fail to plan” In other words, that adequate preparation is vital for success. This primary lesson, JAMB, under the new management of Professor Is-haq Olarewaju Oloyede, is unable to imbibe.
As it set out to carry out its basic duties to our youths and the country, it failed to think through basic issues and steps. Mixing these with marked arrogance and inability to learn from experience, has been quite costly for the country. The Oloyede team came in eight months ago and went about trying to change things without any deep thought nor care about the consequences.
Our people say when a hen is put in new surroundings, it first puts down a foot, surveys his new environment, before letting the second down; not for the Oloyede team that rushed into places where angels refuse to tread. Oloyede, before the mess he has created became so manifest, had boasted at a public function in the University of Lagos: “We are in a period of change, and what that means is that everything we have been doing must be reviewed. Whatever we have been doing right will have to be reinforced while what we were doing wrong will be changed.”
First, he changed the service providers of JAMB who had been largely effective over the years, replacing them with new ones who could not even transmit questions to examination centres. When Oloyede said “The postponement of the UTME mock examination was due to failure from our technical partner” he did not tell the country that this was largely due to the irrational decisions of his administration.
Secondly, while in the past, prospective students could walk into a bank and purchase a JAMB form, a new procedure was introduced in which the candidate first creates a profile in the JAMB Site, then goes to the bank to pay after which he obtains an e-pin. As it turned out, obtaining an e-pin was very difficult for many candidates.
In a country with poor and low connectivity, it was not unlikely that there could be a congestion in the system. When this happened, and prospective candidates – some who had spent four days trying to register – cried out and begged for an extension of the March 20 –April 19 registration period, Oloyede arrogantly turned down the plea.
This brings me to my third point; that while JAMB in the past, had a three-month registration belt, Oloyode reduced the registration to one month! Common sense should have dictated that with the more cumbersome registration process and an increase in projected number of candidates from 1.4 million two years ago, to two million this year, the registration belt should not have been so tightened.
There are also other registration requirements which should have been reviewed. For instance, prospective candidates are required to have personal phones and personal electronic mail address. If as parents, we discourage our children in boarding houses or in post-primary schools from using or owning phones, why should JAMB make them compulsory? The same for e-mail since this can open them to sites which may not be good for the underage. Given the cumbersome and stressful registration process, the House of Representatives also made a case for an extension which JAMB ignored until it was faced with the backlash of its failure to hold the Mock Examinations. In all these, I wonder whether JAMB is putting into consideration the rural areas which lack connectivity and where electricity supply, maybe a rarity. Are prospective JAMB candidates from such rural areas not already subjected to an obstacle course far more challenging than their counterparts in the urban centres?
An incident made me reflect on the ability of Oloyede to read a situation. In the midst of the confusion, stress, frustration and anger of the prospective candidates – with many pushing themselves in barely organized queues – he choose to carry out an ‘inspection’ of the mess his administration had created. I wonder what would have happened if the frustrated youths had decided to confront him.
I had the same feeling when as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, rather than solve the academics-administration crises created by his predecessor, he dived headlong into it. Consequently, he spent his tenure fighting battles he had not initiated.
I had cause two years ago to criticize JAMB under Professor Jibu Ojerinde, but it was not for marked incompetence. Rather, it was due to moves to railroad candidates into private universities. I had also argued that the country has no need for a central admission body. I still hold the view that tertiary institutions whether owned by the Federal or State governments or privately- owned, should conduct their own admission.
There is a sense Oloyede should not be blamed; his predecessor, Ojerinde is a professor of Tests and Measurement and Education Management coupled with many years experience; so in JAMB, he seemed a round peg in a round role. I have gone through the profile of Oloyede; he attended an Arabic Training Centre before proceeding to the University of Ibadan where he did a certificate course in Arabic and Islamic Studies. He then went to the University of Ilorin in 1978 where he has virtually spent all his life. There he got his first degree in Arabic Studies and doctorate in Islamic Studies rising to be the institution’s Vice Chancellor. To make Oloyede a round peg in JAMB, his square sides would need to be trimmed or chiseled; he also has to help himself by being reflective and more engaging than being haughty. Those responsible for appointing Oloyede the JAMB Registrar, including Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, also have a duty to ensure he performs, because his failure may have disastrous consequences for our youths and country.