INTENTIONS, no matter how noble they may seem, are no longer enough as the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, would have discovered in its most recent conduct of examinations into universities.
JAMB is battling against a myriad of challenges. The most critical of them include candidates’ identification, examination malpractices, and adequacy of materials. JAMB tries to solve these problems with the uttermost convenience given to its own purposes.
Last Saturday, at various centres across the country, the same challenges popped up. JAMB expects to solve the problems the same way for every centre, without considering the diversity of the country or the extra demands that technology makes on situations.
The biometric identification system, introduced this year, was to deal with identification of candidates. For years, one of the different methods candidates used in cheating was to have others write the examinations for them. JAMB brought in biometrics without thinking of the effect on its clients — the 1.4 million candidates who registered for the examination.
Some of them could not take the examination because they discovered at their examination centres that the cybercafés where they did the biometric registration duped them. After paying N7, 000, some of the candidates complained, the cybercafés did not post the registration to JAMB.
Of course, JAMB has no responsibility to the candidates. The most sympathetic answer one of its officials gave the candidates was that they had to re-apply next year. JAMB adopted this technology with a surface reading of its benefits. It never thought some people could exploit candidates with it.
The biometric machines did not work at other centres and JAMB had to resort to manual identification of the candidates. The technology was untested and JAMB was experimenting with the future of the candidates, and they had to pay for JAMB toying with their lives.
Another inadequacy was in provision of writing materials. JAMB, to forestall cheating, charges candidates for writing materials and calculators, which it is supposed to provide at the centres. This year, there was a shortage of the materials.
How would that affect the chances of candidates in those centres? JAMB is not under any obligations to them over the lapses its operations created.
The way JAMB operates, it is above the law in its relationship with candidates. The few who have managed to sue it, even if successful in court, discover that their future is suspended while they sort out matters with JAMB.
It is the centrality of JAMB to the lives of our young people that makes the organisation to think only of its own convenience. Its innovative examination methods are useless if they only add to inconveniencies candidates face annually as they await JAMB directives.
Suggestions for the decentralisation of JAMB, or allowing universities to conduct their own examinations are becoming more strident more so as each university still conducts post-JAMB screening of candidates JAMB farms out to them.
JAMB obviously has its uses. However, it has to grow in its relations with candidates, who it now treats as some irritants that must be kept in their place. Until it does that, JAMB will remain among public institutions that serve themselves instead of the people.