Reports trailing the release of the 2010 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) indicated that out of 1.3million candidates that registered and sat for the examination, 82,000 did not have their results. In this interview with REPORTER Mike Ogbu, the Gombe State coordinator of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Murtala Alhaji Abdu, explains efforts of his office in ensuring that Gombe candidates understand the intricacies of the examination so as to make good results in subsequent UTME tests, among other issues

Your office is currently touring some senior secondary schools in the state. What is the essence of the tour?

Out of 1, 300, 000 candidates that registered and sat for UTME in 2010, 82,000 of them did not have their results. And this might be attributed to sheer negligence of instructions. It is against this background that we are going round some selected senior secondary schools to sensitise the candidates on the intricacies of the UTME, especially now that UTME registration is on and the UTME that will hold next year.

Is the sensitisation restricted to schools in the Gombe metropolis?

No. Schools in the rural areas are also included in the sensitisation.

How would you assess the response?

Principals and teachers of the schools we have visited are responding positively. The teachers are happy over the sensitisation because they are now kept in the know of the complexities of UTME.

Candidates who sat for UTME in 2010 in Gombe State were many. This was because many indigenes of the state were said to have been given JAMB forms free of charge by the state government. How would you react to this?

We are very happy to commend the efforts of the governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Dr. Danjuma Goje, and his lieutenants in the ministry of higher education, Alhaji Bala Magaji, as well as his directors who saw it fit to consider the purchase of the UTME forms, which were distributed free to Gombe State indigenes to assist them gain entry into tertiary institutions in Nigeria. These were done in two phases and we understood candidates were called to submit their applications with proof of eligibility for admission to tertiary institutions through their local government offices, opinion leaders, religious leaders and government functionaries. We are also happy to note with the novel programme brought up by the ministry of higher education called JAMB clinic, this is a programme aimed at rectifying or remedying the shortcoming of candidates with regards to the UTME. Most of these candidates were out of school for about one or two years within which they were out of touch with the academic environment. So government decided to do them a refresher course. Nine centres were established and competent teachers were recruited to coach these candidates to enable them pass the UTME favourably. We appreciate the foresight of the administration in bringing out the new agenda in education development in Gombe State.

Has the government done the same thing this year?

Yes. The government has ordered for forms and I have sent them to the Ministry of Higher Education for onward transmission to the candidates of the state origin desiring to write this year’s UTME.

The 2010 UTME was the first of its kind in Nigeria and was fraught with many problems. Can you comment on the problems?

We thank God it has come and gone and it was delivered successfully and we want to thank God for all the efforts being put in place by the Registrar of JAMB and his team for approving the release of results in just six days. Some of the issues we encountered during the examination and during the release of the result were the issue of candidates downloading their results reading zero or nil or some downloading their results reading some parts and other subjects not released. The results were released but the upload of data on candidates’ file was started immediately the registrar announced the result and on the same day in the evening, candidates started downloading their results but on the following day we saw large number of candidates coming out to show that their result slips downloaded were showing zero or nil. Most of our examination administrators who went out to conduct the examination reported one anomaly on the part of the candidates or the examination centre and the results were withheld for further screening. Some were withheld while some were cancelled and the registrar was already on this when he made the press statement. Now many of these candidates also had the problem of their results not being filled on the data net because they didn’t complete the registration on the internet, but then candidates were advised to come to JAMB office for further guidance and we were instructed to tell them to go and re-download in a week or two weeks’ time. Most of these cases were solved.

What are the strategies to guard against the trend occurring next year?

There is only one basic way that candidates should adhere to when they buy JAMB scratch card for online registration. They should strictly supervise the cyber café operators whether it is their friends or relations or somebody they are paying to do the registration for them. They should at least be close-by to ensure that the information being filled into the database before submission is correct and once it is submitted they should print out and ensure that it is exactly what they want and that it conforms with all the regulations, requirements and guidelines of the brochure because candidates look at the brochure as a very huge literature.

They don’t want to read it, they think they can go ahead and do it off-hand and therefore at the end of the day they make a lot of mistakes. Again during the examination candidates should make sure that they read the instructions on the question or answer papers given to them and if they are in doubt or confused, they are free to ask questions before the commencement of the exam. Again candidates should ensure that they do not leave their scratch cards with anybody or misuse them because we have seen a situation when pin numbers were stolen and were used for other candidates. A lot of technology has been developed to the extent that they can manipulate or forge many things in which they may refuse to submit one’s copy and then use the same pin numbers to register another person.