By STEVE NWOSU —
(‘Frank Talk’ column on the back page of The Sun, Wednesday, June 28) —
Professor Ishaq Oloyede, Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), is not your archetypal Nigerian public servant. There is this transparency and openness to his style of administration that makes one wonder why our country is still in the mess it is, if public office was so easy to run.
I can’t honestly put his style down to the fact that Prof. is a devout Muslim and that we were having our latest encounter in the month of Ramadan. No! There are millions of others who profess the same faith but go on to commit the kind of atrocities that would leave the Devil himself green with envy.
Since he took over at JAMB, Prof. has never stopped telling anyone who cares to listen that there is a lot of money in JAMB – in fact, a lot more than the examination body actually needs.
I don’t know if the principalities and powers around JAMB would be happy with him, though.
Prof. Oloyede is presently toying with the idea of actually reducing the cost of JAMB’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) registration form to N2, 500, down from the current price of about N4, 700.
He says there is hardly anything the examination body wants to do (in the course of carrying out its statutory functions) that it does not have the money to do.
In fact, he revealed that JAMB recently paid about N5billion into the federal government account, as surplus accruals from the last sale of forms exercise.
Of course, some contractors and other service providers to the board have been kicking, and in some cases, blackmailing Oloyede (and his directors) for daring to review their contracts with JAMB and consequently slashing contract fees and breaking the seeming scratch card monopolies and racketeers that had hitherto held the board by the jugular.
In fact, at some point, one of the piqued contractors was believed to have actually sabotaged both JAMB’s registration process and the mock examination with which Jamb wanted to test the fidelity of its processes ahead of the last UTME.
Then, you’d want to ask: what had been happening to all this excess money before Oloyede happened on the scene?
I couldn’t ask Oloyede that question, but I was able to put two and two together.
I remember that one newspaper recently published a story about how Oloyede had silently recovered cash and property worth several billions of naira from some of his predecessors and staff. The report claimed that many of the affected officers had agreed to co-operate on the understanding that Oloyede would not escalate the matter to the anti-graft agencies.
Other public officers who find themselves in Oloyede’s position or head similar examination bodies would not only loot their own “internally generate revenue”, but they’ll go cap-in-hand to the federal government to ask for money to enable them conduct the exams. Some had even borrowed from the banks for the same process. Meanwhile, year after year, the system generated more money than the exam processes could ever gulp. What a country!
But this piece is not about Oloyede as much as it is about our new-generation mothers and the things they do in their desperation to give their kids a head-on in life. And maybe, brag to their friends that “my child is so brilliant”.
They have literally fouled up the system from top to bottom.
But, come to think of it, how come it’s mothers who always seem to go overboard on matters relating to their children’s education?
I, for one, without my wife’s prodding, would be just fine giving my 16-year-old his bus fare to the exam centre on Saturday. That was how we all went to write and pass our own JAMB exams. And the situation has not really changed. Or better still, it would not have changed if our wives did not insist on literally going to write the exam for our children. Thankfully, my own wife stops just where the child’s responsibility should begin. But not too many husbands are as lucky as I am.
A few years ago, my little daughter, who was barely nine years old then, came back from writing the entrance exam into Unity Colleges with unbelievable tales of how several “mummies gave the invigilators money” to allow their little children cheat.
She told me of how one ‘Uncle’ actually came into the hall to shade the answer sheet for the girl sitting next to her.
Another girl’s mummy was standing by the window and calling out the answers (to the multiple choice questions) to her own child, who had been deliberately seated near the window by conniving invigilators.
Surely, when mothers take to crime and unwholesome ways, the society instantly goes to the dogs.
As a sophomore in the university, I got the shock of my life in an exam hall (for a General Studies course) when a girl sitting next to me undid her blouse buttons all the way down. She had no bra on. She then folded her skirt all the way up to her panty’s edge, spread her legs apart, and opened her notebook on her now exposed thighs and started copying unto her answer sheet.
I did not immediately understand why she had to go almost naked, especially when the weather was not really hot. But I observed that the seemingly embarrassed young male invigilating lecturer stayed away from our row of seats. I guess he did not know how to confront a near-naked female student – or how to apprehend her either. Where would he hold her? Would he touch the unbuttoned blouse gingerly perching on the sides of the full, ripe breasts, pointing menacingly at him? How could he forcefully take away the ‘expo’ notebook without his fingers accidentally caressing the exposed thighs? Or even tugging at the white underpants clearly visible under the raised skirt? Would the girl not shout and accuse him of something more grievous?
I just noticed that he intermittently stole a glance at the direction of the girl’s chest and looked away almost immediately, trying to avoid any eye contact with the mischievous girl and the even more mischievous me sitting next to her.
My only regret that day? I won’t say it here!
But I got a first-hand lesson in female desperation. A few years later, another female student was to offhandedly tell me that she considered male teachers who did not accept ‘sorting’ (with cash) and did not also sleep with their female students as wicked.
I guess, having secured their own grades through these ‘ways and means’, these mothers of today actually have no qualms starting out their own children along that path early in life.
Now, I have nothing against women. In fact, I’ve seen more boys than girls cheat in exams. It’s just that there is always something shocking (and usually novel) about girls treading that path.
That was why I could resonate with Prof. Oloyede as he narrated his experience with women in the few months he has stayed as Registrar of JAMB. And it was not just about ‘expo’, or students smuggling in pieces of paper with a few lecture notes and points to prompt themselves inside the exam hall. It was also not that such note points are now written on the reverse sides of candidates’ shirts, scarves, shawls, belts, slippers etc. The cheating has now gone digital, in keeping with the times we live in.
Even after several years at University of Ilorin and pioneering the CBT exam model, Prof. Oloyede was still not prepared for the challenge of JAMB candidates and their desperate mothers.
Even I, who really had no business with JAMB, got so many phone calls from JAMB candidates asking that I lend my voice to their plight, as JAMB’s computers failed to read their fingerprints on exam day and thus they were barred from taking the UTME. They said JAMB, which had promised to fix another day for them to retake the exam, had suddenly gone quiet and might not hold the exam again.
It was JAMB’s Dr. Fabian Benjamin who eventually reassured me that the repeat exam would still hold but that JAMB was still sieving the genuine cases from the cheats.
I didn’t quite understand what he meant until I was invited, alongside others, to the Bwari, Abuja, headquarters of JAMB to observe the Post-2017 UTME Review Meeting with Chief Examiners and Other Major Stakeholders about two weeks ago.
There, I saw that some candidates, thinking that the questions for the morning and afternoon sessions would be the same, undertook double registration. The plan was as soon as the finished writing in the morning at one centre, they would dash to the other centre in another part of town to join the afternoon session, having already seen the questions and gone out to crosscheck and reconfirm the answers. But JAMB disappointed them by changing the questions. Others who relied on the 8×2 arrangement took the chance to see the questions before dashing to the centre to quickly download the answers they had crammed. But they too were shut out by the system. Yet some others registered in two far-apart states, with the hope of writing both and choosing the better result for the purpose of pursuing university admission. They were all caught out.
Then there were the Miracle Centres that have perfected ways of enabling their candidates cheat – for a fee. The fee, sometimes, is as high as N200, 000 per candidate. Some of the centres mount radio transmitters on their roofs to transmit the results to candidates. Others connect cables from the exam hall into hidden server rooms, where mercenaries write the tests and transfer to the candidates’ computers in the exam hall. While all the backroom ‘operations’ are going on, the candidate sits at his computer inside the exam hall, fiddling with it but actually doing nothing. As soon as the answer is sent to him, he/she uploads and submits electronically.
That is why some of these centres boldly advertise for candidates using the high marks obtained by those who sat for the exam at their centre the previous year(s).
For me, however, the most ingenious (for want of a better word) prank of JAMB candidates was the 8×2 strategy, whereby the candidate who intends to cheat begins the malpractice with the capturing of his biometrics at the point of registration. He goes with the person who would write the examination for him to do the finger printing. While the genuine candidate uploads his authentic information and photograph, he captures only eight fingers, and allows the mercenary to capture his two thumbs to complete the 10 fingers. What this means is that on exam day, while the real candidate could enter the exam hall, the mercenary could use his thumbprint to access the questions from wherever and answer the questions by proxy for him.
But, you’d agree with me that none of these compares to the case of the married woman who lied to the chief examiner that she was a single parent, all in effort to get the professor to sleep with her and make her daughter pass the exam. This is the same woman whose daughter was alleged to have been raped by a computer operator in the backroom where she had gone to cheat during the course of the exam. Rather than bringing the roof down on the centre for the alleged defilement of her daughter, the mother offered to forget about the matter if only JAMB could give her daughter an additional 20 marks. Can you believe that! That is a mother’s touch to exam malpractice!