By Niyi Akinnaso
In a country where underachievement is pervasive and the government treasury continues to leak, it has become customary for journalists and armchair columnists to focus on negative developments. Yet, there are one or two trailblazers deserving of attention. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB is one such institution. Yet, much less has been written to highlight the Boards achievements, because the Nigerian press has typically interpreted its role of holding the government and its institutions accountable to mean that we must look for something to criticise or condemn.
To be sure, JAMB has been the focus of media attention for various reasons since its establishment in 1978. Up until 2016, when Professor Ishaq Oloyede was appointed as the new Executive Secretary of the Board, much of the report on JAMB had been negative. That negative focus welcomed Oloyede into office and continued through his first year in office.
A retrospective analysis of JAMB’s activities since 2016 to date reveals several major achievements, which were unprecedented in the history of the Board. These achievements were neither foreseen nor understood when the new Registrar began a comprehensive overhaul of the Board’s activities. In the process, the media focused on the gaps and lapses, which the overhaul revealed, while also criticising the Board for innovations that would eventually be widely accepted because they are found to be extremely beneficial.
The first major development was the reorganisation of the Board’s activities through the deployment of new technologies, which allowed the Board to streamline and speed up the processes of registration and verification of results; to detect abuse in Computer Based Test Centers both by Center owners and test takers; to administer the distribution of admission spaces in a fair, equitable, and transparent manner; to ramp up capacity building in specific areas for its staff; and to save operational and management costs.
A few examples will suffice. First, by closely monitoring CBT Centers and test takers over the years, JAMB had discovered and delisted defaulting CBTs, while also cancelling the results of test cheaters and prosecuting them, where necessary. It is now nearly impossible for fake candidate to stand in for a genuine applicant. The ultimate goal is to make the UTME error-free, rigorous, fair, and reliable enough for tertiary institutions.
A second development is the elimination of the old-fashioned methods of using scratch card, third parties, such as Cybercafes, and text messaging for checking UTME results. JAMB has now gone fully digital with the result verification process. Students can now check and even print their results for free from the comfort of their homes by logging on the Board’s website at www.jamb.gov.ng. After three simple steps, the result slip could be printed: One, click on QUICK LINKS. Two, click on E Facility. Three, provide your registration details and click on check my results. Bingo! Your result notification slip will be displayed for printing.
A third major innovation is the Central Admissions Processing System. It is an automated system for all institutions in the country to conduct their admissions. This system has three major advantages. First, it takes JAMB out of the show and leaves the sole authority for recommending candidates for admission to the respective institutions—universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, and so on.
Two, the system eliminates the institutions’ portals from conducting admission, which led to flagrant abuse of the admission process in the past. It also eliminates under-the-table admissions by ensuring that only candidates admitted through CAPS will be issued their admission letters on JAMB’s official letterhead.
JAMB has developed JAMB CAPS Mobile App for students to be able to login in with the phone number they had used for the UTME registration. After logging in and following the appropriate prompts, an OTP code will be sent to the provided mobile number. Once the code is entered and verified, the candidate’s admission notification will be displayed.
Some, including me, had argued in the past that JAMB’s duty should have ended with the conduct of the UTME and left the universities to make their own selections. There were even critical spats at JAMB for going beyond its mandate by policing the exams. Only those who have attended JAMB’s policy meetings in the last three years would appreciate the extent of exam malpractices and the extent of abuse of the admission process by various institutions. The truth is that the education system is not exempt from the endemic and systemic corruption in the country. That’s why, to some extent, JAMB has to continue to function more or less as the EFCC of the admission process. It may not be the best thing to do but it is the only option available for now. And it is working!
Perhaps the most astonishing achievement of JAMB since Oloyede took over its administration is the return of billions of Naira to government coffers every year since 2017, in compliance with the mandate to MDAs to remit their operating surpluses to the Treasury Single Account. So far, in four annual tranches, JAMB had remitted over N28 billion. As reward for good service, the government gave the Board part of the refunds to overhaul its infrastructure. The government also gave part of the excess funds to the UTME applicants, by reducing the cost of application from N5,000 to N3,500.
JAMB has wisely invested its own share of the money in enhancing its technology; building mega CBT Centers across the country; in developing a question bank; in staff training; and in creating several innovations to meet the COVID-19 contingencies, such as the e-facilities for checking results and for setting up appointments at zonal and state JAMB offices.
Also as part of its own corporate responsibility toward combating COVID-19, JAMB has donated ventilators, PPEs, and other medical equipment, worth millions of Naira, to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital. It also took care of its staff nation-wide by purchasing ventilators, environmental disinfectant safety sprayers, and vehicle-mounted disinfectant sprayers from the National Agency for Science Engineering Infrastructure to sanitise its workers daily across the nation.
It is interesting to note that JAMB’s performance in the last four years has led ASUU and university authorities to shift the tune from talks of university autonomy to how JAMB could share the money it makes with the universities as intervention funds, for example, to improve Internet connectivity on campuses!