The Sun News

SPECIAL REPORT: 2017 UTME: THE UNTOLD STORY (2): Alvana provost to 2018 candidates: You better sit up and read ‘cos days of cheating are over

From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri; Aloysius Attah, Onitsha, Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia and Okey Sampson, Aba

With the cancellation/withholding, by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), of results of 57,646 candidates for mass cheating, and the cancellation of 1, 386 more of individual candidates caught in various cases of exam malpractice, in this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exam (UTME), with the delisting of 48 Computer Based Test (CBT) centres in for “gross technical deficiencies” and one-year suspension of 24 others for “technical inefficiency,” the Provost, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Dr. Blessing Ijioma, has called on prospective candidates intending to cheat in future UTME exams to go give their filthy minds a bath and sit down, sit up and begin to read in earnest.

This is because, as she told The Sun Education, in a chat, the days of cheating in exams are over, what with the new system that JAMB has put in place. Ijioma who served as one of the Chief External Examiners during the exam attributed the desperation of candidates to cheat to intellectual laziness.

“The way JAMB conducted the exams this year was different from that of the previous years,” she said. “This made those students who were not prepared for the exam to lose out. There is  a change now in the system and it is no longer easy for students to cheat. If the system continues like this for some years to come students will be forced to study and that is what we want as only those who are prepared to study will be found in the tertiary institutions.”

On parents, especially mothers who help their wards to cheat, she argued that no responsible parent will encourage his or her wards to cheat, but added that most of the students do not tell their parents the truth and so their parents may not actually know what they are up to.

“For instance, we are on vacation but you will still find some students hanging around and their parents may not know what they are doing. So, the only panacea for academic success is to study hard and earn your grades. I want to say that the system JAMB has introduced will greatly minimize the incidence of exam malpractice because this time around those who supervised the exams were not from this state and they were able to checkmate malpractices and those centres suspected to have colluded with students were outrightly delisted.”

But the problem created by that is yet to be resolved as many of the centres are claiming ignorance of either their delisting or suspension. For instance, the manager, Benchmark Education Centre, Orlu, Imo State, Mr. Michael Obianigwe, who informed that the centre has been doing business with the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) since 2015 and has been so good at it that it was adjudged the best centre in 2015 and one of the best in 2016, said they were surprised to learn of their delisting as there was no issue of malpractice or technical deficiency recorded at the centre in which a total of 2,750 students sat for the exam this year.

Obinna Nwaiwu, Manager, School of Health Technology, Okporo, situated within the St. Damian Hospital, Okporo, Orlu said that the only reason that the centre could be delisted was as a result of technical issues and not exam malpractice.  But even at that they have not been contacted.

“The only problem we had was that during one of the exams our circuit camera had problem but it was promptly repaired before the exam recommenced,” he recounted. “This we reported to the JAMB authorities in Abuja and their technical staff assigned to our centre was present. We had about 2,750 students who had already sat for the test and the JAMB technical staff was there to ensure that everything went well and we did not have any issue with power outage because we have a 110KVA generating set that was on and all our air conditioners were also in good working conditions including the ones in the server room. We were surprised to read on the Internet that the centre was delisted for what they called gross technical deficiency. But we reported to them when our computers crashed which was promptly taken care of. This is a faith-based institution and the issue of cheating in whatever form is prohibited.”

Reacting on the one-year suspension slammed on the institution by JAMB, the ICT Director, Imo State Polytechnic, Chukwuma Obinna, said that even though they have not been officially communicated, they are surprised because none of the exams were cancelled. He disclosed that majority of the candidates who sat for the CBT got their results and that those did not get theirs may be due to their faults. Mrs. Euphemia Chioma Nwokorie, a member of the JAMB Technical Group said that even JAMB has not told them the reasons for the delisting of some of the centres in the state.

When our reporter visited Varsity Comprehensive Sec. School, 119/120A Obodoukwu Rd, Okpoko, Ogbaru LGA, delisted for “gross technical deficiencies”, the Director, Mr. Ogbudi Felix Chigbo who was demoralized over the whole issue, noted that the centre is, at present, at the risk of going bankrupt over a loan he obtained from the bank to finance the JAMB CBT Centre.

He explained that since he started running the centre in 2015, he has been spending heavily on procurement of necessary facilities and approval papers until he was given the go-ahead this year, 2017. He took the reporter to the CBT Centre where heaps of laptops and other desktop computers were idling away.

“I had a serious health challenge that made mobility very difficult for me then but I still attended their meetings in Lagos and Abuja,” he said. “I got approval for 250 students but because we were new in the system, I finally fixed the logistics for 180 candidates.  I had to borrow money both from bank and friends to buy 100 laptops and 60 desktop systems while I borrowed the remaining from friends.

“We wrote our exams successfully despite some man-made hiccups occasioned by system failure and I say it with every boldness that the technical assistants that worked with us from Awka and Abuja will testify that we did well.  There was no case of exam malpractice but I’m still trying to figure out how they came up with the ‘gross technical deficiency’ report.”

He told The Sun Education that his centre which registered about 250 candidates for JAMB charged N500, per candidate, as against N700 it was supposed to charge “because we are a new centre.  Right now, JAMB has not paid me a dime while I’ve incurred a debt of about N7.5m. The bank gave me three months repayment period that is about to elapse while I don’t have the cash to pay back since JAMB is holding onto my money. I’m now becoming frustrated and despondent considering the level of commitment and work already put in place here. We did a business to get richer but I’m now poorer than I was before. Even as I speak to you, JAMB has not communicated me officially about this development. At a stage, I said that maybe our enemies are behind this because JAMB never gave us fair hearing or told us the criteria for delisting us,” he said.

At St. Rita Innovative Institute, Housing Estate Fegge, Onitsha  suspended for one year for technical deficiency, the Proprietor, Dr Franscisca Olikeze was not only bitter when she spoke to our reporter over the situation, she nearly accused JAMB of playing an ethnic card by descending on well-built and stocked centres in the South East.

“You saw this place when you entered,” she said. “I’m not blowing my trumpet but ask anybody about educational institutions in Onitsha and you will know that we are among the top because we do not compromise on quality and standards. I own the buildings here and bought and equipped all the facilities needed. I spent N2.5m to augment what we have but they are yet to pay me even when they said that I’m entitled to about N1.5m.

“Our centre got approval and has operated for the past three years, how the ugly report came about this year, I don’t know. The money I channeled into the project is about affecting my payment of salaries this month.  I bought a 200KVA generator and we had constant power supply all through. If there was any hitch, it came from JAMB and not us.  JAMB requested for one technical officer, I provided six with an undertaking to pay the five extra staff from my own pocket. We had approval for 250 candidates and we provided all the logistics needed only for them to treat us this way.

“It is a slap on our integrity and I’m very angry about it because we know our pedigree and reputation. If they want to destroy all the centres in the South East or in Onitsha which is the hub of the South East, they should tell us plainly. Are the centres in the North better than our own? I don’t support anything malpractice in my life and when they talk about minor issues, they can be resolved instead of labeling us this way and posting our names for the whole world to see on the internet.  They have demoralized my spirit and I think JAMB owes us an apology and support instead of blacklisting us. This is so disheartening,” she said.

At Pius Comprehensive Secondary School, Umuigwe-Amakama, Umuahia South L.G.A, Abia State, suspended for one year for alleged “technical deficiency,” the proprietor, when contacted on the phone, said he was not ready to speak to the Press on the matter. “This is an internal challenge, which we want to make sure is put in order as soon as possible so that we can continue our business with JAMB,” he said. “We are not ready to talk to anybody about it.” And, with that he switched off his phone.

A staff of the Temple Gate Polytechnic, Aba, Abia State, delisted for “gross technical deficiencies,” said the school was not happy over the way it was treated by JAMB over what he regards as minor technical problem

While the delisted centres are counting their losses, a candidate, Kelechi Chukwuenye, who was among those whose results were cancelled but who was allowed to retake the exam on July 1, has commended JAMB for conducting a rancour-free exam, quite different from the initial one.

“There’s no way anybody can compare the cancelled one with the weekend exam which was well-organised,” he said.  “Any candidate who took part in the Saturday, July 1 rescheduled JAMB examination knows it was hugely successful and more organized than the previous one marred by poor facilities and exam malpractice.

“I took my first JAMB at Giant Immaculate School ICT Centre Aba, but it was cancelled due to poor facilities and all kinds of exam malpractices. I felt so bad about the whole thing, but I was glad it was cancelled because the exam was nothing more than a big joke. I took the second JAMB at Heritage and Utility ICT Centre in Ariaria. It was very successful and the place contained everyone with modern computers that never gave us any problem. The security was very tight and everyone left there very happy.”

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