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JAMB in search of lasting solutions to examination malpractice

By Iyabo Lawal
15 February 2018   |   4:25 am
Like a clairvoyant, he spoke with conviction. His body language was unambiguous. He punctuated each sentence he made with equanimity and clarity.

Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, JAMB Registrar

In spite of the great efforts by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to tackle examination malpractice, students and syndicates are finding new ways to bend the rule of the game to the frustration of the body and well-meaning Nigerians. Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal, writes

Like a clairvoyant, he spoke with conviction. His body language was unambiguous. He punctuated each sentence he made with equanimity and clarity. All he said was good news for conscientious students. His pseudo-clairvoyant message was bad news from those who benefit from examination malpractice in the country.

This is what he said in 2015: “I foresee a JAMB that will conduct the Computer Based Test (CBT) examination within five days. I see a JAMB that will conduct a 100 per cent hitch-free and malpractice-free examination. I see a world-acclaimed JAMB in few years to come.”

The statement was made by the erstwhile Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde.

Today, he will mostly be shocked that the CBT, after all, is not as impregnable as he had envisioned. As learnt, hackers are having a go at JAMB computer network to sniff out exam questions and sell them – with prepared answers – in the black market to parents, students, and any other interested party.

If JAMB can go hi-tech, why can’t the cheats?
However, the former JAMB boss could not be faulted entirely for seeing a tasteful vision that is experiencing a distasteful reality. He had fought tooth and nail to exorcise the demon of exam malpractices in the country. At a point, Ojerinde had to beg the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to help the examination body to apprehend the syndicate, not just the students, involved in a nation-wide racket of examination malpractices.

The-then EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde’s response to that request was telling: “We will always intervene not only during examinations; we will also like to beam a searchlight on personnel of JAMB to know how the questions get to the candidates.”

The CBT was introduced by JAMB in 2012 and was first tried in 2013. According to the exam body, it was introduced to prevent all manners of exam malpractices and fraudulent acts on the part of students and other stakeholders.

Ojerinde had related a story of how a man – impersonating a candidate – was caught writing an exam for his pregnant wife. He also narrated how a lady inserted a mobile phone in her private parts.

There are other details of exam malpractices that are ignominious in every detail. It is true that the CBT and every other means devised to reduce level of malpractice. The reality is that exam cheats – the students and the merchants selling leaked exam questions and answers – are keeping vigils to unravel the seemingly foolproof CBT system of JAMB.

Perhaps, Ojerinde knew that too when he said, “Those engaging in examination malpractices will stop at nothing in achieving their aims.”

If Ojerinde had expressed hope to the point of clairvoyance, his successor, the current JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, may not be as optimistic – for him, unease lies the head that wears the crown.

As more and more cheats – parents, JAMB personnel, mercenaries, and students – were overreaching the firewall of the CBT network, Oloyede soon realised the computer-based exam mode needed a sister. Acting like a quick-thinking institution allergic to malpractice, JAMB decided to install CCTVs at examination centres.

Has there been successes so far?

In October last year, what Oloyede said was instructive.
“It is in line with this kind of development that the board has concluded arrangements to create centres for examination malpractice devices for future examinations. There will be no compromise whatsoever. Without the deployment of the CCTV, one will just be making a mockery of the computer-based test.

“This device has ensured that even if a cheating candidate was not caught during the examination, such candidate will be caught after the examination. We will continue to ensure that with education, one can achieve everything and without it, one can achieve nothing. It, therefore, goes to tell that each one of us must strive to achieve what is good, giving the significance of life and living,” he had said.

The JAMB boss was, however, careful not to sound like his predecessor when he added, “I have statistics, which shows that what we have in Nigeria as far as examination malpractice is concerned, is a child’s play compared with what is happening in other climes. Today with the aid of technological devices for cheating such as smart watches and others the phenomenon is becoming alarming. But in our own case, as these children are getting wiser, we too are getting ahead of them,’’ he said.

JAMB’s spokesman, Dr Fabian Benjamin who recounted the activities of syndicates and efforts made so far by the examination body to bring perpetrators to book said over 20 people are presently in detention across the country for undermining JAMB registration process.

Benjamin said the body is trying hard to stop this scourge of exam malpractice because “until we get things right from there, it will be absolutely very difficult for any examination body to record success with minimal malpractice.”

He said, “Malpractice starts with registration, most of the time, examination bodies get it wrong; they think that malpractice is only at the point of writing examination but we have come to discover that malpractice starts from the registration point. It could manifest in form of multiple registration and all forms of impersonation, that is why we introduced all those new processes, if you look at our processes, you would see that we dissipated a lot of energy on registration because we believe that once we get this right, we would have gone almost 90 percent in eliminating incidences of exam malpractice, the remaining 10 percent would just be at the point of examination.”

“One thing we have discovered is that the longer our registration, the more vulnerable we are. Last year, we did one month and we registered 1.7m candidates, this year we did two months, and the first month, we could not register 10 percent of the candidates, all the 90 percent are being registered in the second month. What we discovered is that this syndicate through the media mount pressure on us to extend the registration period to two months because they thought that their investment cannot me recouped in one month. It took them three weeks to mount their equipment, get necessary expertise and break into our radial, so after doing all these, one month will be inadequate to recoup their investment.”

The JAMB spokesman added, “Infact, one of the syndicates said they brought in equipment from china, mounted it and penetrated into our system through a Computer Based Centre (CBT), got our IP address and was collecting N50, 000 per week from different centres that were registering.

Benjamin said these syndicates, who connived with CBT operators to perpetrate the crime go to a CBT centre, connected their wire to JAMB’s router at the centre into their dish and then broadcast on the internet for prospective candidates to patronise them. So, cybecafe operators were registering with them while they in turn register candidates.

“With our system, it is impossible for you to do multiple registration, what these syndicates do is that they would break in to our server, register about 100 people who are not our candidates, with the aim of going into the hall to either steal our questions and sell to parents and candidates, unknown to them that the questions are not the same for all batches. “

We monitor our registration for 24 hours, it got to a point we just discovered that people were registering around 1am-4am, and we knew something was wrong from there. Who would go to a CBT centre to register at 1am? So we started investigating and we discovered that some schools, because each has a router with us, in certain locations like Abuja, the router will be doing registration in Sokoto. A school in Lagos, the router will be doing registration in Kano, so we knew something was wrong. So we moved in, called some of the schools in Abuja to ask why it was doing registration in Lagos or Sokoto and they all denied, instantly we suspected foul play.

“For the syndicates to achieve their aim, we discovered that they connived with some of our CBT centres to get our IP address. Owners of some of these centres have been arrested.

“Some of the candidates registered by these syndicates would no doubt have issues during the examination because they were not properly registered; some of them are not even on our data bank. I don’t know why a candidate would want to go and do his registration at 1am or 4am; candidates who want to go to higher institutions must follow instructions to the latter. If a regulatory body says this is how its process should be done, why not follow the process instead of going through the back door and putting yourself in trouble? Instead of paying JAMB’s approved fee of N5, 500 for registration, these set of candidates go to the syndicates and they pay more, sometimes as high as N300, 000.

Oloyede and JAMB are not alone in this messy game – even WAEC and NECO have yet to get a hang of the sophisticated exam frauds that bedevil their operations.

Those who successfully cheated in exams graduate into the larger society with the mentality that dishonesty is a quicker way to success and fame – and regrettably so, many Nigerians considered as being prominent have been fingered to have risen to the top based on questionable exam results and certificates. In a nation where exam malpractices thrive, many of its citizens will end up being insensible, dishonest, ignorant, narrow-minded, myopic, deceptive, and disingenuous. Examination malpractice puts youths and professionals in a situation that leads to a future of social-political and economic bankruptcy.

Sometimes when caught, students have had to repeat classes, retake the exams, dismissed from school; thus wasting money, time and efforts that could have been put to productive use. The importance of examination for diagnosis, placement, classification and quality control in schools has been eroded..

Even though the Federal Government promulgated laws, which stipulated a 21-year-jail term for anyone found guilty of examination malpractice, the act has become the norm rather than the exception. In 2006 the Federal Ministry of Education blacklisted and de-recognised 324 secondary schools as centres for conducting public examinations from 2007 to 2010.
Examination malpractice is an indication of declining education quality in the country and all hands must be on deck to nip this cankerworm in the bud.

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