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FG reopens unity schools, moves against identity theft In varsity admissions

By Kanayo Umeh and Sodiq Omolaoye, Abuja
03 October 2020   |   3:30 am
The Federal Government yesterday approved the full reopening of schools nationwide, including the 104 Unity Colleges, effective October 12...

• ‘State, Private Schools At Liberty To Reopen Based On COVID-19 Guidelines’
• Education Minister Threatens To Shut Institutions That Disobey Safety Protocols
• UTME Impersonation Drops From 74,000 To 4,900
• New Fraud Measures Lead To Arrest Of Police Officer

The Federal Government yesterday approved the full reopening of schools nationwide, including the 104 Unity Colleges, effective October 12.

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who made the announcement while addressing journalists in Abuja, said the decision was reached after deliberations with the Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other relevant stakeholders.

In another development, the Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, revealed that effective checks had been mounted by the Federal Government against incidences of identity theft in the admission process into the nation’s tertiary institutions.

Oloyede, who disclosed this at a media briefing in Abuja, said the government, through the Minister of Education, Adamu, issued a directive, mandating JAMB to transfer candidates’ biometric data to their institutions of choice, thus quashing the need for fresh capturing of biometrics and pictures of candidates for post-UTME tests.

Oloyede said the minister’s directive has already uncovered 657 cases of candidates whose photographs could not match the ones recorded in JAMB’s database and were currently angling to change the photographs.

The board has referred those who requested for change of photographs to come down to its headquarters, with the intention of bringing perpetrators of fraud to book. And one of such culprits is a police officer who had hired a schoolteacher as mercenary

The federal government had ordered a nationwide closure of schools in March to check the spread of COVID-19. It also refused to assent to calls to reopen schools until the curve of infection rate is flattened and adequate preparations put in place.

Convinced that the situation was now safe enough to allow the schools to reopen, Adamu said modalities for resumption had been sent to government-owned institutions.

He added that state and private schools were at liberty to reopen based on guidelines developed for the safe reopening of schools. He urged schools to abide by the COVID-19 protocol developed to curtail the spread of the virus and threatened to shut down institutions that fail to obey the protocols.

Adamu disclosed that following earlier reopening of schools for exit classes to take their National Examinations in all 104 Unity Colleges, there had not been a single case of COVlD-l9 infection so far, adding that isolated cases in other schools were minimal.

He said: “It is gratifying to note that on the whole, there has not been a single fatality amongst the exiting students. You may also have noticed that the infection curve nationwide has flattened considerably.

“In July 2020 when I stated that we will not reopen schools until the infection curve flattens, the country was recording an average of 400 infections daily. By the end of July and August, the infection rate peaked at an average of 700 cases daily. Since the beginning of September 2020, we have witnessed a considerable decline in the rate of infections, with an average of 200 cases recorded daily.

“Consequently, with the level of preparations put to test and the flattening of the infection curve, we have come to the conclusion that we have to review our earlier decision, especially against the realization that COVlD-l9 has come to stay and that we have to live with it.”

The minister said that after due consultation with the Presidential Committee on COVID19, the government resolved that all 104 Unity Colleges be reopened on October 12, 2020. He advised states and private school owners to work out modalities for the opening of schools under their purview.

Speaking on the benefits of government’s move against incidences of identity theft in the admission process into tertiary institutions, the JAMB Registrar, Prof. Oloyede said the implementation of the Education Minister’s directive has led to the arrest of a police constable with the Akwa Ibom State Command, one Etim Israel, who was paraded before newsmen on allegation of examination malpractice.

Etim had hired a schoolteacher, Emmanuel, paying him N30, 000 to write the 2020 UTME for him while he was away on official duties. Luck, however, ran out on him when his photograph did not tally with Emmanuel’s, and was forced to visit the JAMB headquarters in Abuja for rectification.

According to him, he scored over 240 and wanted to study Fishery at the Akwa Ibom State University, Ikot Akpaden Mpat Enin, but the new measures prevented him.

Oloyede said incidences of impersonation and other forms of identity theft during UTME dropped from 74,000 in 2019 to 4,900 in 2020. Admitting that this number was still high and questionable, he said the reduction was triggered by a process introduced by the board, which now allows officials to take a snapshot of any candidate who claims he could not be biometrically verified and compare with the picture in JAMB’s database.

Prof. Oloyede, who said Israel would be prosecuted in accordance with the law, expressed concern over the antics of some candidates that try to circumvent watertight measures put in place to prevent impersonation.

He cited an instance where a woman’s name appeared on the registration list and a man attempted to sit on her behalf.

Prof. Oloyede, however, said the Board may not have the capacity to ensure the robust prosecution of all those involved in impersonation during the UTME but would select some from across the country to face the wrath of the law.