23 July 2018

Nigeria: JAMB to the Rescue?

The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) is assumed to be upping its game and as a way of efficiently conducting its examinations, introduced new initiatives. It has introduced an innovative measure to checkmate cheats and enhance the overall integrity of the Computer Based Tests (CBT).

This has led to the expansion of the coverage of the services of JAMB beyond the academic sector as a result of the increased confidence in the integrity and efficiency of the system of examinations being conducted by the Board. Recently, various organisations including professional bodies, businesses and government agencies have invited JAMB to conduct tests for them in order to strengthen the credibility of their screening procedures for

employment. In its latest outing beyond the educational circuit, about 37,000 candidates for police recruitment sat for JAMB tests nationwide in the recruitment exercise that required 6,000 new officers.

In view of the perceived discrepancies and abuses associated with police recruitment in the past that are believed to be responsible for some of the observed personnel and operational lapses in the duties of officers and men of Nigeria Police Force, the high command became worried that the credibility of the recruitment process could be the problem. Indeed there are reports of malpractices in the recruitment exercises resulting in the infiltration of unqualified and unsuitable people into the Force.

These problems are not limited to the Police force alone, they are common across the public service as the competition for job placements gets tougher due to the rising rate of unemployment. As a result, most credentials presented cannot be taken on their face value and there is a felt need to have an independent assessment of candidates to ascertain their suitability for employment. Up to this point, there is no adopted policy measure to check the menace of dubious credentials and absorption of unqualified and unsuitable people into the public service.

The emergence of the JAMB alternative is, therefore, a welcome and timely development that should be embraced. The need for a system of credible aptitude tests to establish a merit system reflecting literacy and psychological competence applicable across the public service cannot be over-emphasized. Fortunately JAMB is also positively inclined towards providing the required intervention. Its Registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede was recently quoted as saying "We want to be conducting mass examination for people. We want sincere, transparent and honest people to approach the board for this service. We can assure them of the best service and full disclosure of all that the board is doing." We believe his offer should be taken up by government and its agencies at all levels in the interest of sanitizing the system of manpower engagement thereby, hopefully, raising the quality of service delivery.

However, adequate planning should take place prior to the adoption of this strategy. In particular, the civil service commissions at federal and state level should come up with a harmonized system for implementing the new initiative while JAMB should also strategize an efficient approach to this new responsibility, especially considering the huge number of candidates it will be dealing with in addition to its primary constituency of prospective university students. As attractive as this alternative is, its smooth implementation will depend on the quality of planning and synergy prior to its adoption as a policy.

The advantage of Computer Based Tests as designed by JAMB lies in the minimisation of human intermediary in the testing which will be capable of determining basic literacy of candidates irrespective of credentials presented. Since we have several instances of university graduates exhibiting appalling ability in simple tasks such as composition of letters and familiarity with common aspects of current affairs, the JAMB tests will go a long way to sort the chaff from the grains and prevent pollution of the work force with unqualified people.

However, acceptable as this new development may be, this newspaper is by no means asserting that the Board is the ultimate answer to the observed inadequacies and incompetence in the system. We are quick to accept that JAMB is, essentially, a government parastatal with its own baggage that can also rub off on the intended purity of the exercises to be conducted. No matter how efficient a computer based examination procedure is, it is clear that humans will still intervene at some point and can create room for manipulation the Nigerian way.

We also recall that the system makes room for special candidates from highly placed Nigerians in filling available vacancies. These do not necessarily pass through the normal process. We are pointing this out so as to rein in the optimism already being generated. This is not to suggest that JAMB is not to be given an opportunity to make an input in the recruitment process. We hope that its performance will justify the confidence being reposed in it.


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