After series of postponement, the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) kicked off across the country yesterday with logistic and technical hitches recorded in a few computer-based test centres used for the conduct of the examination.
In Lagos, candidates scheduled for the first session of the exam at 7:00a.m. and who did not want to be late, defied the early morning rain to ensure that they were at the exam venue as early as 6:00a.m.
One of the accredited centres, Funlearn Mind Builders, Opebi, Ikeja, turned to a WrestleMania scene as students, parents and officials of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) went on rampage after the server went down for a long while few minutes into the examination.
The candidates who came prepared for the exam were disappointed when more than 30 of the computers being used automatically submitted and logged them out. Candidates who had barely attempted 10 questions were asked by the officials to step out of the hall after the time allotted for the 7:00a.m. set elapsed.
With full rage, parents and some of the students, already in tears, stormed the hall and disrupted the process for the next batch of candidates expected to sit for their examination at 9:00a.m.
One of the candidates, who pleaded for anonymity, narrated her ordeal to The Guardian. She said:
"At about 7:00a.m., the first set had not gone inside for their exams. They went in late. My set was 9:00a.m. I was still waiting for my turn when we saw some candidates coming out of the hall in tears. They said they could not attempt any questions because their server went down few minutes into the exam, with the JAMB officials saying there was nothing they could do about it.
"Before we knew what was happening, parents trooped into the hall scattering everywhere and everything in sight. At that point, I was scared and thought my exam might be in disarray. I was also crying, together with other candidates who sat outside the hall. We were so confused. We could not talk to JAMB officials because some of them already ran to the upper floor of the building."
After a long period of turmoil, it was gathered that normalcy was restored and the batch for 9:00a.m. sat for their exam at 1:00p.m. But for the affected candidates of the first set, it was not yet clear as at press time what their fate would be as some said they may have to forgo this year's exam to reapply next year. Explanations by JAMB officials present at the centre that the candidates who have the opportunity to re-write their exams were rebuffed as lacking elements of truth.
A candidate, simply identified as Israel, who will be sitting for his exam at the same venue today, has expressed worries over the technical glitch at the centre. He said: "I am not sure what will happen tomorrow (Friday). This same centre is my exam venue for tomorrow. I, however, hope for the best."
At another centre, Oduduwa College of Professional Studies along Egbeda-Idimu Road in Lagos, the first set of candidates who were expected to finish the examination by 9a.m. could not start as at 11.44a.m.
According to an ad-hoc worker of JAMB, who was on inspection at the centre, many computers had malfunctioned by switching off midway into the examination.
At the Wisdom House CBT centre in Ogba, Lagos, examination commenced as scheduled without hitches. However, the only tent provided for the batch 2 candidates could not protect them against the early morning drizzle.
About 1.8 million candidates registered for the examination and have been distributed to more than 600 computer-based test centres accredited by JAMB for the examination across the country. Each of the centres will hold three batches of the examination on a daily basis with each batch spending two hours.
Mr. Babatunde Bamisaye, JAMB Lagos zonal coordinator, says he is optimistic of a hitch-free UTME in all the 75 centres in the state. He made this known to newsmen in the course of monitoring the conduct of the examination on day one.
"I want to say that so far, the conduct has been hitch-free in most of the centres I have been to. I have visited the BrainPoint College, a CBT centre in Yaba, WAEC International Agidinbgi in Ikeja, Funlearn Mind Builders CBT, at Opebi in Ikeja and I want to say that there has not been any cause for complaints," he said.