I have written several examinations in my lifetime and most of them were pretty straightforward. I often can tell if I did well or not by virtue of how much I studied and what questions were presented i.e. sometimes a whole section where you did not pay attention would form the core of the exam which means you are in trouble or an area where you really sweated becomes the centre piece of the exam, then you smile brightly.
But really once you work hard for an exam, you have a general idea of your result. That was then. These days, I get dizzy with my children writing different sorts of examinations and our worry is whether the exams would be cancelled or compromised by charlatan classmates or fraudulent outsiders.
Many years ago when my son, now a public servant was preparing for his JAMB exam, my spouse and I were brought into a rude awakening of something called “miracle centers” which were ran by Nigerians whose sole aim is to become millionaires through exam fraud at centers where everyone scored the highest grades in JAMB without really writing these exams. It was alleged that the papers were written by select members of this fraudulent gang and all the student needed to do was to pay a hefty sum, write his\her name and wander off. It was a pre-packaged exam. I was gob smacked. At this time even parents with twisted minds who did not wish their children well were joining a long list of fraudulent writers of JAMB to write exams for their children. In addition, bus-loads of strangers were recruited by this criminal group to invade states and local governments to write any exam the community wanted written for their children. It was a racket growing by days and months and the master-minds were feeding fat, buying cars, building houses Evans-like and living large. The result is that university undergraduates who arrived school through this system needed to continue in this manner in order to pass any exams in the universities as they had no capacity to even grasp what was going on at the exams yet they had great grades. So they found any willing accomplice in their universities to continue the evil deed. Many events lately show that a willing lecturer can perpetuate this by receiving some money or having a student girlfriend for marks. Shockingly, I read in a national paper of a polytechnic in the South- South where most of the girls sleep with some lecturers for marks but more bizarre, they sleep with lecturers on behalf of their boyfriends so their boyfriends will get good grades. Merde!
Examination issues have continued to dog us in the last forty years. Frauds, scandals, cheating and all manners of things affect our examination bodies and Nigerians are clearly not helping matters.
The arrival of Professor Oloyede to the scene in JAMB made quite a few persons excited because his pedigree as a Professor is not in doubt, neither is his administrative savvy, having served as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and was Secretary of the National Political Reform Conference in 2005 among many other roles at home and around the world. A first class degree in Arabic studies from the University of Ilorin set his career rolling in 1981. He is also currently the President of Association of African Universities and Executive Secretary of National Inter-religious Council. His antecedents are crystal clear but as it is always with Nigerians and naysayers, a group of persons decided to distract him by questioning his qualifications at the onset of his appointment and deciding that as a Professor of Islamic jurisprudence, he could not run a computer based organization. Really? Often times when we don’t have our way we begin to cry wolf where there is none. But this piece is not about Professor Oloyede’s competence which we all know is top of the range but about the many reforms he has introduced at JAMB and how, as a people, our main job is to help him so he can help our children do better.
With the backgrounder provided at the beginning of this piece, it is evident that most of our people just want an exam that they and their children can pay for to pass. Paper qualification is certainly making us all desperate and people would go to any lengths to acquire certificates. What this has done is to throw up all manners of charlatans who are waiting in the wings to “help” students to pass all manner of examinations to put them ahead of their peers. I have been involved in hiring and I have met the end-products of this unfortunate national fraud. Persons who have Mass Communication degrees but have no clue what the words even mean and student interns who cannot even explain what course they are studying or what the subjects involved are.
As soon as Professor Oloyede began his reforms at JAMB, I knew he was up against the criminal consortium of exam writers for a fee, gullible students too lazy to care about their studies who are ready to pay to get by and stupid parents who are ready to part with their money and in cases of some shameless mothers ready to part with their dignity. As it turns out Professor Oloyede was up against even more persons who were hoping that the reforms would fail and they can continue with their money-making fraudulent businesses where they ruin our children and destroy our collective national heritage. Next week we will continue this treatise on JAMB, its reforms and the path to cleaning the Augean stable.