You are so passionate about the computer-based test and that is the focus of your speech here today but some Nigerians still feel that it’s just a flash in the pan. What do you have to say about that?
Well, seeing is definitely believing. If you see it, you know that it is really a wonderful thing; it is going on well. In fact, last year, we had about 56 centres. This year, we have about 265 centres willing to take on computer-based test so that our children can take their test. We think this is a wonderful success. Of those who did the examination last year, nobody, none of them was caught cheating and they all got their results. Some of them performed better than those who did the paper and pencil test and there is nothing like cancelation of results, missing results and they even get their results on the same day.
If the examination finishes by 12pm, by 3pm, the result is out and if the examination is done in the afternoon and finished by 4pm; before 8pm, the result is out. So, this is quite interesting because it is what is going on all over the world. It is the vogue all over the world to use computer-based test. When I was in Israel four weeks ago, PISA (Proficiency In the traditional system of Assessment) announced that 2015 is the deadline for candidates all over the world to use computer-based test for assessment. 2015 coincides with our own time; we are saying by 2015, everybody will do computer-based test, so it is not a joke.
Looking at the deadline and the infrastructure gap in Nigeria, do you see us achieving that 2015 milestone?
Definitely, we’re going to achieve it because by 2014, you will see more candidates sitting for computer-based test than a paper and pencil test. We have got enough space now, to the extent that we can conduct it for even one million candidates. What we have is sufficient to conduct examination for one million candidates. In fact, in some cities, there will be no paper and pencil test; there will be compulsory computer-based test. So, if a candidate wants to do a paper and pencil test, he/she has to go to the neighbouring town where there is no CBT. A lot of people are building CBT, so we (JAMB) are not doing it alone; it is a public private partnership. People are building CBT now and we are going to pay them for using their centres. In fact, with time, NECO, WAEC, NABTEB and NTI, even Open University will all use the computer-based test. The same centre, as soon as we finish, NECO will use it for six weeks, WAEC for six weeks and in November/December, they will use it for four weeks each, NABTEB will use it for six weeks. So, the centres will be used for about four months in a year. This is a reality that will come to be.
Looking at the cost implication, how ready is the Federal Government ready to support this initiative?
It is only the take-off that is expensive; otherwise, it is cheaper to do CBT. In a brief and simple analysis, 98 vehicles were put on the road last year to distribute question papers all over the country. We don’t need that because within three minutes, we can send questions from JAMB office to the centres and it will be there and when the exams are done, within three minutes, they will come back to us, then we grade them and send them to the candidates. We can release the results in the centres but we don’t want individuals who fail to destroy the system. That is why we send the results on their handsets when they must have vacated the centres. The Federal Government is supporting us, we need the infrastructure to take off. So, we are now saying ,don’t make it government alone; individuals who are interested should key into it, build, develop and supervise the centres. We use it and pay them for the use of the centres. Government doesn’t have to do everything ; that is one of the initiatives that we at JAMB are doing.
In your presentation this evening, you mention of a lady (Oluwaremilekun) who came to the Office the next day to thank you and a boy who had issues with his centre and was allowed to do the exam in the second section of the day. How are you coping with logistic problems?
That is the flexibility in CBT.Your questions are your questions and your papers are your papers; no one else can do it. Therefore, if you miss it in one way or the other, you can come back to do it but it has to be at our own time. For example, the Wase people, this last examination, they had communal problems, so the candidates could not go to their centres to do the examinations and they begged that they would want to do their own examination. So, I told them that I was ready to give them the opportunity but it had to be CBT. Some of them had not used computer before, so we told them to go to Makurdi office. About 200 of them went to Makurdi office and we gave them instructions. Within 15 minutes, they were asked to start.
Barely after five minutes, the candidates started calling for attention: “Sir, I don’t know this, I don’t understand that” but after they continued for seven to 10minutes, nobody was complaining again. They did their examination successfully and most of them did wonderfully well. Not all of them passed but they did very well. Yet these are people who had never used computers before. So, it is possible. Anytime we are doing it, go to CHARM City in the central area, near the Federal Court of Appeal Headquarter, Abuja, you will see how it is conducted. The Chairman, House Committee on Education, the Minister of Education and the Senate President were all there and were amazed with the cooperation and the way the children did the exams.
A certain rector was said to be against this CBT but surprisingly, he changed his stand when it was successful. Do you feel that you are succeeding?
I am telling you, I have never done something successful like that in my life. I did not even believe that we would accomplish as much as we have accomplished. Honestl, we were in Johannesburg, Jeddah, London and Ghana, we sent the questions to all these places and in three minutes, they got them and they did the examination even before the person that would take the questions to the airport, and the candidates have got their results. I think this is the best thing that can happen to Nigerians. We must move, we must change because things are changing. If we don’t change, we will be left behind and we cannot afford to be left behind.
As a stakeholder in education, what can you say about the lingering crisis between ASUU and the Federal Government, since the strike may have affected the year plan of JAMB?
I think that the problem is coming to an end. But for the unfortunate death of Comrade Festus Iyayi, they would have called it off. I think both sides are right. But if they are both wrong, they cannot make a right. What I mean is, government is right and ASUU is right and if they are both wrong, it is bad. The strike has delayed our job. For example, we could have floated the sale of our forms about two months ago but couldn’t do that until last week (first week of November) and that will also mean that we have to shift our checklist a little bit forward.
For example, we expected them to finish admission around 31st of October but they have not done it. We cannot say we’ve made 31st October as the deadline and some of the universities have not done the admission. So, the children will be the ultimate victims of this type of decision. We’re trying to be flexible and to accommodate their problems as they come. So I hope that, as they call it off within a week or two, everybody will be able to do the admission. Like you said, as far as I am concerned, it’s a pity that we have to go to this length before it will be called off.