wITHOUT necessarily sermonizing, I would like to lay a background for today’s discourse from a section of the Old Testament. The holy writ, in the book of Exodus, described the ruthlessness of Pharaoh thus: “Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves”, but still requiring the same daily output of bricks as before.” This scripture was the only thing that could aptly capture the agonizing pressure parents and guardians of children or wards that participated in the recently concluded UTME had to contend with.
It is no longer news that Nigeria’s public coffers have been milked dry and the country, months ago, arrived at a destination of full blow recession. Logically, with the engravings on our financial walls, one would not need a Sangoma to decipher that we may yet be in this economic labyrinth for much longer. Harrowingly, it is in times of abject poverty, when families struggle to buy the once upon a time everyman’s saving grace gari, that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) saw it fit to toss participants across the country, like pebbles picked at one end of the ocean and aimed at the other,
The lamentations wouldn’t run dry. Everywhere I turned, parents were weeping and gnashing their teeth. Sadness ran through my spine like the currents of an electrocution and I felt pain. What cruel policy? What inconsiderate plan? Should this be even contemplated in a time like this?
My irritation grew but I would later hear a tale that would provoke its climax… 23-year-old Tajudeen has technically been in the employ of my family since he was a little boy. I use the word technically because though he never lived with us as a domestic help, he had starting doing odd jobs around my house to fend for himself since he was around 10.
Sometimes he would be called upon to trim flowers, cut grasses, start the generator…he ran all sorts of errands not just for my family but as many would use his service in the neighbourhood. His parents had 13 of them. His two elder sisters had already added two to the family size and his father was a carpenter. So, at a very tender age, Taju, as we fondly call him, was left to fend for himself.
However, there was a striking thing about him; he always had a penchant for education. He loved going to school. So, when my mother discovered this passion, she encouraged him by giving him some old text books. Three years ago, he made a complete ‘O’ level result as required for admission into tertiary institution. He would enroll for JAMB and go to the university but twice, JAMB, ‘JAMBED’. This year again, Taju decided to try. He paid for his registration from his little earnings by working people’s yards and got some money from the same to attend an evening class.
But his dreams were cut short last week because Taju was posted far outside his state of residence and could not come up with the money to transport himself or get an accommodation in the alien state. He had merely made late registration due to paucity of funds but altogether, he had to make the tough decision of putting his dream on hold, again. We found out later—well, my mother found out after it was too late and was crossed. She chided Taju for not coming to her for help but would that undo what has already being done? Another year is lost!
Several aggrieved parents of candidates that took this year’s examination called on the Registrar of the board, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede to urgently review its postings which disconnected most candidates from their states of residence. They cited physical, fiscal and emotional stress as some of the adverse effects the board’s decision was causing parents as the examination continues till Saturday, May 20, 2017 but Taju’s parent couldn’t have being among them.
An agonised mother told one of the national dailies: “I live in Oshodi and my son who registered in Lagos was posted to Imi Lamosun, Ogun State. My friend’s child was posted to Bayelsa State! How do you want that child and the family to cope? I think the system should be reviewed.”
How do you even connect that? I heard of more disturbing tales about people who registered in the South West and were posted to the North! My mouth yet remains agape. Should this even be happening in a time such as this when Nigerians are rising up early and staying up late, only to eat the bread of sorrow?
Au contraire, when contacted, the spokesman of the board, Fabian Benjamin said candidates were simply being dishonest to their parents, as JAMB does not choose examination town for candidates, insisting that candidates were posted according to their chosen locations.
But who do we blame for the torrents of network failures and malfunctioning of servers that were experienced nationwide? Perhaps we would discover that when Mr Smart Osagiede, father of Esther Edemodu who allegedly experienced network failure while writing the examination, makes good his threat of carrying out legal action against JAMB for “breach of contract” against Nigerian parents and every candidate who fell victim to “the inadequate preparation”.
But what I have been incessantly ruminating over is the absurdity of it all. If in 2017, we cannot sans mortifying aberrations conduct UTME, then we may yet be kinsmen of Australopithecus africanus.