Students seeking admission into universities underwent tough times following the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s insistence on physical registration, SHARON OSAJI writes.
It was cold and windy on the night of Thursday, May 11. It had drizzled in some parts of Lagos State, including Ojora Road, Ikoyi, where the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board National Headquarters Annex Office is located.
At exactly 11.13 pm, The PUNCH observed some youths, probably between 18 and 24 years, loitering around the street.
They were clad in sweaters.
As this reporter went down the street and approached the JAMB office entrance, she observed a large number of youths, both male and female, lying along the sidewalk; some having chitchats in clusters.
They were armed with cartons and wrappers that served as their sleeping tools for the night.
They used the cartons as their beds, the wrappers to cover their bodies from the cold night and mosquitoes, and sweaters for warmth.
Our correspondent later discovered that some of the students had been sleeping outside the JAMB office for days.
It was gathered that on Monday, May 8, over 100 students slept along the street, while on May 9, 162 students slept outside.
It was learnt that the youth travelled from the outskirts of Lagos to register for the 2023 Direct Entry, which would enable them to gain admission into the 200-level in university.
Our correspondent further discovered that many of the students lived in Badagry, Epe, and Ikorodu areas, including Sango-Ota, Ogun State.
A student, who identified himself only as Damilola to avoid victimisation, said he came from Badagry.
“I have been coming to the JAMB office since last month (April). But I started sleeping here on Tuesday, May 9. I just had to get this done as the deadline is this weekend. This is my second year doing nothing; I don’t want to wait anymore.
“I spent over N6,000 on transportation both on Monday and Tuesday and when I saw that I had to be early in order to register, I decided to sleep here with the others. That Tuesday, we counted ourselves and we were 162 that slept here. But this is Thursday night and they have still not attended to us,” he added.
This year, JAMB said it would only recognise and accept 13 qualifications/certificates for the exercise.
For the first degree, University Diploma, Higher National Diploma, Ordinary National Diploma/National Diploma and Nigeria Certificate in Education holders will have to upload their certificates and letters of admission offered by JAMB for the certificate obtained.
Also, for Interim Joint Matriculation Board A’ Level, Joint Universities Examination Board A’ Level, NABTEB Advanced National Business Certificate, NABTEB Advanced National Technical Certificate, Higher Islamic Studies Certificate by NBAIS, International Baccalaureate and National Registered Nurse/National Registered Midwife, candidates were expected to upload their certificates and letter of admissions from the bodies conducting the examinations.
In March 2023, JAMB’s Registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, announced the reopening of the 2023 Direct Entry registration from March 20, 2023, to April 28, 2023, after it was previously suspended in February.
It was, however, extended to May 6 and then to May 13.
JAMB made this year’s registration in-person, cancelling the online registration it practised over the years.
Also, it was compulsory for every candidate to apply manually for registration using their biometrics at the permanent testing centre in every state nationwide.
“The issue is having only one office attending to thousands of people. I can’t comprehend how they expected this to work without adequate provisions for the number of people.
“We have posted pictures and videos online demanding that JAMB treat us better and make the process easier but they have continued to turn a deaf ear. Why do we have to struggle for everything in this country?” Damilola wondered.
He continued, “When I came here last month, I was given an appointment for this Tuesday. I first came on Monday, May 8 to see things for myself and decided to come early on Tuesday, but I was told that the appointment had been nullified and I should go and write my name again and come back next week Tuesday, whereas the deadline is this Saturday.”
A female student, Arowosaye Jumai said, “I have been here since Monday. If I go home, I’ll be spending at least N3,000 per day on transportation and that is too expensive. I live near Sango-Ota and my area falls under Lagos State, so I was asked to come here for registration.
“Despite us sleeping here and queuing up very early in the morning, some officials still bring candidates in by connection and they get to register before us. Most times, they are even more than those that queue up and we end up staying throughout the day without achieving anything.”
Another student, Bello Victor, said JAMB officials sometimes urged them to return home while promising to attend to them.
“But even when we agree to go home and come back, it is still the same result. Registration is ending in two days and that means we will have to wait another year before we can get admission,” he added.
The students said their parents were unhappy with the situation but noted that they did not have a choice as some of them had spent years waiting to get admission.
However, a female student who lives in Badagry and spoke on condition of anonymity, said even after some parents accompanied their children to the centre, they were left unattended to.
“They didn’t even let them pass the gate,” she added.
The young woman said her parents did not subscribe to her sleeping along the road, and as a result, she had to return home every day.
She, however, noted that she had to leave home as early as 3 am in order to get to the JAMB office in time, risking her life in the process.
Despite the sacrifices, in a conversation with our correspondent on Saturday, she said she could not register.
“In previous years, we could register from a JAMB-accredited centre near our houses, but they suddenly came up with a new policy that we must register at only their centre,” she stated.
JAMB had set new guidelines in March 2023 for the registration of the 2023 Direct Entry nationwide to check the high level of forgery of the ‘A’ Level certificates used for the registration.
Oloyede had said that the joint operations of the Federal Ministry of Education and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission on direct entry qualifications brought to light some of these “unsavoury and nefarious activities.”
The registrar also stated that the 2023 direct entry registration would only be restricted to JAMB professional testing centres and would also be done under strict supervision.
“I understand they may be trying to make the process more transparent to avoid fraudulent registrations and may want to see all our documents physically to ascertain the authenticity, but there should be better ways to do it. How can all the DE candidates in a state go to only one location at this time and age? It can never make sense to me.
“The deadline is today (Saturday, May 13) and they have told us that they do not work on Saturdays, even though some people still slept there on Friday night. So, it is already too late for some of us,” the young lady stated.
Our correspondent searched through the Internet to find out the state of direct entry registration in other parts of the country.
Surprisingly, a similar trend was playing out in some other states across the federation.
While many posted photos and videos about their plight at the Lagos office, a Twitter user @theunusualtosin took to the micro-blogging site on May 9 to post videos of students in their numbers at the Ilorin, Kwara State JAMB office.
“Students are held stranded at JAMB office Ilorin over DE registration,” the tweep wrote.
“They kept us mute without prior information. These are thousands of Nigerian youths fighting for their fate over registration. Do we still have a working system?” the Twitter user questioned, as he tagged JAMB’s official handle.
In Kaduna, another Twitter user, on May 10, said students were being treated “like animals,” as he also shared a video from the zonal office showing students who flooded the gate of the building.
“Please JAMB do something about 2023 DE registration,” @elbadoosneh wrote.
“We are suffering; why would they be treating us like animals? Sun, transport money, feeding money. (With) over 23 LGAs in Kaduna, how can a single centre deliver these services? Please JAMB do something,” the user added.
Responding to the tweets, another user @Orifunke, who said her sister was one of those at the Lagos office seeking registration, also took to the social media platform on Friday to register her displeasure.
She wrote, “The incompetence of JAMB is incredibly alarming. How do you ask all direct entry students to come to Ikoyi to get their biometrics done and still not have adequate means to respond to them?”
“Students are even going there by 2 am to no avail! Some people are even sleeping over. I am alarmed at this level of incompetence, I can’t lie.”
When The PUNCH reached out to JAMB’s Head of Media and Information, Dr Fabian Benjamin, he said the Lagos office closes at 6 pm and “nobody has slept there.”
But when our correspondent told him about her visit to the area on Thursday night and encounter with the students, Fabian simply said, “I am not aware.”
In another conversation with our correspondent, however, a JAMB official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that students had been sleeping outside the Lagos office.
He said it was too late for anyone who hadn’t registered as the deadline had elapsed, but said the board might consider another postponement because of the number of students who had yet to register.