Jammed by JAMB

This year, over the course of a specified timeframe, over one million expectant students will sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, popularly called JAMB after the agency in charge. When the results start rolling in, some will have cause for joy, while for some others, JAMB will “jam” them for yet another year. For the latter group, JAMB is a yearly story of wasted funds and unfulfilled dreams.

Recently, while talking with a student of a certain College of Education, I was informed that she chose the college route because for three years, JAMB did not allow her into a university. Enrolling for a teachers’ training programme was the only way for her to avoid sitting idly at home. She wilfully told me that at the end of her current programme, she would knock once more on JAMB’s imposing doors. She still has dreams of bagging a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

As I pried into her encounters with JAMB, a little more information surfaced. In her three attempts, her scores ranged between 150 and 170 (out of 400!). Yet, she remained confident that if she continued trying, her score would someday meet the requirement for university admission. I asked her why she thinks she had such low scores in her prior attempts. Her evasion, and then silence, told me that she had no clue about the answer to my question. She had not even considered that question.

On several occasions, I have had opportunities to talk with potential UTME candidates. Each time, I ask about their intended courses, the previous year’s cut-off mark in their chosen schools for those intended courses, and how they plan to beat those marks. Almost every time I ask these questions, the response to the marks component is either 180 or 200. Each of these polled candidates prepare for their exam in a state of blissful ignorance. They take the general university-wide cut-off mark as the required mark to gain admission into their beloved courses.

These expectant students, when they fail to get any admission offers, complain about the examination. It’s common to hear people say that “JAMB is hard”. This reasoning depicts deep-seated ignorance. This ignorance exists in two forms—ignorance of what is expected, and ignorance of how to get the expected.

The first form of ignorance is evident in those who do not know the “real” range of course entry scores. These ones fail to carry out any due diligence on their intended courses. Some of them can barely explain why they selected those courses, and what the courses entail. Hence, they end up playing in a field without knowing the location of the goalpost. People are advised to “shoot for the stars”, so that should they fail, they “may land on the moon”. Imagine what will happen to the person who thinks that the stars are embedded within the fluffy clouds.

The second form of ignorance is evident in people like the lady earlier mentioned. They have no clue about how to “pass JAMB”. Many of those in this category lack effective study skills. I have seen dreamy-eyed persons preparing for the UTME without practising with past questions, believing that notes and textbooks alone are sufficient to guarantee success. Some don’t bother to practise on computers; some even have no computer experience whatsoever, and do nothing about their predicament. Some of them don’t even know the allotted time for the examination. Their ignorance is mind-blowing.

Sadly, the two forms of ignorance discussed here are not mutually exclusive. Hence, for many persons, the two forms exist together. In fact, sometimes, the presence of one form infers the presence of the other. They don’t know what is expected, and so don’t know how to achieve it. Unfortunately, JAMB has no pity for the ignorant. The Board is content with having loyal customers that return every year.

In a few weeks’ time, when the tests begin nationwide, the annual tales of fulfilled dreams and shattered expectations will stage a repeat performance. While JAMB’s door will be jammed in some persons faces, others with the right key will simply walk through confidently—no door lock is strong enough to disobey its key.

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