•JAMB: Action in students’ best interest
•We’ve learnt our lessons –Varsity
Following JAMB’s decision to relocate candidates earlier scheduled to take part in the ongoing UTME at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, over the disruption of its Mock test by the institution’s striking non-academic staff, candidates, parents and other stakeholders are already counting their losses
The prolonged industrial action by the non-academic staff of universities has continued to take its toll not only on the academic and administrative activities of the ivory towers, but also on their internally generated revenue sources.
Worst hit, this time, is the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, where millions of naira is being lost due to the ban placed on the institution’s computer-based test centre by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
JAMB had on Tuesday, February 27, announced the relocation of thousands of candidates who had earlier been scheduled to sit this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) at the centre, to other centres located in Ile-Ife’s adjoining cities such as Ikire, Ilesha, Osogbo and Ipetumodu.
The decision, according to the examination body, was a fallout of the disruption of the JAMB’s UTME Mock test on the campus by the striking workers, over what they described as usurpation of their responsibilities by the university management.
They also alleged the management, led by Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede of threatening to sack them if they refuse to return to work.
On Monday, February 26, the candidates for the Mock test, who were in their hundreds, were already set for the test at the university’s ICT centre, when members of the institution’s chapter of the striking unions including the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), swooped on the centre and ordered everyone out of the hall.
It took the intervention of the Police Commander, Area “A” Command, Moore, Ile-Ife, Funsho Adegboye, for normalcy to return to the campus.
Adegboye, who commended the maturity exhibited by the workers since the strike began on December 4, 2017, appealed to both parties to allow peace to reign and create room for dialogue for the benefit of the students and the entire community.
Troubled by the development, the OAU Centre Coordinator, Dr. Sururah Bello, reportedly advised the candidates to return home without taking the test.
The furious Coordinator, who appealed to both the candidates and the parents to show understanding, said JAMB would soon communicate them on the next steps.
Meanwhile, the Vice-Chairman of the institution’s chapter of NAAT, Comrade Adeyosoye Olusoji, who spoke on behalf of other union leaders, said they were disappointed by the conduct of the university management.
He said; “Despite the fact that the university is aware of the ongoing national strike, the management issued a release threatening us to either return to work or we get dismissed. Is it only OAU workers that are on strike?”
Olusoji also accused the management of threatening to invite the Police to arrest the workers. “This is what led to our action so that the management could act on the threatening memo that was circulated.”
But the vice-chancellor, who was not pleased with the development, said; “I was just appealing to the workers to allow the mock examination to hold since it is not only in OAU that the examination is being conducted. Also, the strike is not against the university management but the Federal Government, and the government is leaving no stone unturned to address their demands.
“But I must add that this action of the unions could have a negative impact on the university.”
And true to the vice-chancellor’s word, the university may be losing tens of millions of naira over the disruption, as the N700 per candidate that would have accrued to its purse through the conduct of the examination for thousands of candidates, will now go to the cover of other private centres.
According to the university’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abiodun Olarewaju, it is unfortunate that the matter was allowed to degenerate to that level, but that the university community including both the management and the workers have learnt their lessons “in a difficult manner.”
He apologised to the innocent candidates, who he said the present crop of leaders at all levels have failed, saying they would continue to work hard towards ensuring that the future generations do not suffer same fate.
He said; “It is true that the university may have lost some resources that would have helped to address some of the challenges being faced by the institution. But it is sad that innocent students are being subjected to unnecessary hardship. Unfortunately these students are victims of what they know nothing about.
“But I am sure the pains and suffering the candidates are going through would have taught everyone lessons because the children of the protesters are also affected. Some of them have been posted to Ilesha, Ikire and Osogbo. Apart from the discomfort of time and space, they cannot also enjoy the kind of facilities OAU boasts of. That is the price to pay for the unnecessary action, but we don’t want to castigate anyone.”
Also speaking on the development, the President of the National Ife Descendant Students’ Association (NIDSA), Comrade Oluwaseun Agbogunleri, said it was unfortunate that young students would be made to face the consequences of actions they knew nothing about.
“That is what we always say, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffer. Now our students are to face the challenges of accommodation, transportation and even atmosphere in their new locations. All these can lead to emotional challenge which could affect their performance.”
But JAMB has said the decision was taken in the interest of the candidates, saying candidates can only do well in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with New Telegraph, the Head of Press and Public Relations Unit of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, explained that it would not be the first time JAMB would take such action to protect the candidates’ interest, and as a damage control effort.
He said; “You could remember similar thing happened at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology last year but JAMB quickly intervened and saved the situation. We must learnt to manage crisis but wherever the situation is beyond control, JAMB would be more concerned about the safety and success of its candidates than any other interest.”
Meanwhile, as at Saturday evening, JAMB said more than 450,000 candidates have successfully sat the examinations across about 600 CBT centres nationwide.
It, however, acknowledged some hitches in some centres, but said all the issues are promptly resolved by its men, including coordinators, technical staff, proctors and independent observers.
It would be recalled that this year’s UTME commenced on Friday, March 9 and would continue till Saturday, March 17.
But New Telegraph has observed that stakeholders, and especially the supervisors and independent monitors of the examinations have defied the JAMB order on the banned items, by taking items such as mobile phones into the examination halls.
Though, there has been no incident of arrest of anyone committing this offence, pictures of examination halls with candidates sitting the examinations, have continued to emerge as against the instruction of the examination body.
JAMB had, last year, announced the ban of 16 items including wrist watches, cameras, eyeglasses, USB sticks, hard discs, books, phones, among others, from its examination halls, saying anyone caught with such outlawed items would be seen as a deliberate saboteur.
JAMB spokesman said; “So far, so good, the feedback across the country has been encouraging and we hope to continue in that manner. As at this night (Saturday), I can confirm to you that more than 450,000 candidates have successfully sat the examinations across the country. By Monday we hope to reach 800,000 figure.
“We, however, warn those going into the examination halls with the banned items, including JAMB officials, to desist from the act, as they would be treated as saboteurs.”
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