UTME ends as 354 blind candidates sit exam

Ahead of the Monday deadline for the nationwide shutdown of schools as ordered by the federal government, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on Sunday concluded the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

Apart from some regular candidates who were rescheduled to sit the examination in Bayelsa State on Sunday, a total of 354 blind candidates also took part across 12 centres, which are located in Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Kano, Enugu, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The blind candidates had earlier been scheduled to sit their examination between Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, 24, according to Peter Okebukola, the chairman of JAMB’s equal opportunity group – a group of professionals saddled with the responsibility of conducting the examination for blind and other disadvantaged candidates.

“The decision to reschedule the examination was in compliance with the minister’s directive that all schools should be shut from Monday. We had to bring the exam forward to this weekend, and we are happy that there was no hitch,” Mr Okebukola says.

According to the former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), JAMB was not just responsible for the accommodation of the blind candidates across the 12 centres but also their transportation and welfare.

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He said the examination body’s desire to give equal opportunities to every candidate irrespective of their challenges had informed the decision to create the equal opportunity group which he noted is peopled by seasoned educationists, special education experts, blind associations, among others.

He said; “In 2019, of the 390 blind candidates who took part in the examination, a total of 175, which is 44.8 per cent, were offered admission. This is unprecedented in the history of admission of such category of students into the Nigerian higher education system.”

Mr Okebukola said most of the candidates were admitted to the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, University of Nigeria (UNN) Nsukka, University of Abuja and Bayero University Kano.

JAMB is grateful to the vice-chancellors of these universities, he said.

“In the interest of bringing the venue of the examination closer to the candidates and in response to precautionary measures against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) especially in limiting the number of candidates that can congregate at a time, JAMB approved the tripling of the number of centres from four in 2019 to 12 this year. The total number of candidates is 354,” Mr Okebukola added.

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He thanked the leadership of the Anglo Nigeria Welfare Association for the Blind and Nigerian Association for the Blind for the cooperation and support for the initiative, saying members of the association made themselves available at each of the centre.

Breaking down the number of candidates allocated to each of the 12 centres, Mr Okebukola said the Lagos centre, located at UNILAG, had 54 candidates who were drawn from both Lagos and Ogun states. The Oyo State centre, which was located at the Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo, had 23 candidates from Oyo, Kwara and Osun States.

“Twenty-four candidates from Ondo had their exam at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) while 23 others from Ekiti State sat their examinations at the University of Ado-Ekiti. Also, Kano with five centres had 122 candidates covering all northern states with each centre catering for about 30 candidates,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the two centres located in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, had 53 candidates while 55 others from the South-east and South-south had their examination at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus.

Speaking on the 2020 conduct of the examination, the head of the public relations unit of JAMB, Fabian Benjamin, said almost all the results of the candidates who sat their examinations until the weekend have been released.

He said as at the time our reporter called him on the phone on Sunday, only the candidates rescheduled for second session in Bayelsa were those still writing their exams, “but as soon as they are done, we are through with the conduct of this year’s examination.”

About 1.9 million candidates had registered for the 2020 UTME but as the time of filing this report, it was not clear how many of the candidates sat the examination, since there were some candidates who were absent at various centres across the country during the time they were scheduled to sit the exams.

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