A total of 335 blind candidates are taking part in the ongoing unified tertiary matriculation examinations (UTME) which is being conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
The candidates, who are part of more than 1.3 million candidates registered by the examination body for the 2021 edition, are currently sitting the examination across 11 centres nationwide.
The chairman of JAMB Equal Opportunity Group, the body in charge of the conduct of the examination for this category of candidates, Peter Okebukola, said the examination is scheduled to hold between June 30 and July 1, across the 11 centres.
Mr Okebukola, a professor of science education, spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, venue for the candidates from Lagos and Ogun States.
He listed other cities hosting the remaining other centres as the federal capital territory, FCT, Ado-Ekiti, Bauchi, Benin, Enugu, Jos, Kano, Kebbi, Oyo and Yola.
Equal opportunity group
According to Mr Okebukola, as part of efforts by the current leadership of JAMB towards “promoting equity in admission of suitably qualified secondary school leavers to higher education in Africa,” the equal opportunity group was created.
He said the group, which comprises 42 senior academics including experts in special education and other relevant stakeholders such as the leadership of Anglo-Nigeria Welfare Association for the Blind, has been responsible for the conduct of the examination for the blind candidates since 2017.
The don said, “The goal of the Oloyede-led JAMB is to ensure that no Nigerian who is eligible, is prevented from taking the UTME regardless of disability. He holds the firm view that we must have a level playing field for all candidates. As long as the candidate is intellectually capable and meets the minimum conditions for admission in the university/polytechnic/college of education of choice, he/she should have a good chance of admission placement.”
In 2019, of the 390 candidates, a total of 175 (44.8 per cent) were given admission. This was unprecedented in the history of admission of such a category of students into the Nigerian higher education system. Most of the candidates were admitted to the University of Ilorin, Bayero University, Kano, University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and University of Abuja.”
Mr Okebukola expressed JAMB’s appreciation to the vice-chancellors of the concerned universities, adding that “a few weeks ago, Bayero University, Kano, offered special dispensation for admitting blind candidates by expanding its carrying capacity for this category of students.”
He listed other members of the group to include a former executive secretary of the National Commission for Nomadic Education, Rashid Aderinoye; former vice-chancellor of IBB University, Lapai, Muhammed Maiturare; former president of the Nigeria Academy of Science, Mosto Onuoha; former vice-chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, Muhammad Bello; former sports minister, Taoheed Adedoja, and former vice-chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Olufemi Balogun, among others.
The chairman of the group said the blended mode of the examination is chosen based on the current state of development of the education system in Nigeria.
He said; “The mode of examination administration is blended, that is, the use of personal computers and the traditional braille slate and stylus/typewriters in writing answers to questions that are read out by a subject expert. This is in alignment with the current state of development of Nigeria’s higher education system with regard to education of the blind.
“But our group is already implementing a strategic plan of gradually increasing the ICT component of administration of the UTME to match improvement in ICT usage for the education of the blind in the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
“The group is excited about candidates, though few, who offer STEM subjects since this is an important slant to equal opportunity. A study has been underway since 2018 to explore ways of encouraging many blind candidates to study STEM subjects recognising the inclement conditions for the study of science by blind candidates at the secondary and post-secondary levels.”
Candidates share experiences
Some of the candidates, who shared their experiences with our reporter, commended the examination body for accommodating them in its plans.
A 21-year-old candidate, Eluu Chukwudi, who was accompanied to the centre by his mother, Christiana Eluu, said his desire is to study social work in the university.
Master Chukwudi, a student of Federal Government College, Ijanikin, said he was determined to make his parents proud.
“I was not born blind but since this is how I am now, I believe that being blind shouldn’t limit my opportunities. We can compete favourably with our contemporaries who are not blind and even surpass them in excellence,” he said.
Also, Stephen Okafor, said the atmosphere was conducive for the examination and promised to excel.
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