A total of 364 visually impaired candidates are to sit the 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination in eleven centres across the nation.
The special examination being conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for the visually impaired candidates is being held between 27 and 29 April, 2023 under the supervision of the JAMB Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG).
Chairman, JAMB Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG), Professor Peter Okebukola, who made this known while providing the highlight of the 2023 examination on Thursday in Abuja, commended the JAMB Registrar, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, for the special arrangement for this category of Nigerians, saying the goal of the Oloyede-led JAMB is to ensure that no eligible Nigerian, is prevented from taking the UTME regardless of disability.
He disclosed that from 2017, JEOG has processed about 2,600 candidates for the UTME with over a third admitted to courses of their choice in higher education institutions in Nigeria, mainly universities, adding that this JAMB initiative has been cited in the last four years in several countries, as a good model for Africa.
The former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), explained that the mode of examination administration is blended- use of Personal Computers (PCs) and use of the traditional Braille slate and stylus/typewriters in writing answers to questions that are read out by a subject expert, stressing that the blind candidates take the same test items as those who are not blind.
Okebukola who is also the Chairman Governing Board of the National Open University of Nigeria NOUN revealed that JAMB has approved that from 2024, there would be a gradual migration to the full CBT mode customised for blind candidates.
He noted that a pilot run is to be conducted later in the year to test this mode and also give options to candidates who elect for fully Braille, fully CBT and full read-aloud modes.
According to him “There are exciting times ahead for blind candidates and others with disabilities in realisation of the dream of Professor Is-haq Oloyede for equal opportunity”.
While giving further insight, Okebukola said: “So far, a good number of blind candidates processed through JEOG have secured admission to federal, state and private universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
“In 2019, of the 390 candidates, a total of 175 (44.8%) were given admission. This was unprecedented in the history of admission of such a category of students into the Nigerian higher education system, another of Professor Oloyede’s golden legacies.
“In 2020, 89 of the 351 blind candidates (25%) that sat for the UTME. In 2021, a total of 110 blind candidates were given admission, out of the 332 that sat for the UTME. This 33% admission of blind candidates to higher education in an annual cohort is unprecedented in the African higher education system.
“In 2022, 139 candidates out of the 364 candidates that took the UTME (38%) were admitted to the higher education institution of their choice.
“Five of the blind candidates scored above 270 in the 2022 UTME. Ninety-two scored above 200. When compared proportionally with the non-blind candidates, the blind candidates are doing as well, if not better than the visually unimpaired candidates.
“The 2023 exercise is taking place in 11 centres nationwide. This is in the interest of bringing the venue of the examination closer to the candidates, especially with the security situation in the country.
“The centres are coordinated by seasoned academics and university administrators. The total number of candidates is 364,” he stated.
He added that JEOG is already implementing a strategic plan of gradually increasing the ICT component of the administration of the UTME to match the improvement in ICT usage for the education of the blind in the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
He said: “The Group is excited about candidates, though few, who offer science, technology, engineering and mathematics (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.
“Through the kindness of Professor Is-haq Oloyede, JAMB takes full responsibility for hotel accommodation and feeding of the candidates in the 11 centres and pays generous transport supplementation while providing them with conducive environment to write the examination.
“Additionally, each blind candidate receives the very precious tools of slate and stylus from JAMB that will be used during the study, when admitted to a tertiary institution.
“JEOG is hoping to propose to JAMB, the institution of awards for the top three tertiary institutions with the highest number of candidates with disabilities that are admitted in a given year.
“We are happy to report that JAMB has approved, within the framework of Agenda 2063 and SDG 4, to host biennial (every two years) Africa Regional Conference on Equal Opportunities in Higher Education starting from 2024 to be chaired by Professor Is-haq Oloyede and with all 55 African countries participating.
“A national conference on the same theme has also been approved by Professor Oloyede and the JAMB Management to hold in September 2023.