The Association of Educational Services and Cyber Café Operators (AESCCO) has written to the Senate in protest of the recent restriction of applicants' registration for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to only Computer Based Test (CBT) centres approved by the board.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Code of Conduct and Public Petitions, AESCCO described the policy, announced by JAMB on its website, as constituting discrimination against cyber cafés run by small and medium scale owners in favour of JAMB-accredited CBT centres owned by big-time businessmen. Dated 6 March and signed Mr. Femi Aborisade, lawyer to AESCCO, the letter stated that though the association agrees with the policy’s underlying principle of establishing standards for UTME venues, it disagrees with JAMB 's desire to commodify the process by handing a huge advantage to wealthy owners of JAMB-accredited CBT centres. The association said its disagreement with the new policy stems from its exclusionary nature.
“UTME applicants should be allowed to register for the examination from their individual computer units and/or those owned by their parents and guardians rather than be compelled to patronize CBT centres. Where some individual applicants do not have their own computer units, such applicants should be allowed to exercise the freedom to patronize either a CBT centre or the cyber cafés,” said AESCCO.
The group explained that this will ensure that everybody involved in the process, regardless of economic status, is treated equally.
While conceding that small scale cyber café owners may be involved in examination-related fraud, AESCCO argued that owners of big CBT centres are not exactly free of such dubious tendencies.
“In other words, the tendency to compromise systems exists in all areas of businesses, regardless of scale and status of their proprietors. The challenge for JAMB is to establish strong control and security safeguards to monitor, identify and punish all fraudulent acts, wherever established, whether by a CBT centre or a cyber café,” it contended.
AESCCO further argued that aside from being discriminatory, the exclusion of cyber cafés, which were initially accredited by JAMB in preference to CBT centres, is unconstitutional.
AESCCO observed that if the new policy excluding its members from the registration process is implemented, it will lead to chaos in the system. According to the association, the jump in the number of UTME applicants to over one million (as at 2015, according to JAMB figures) will place an enormous strain on the CBT centres except the cyber cafés are there to take away some of the pressure. It wondered why JAMB is seeking to be different from other local and international institutions, which conduct registration online .
“If institutions of learning can conduct online registration for admission by applicants anywhere in the world, without limiting applicants to CBT centres, what is the peculiar difficulty of JAMB? If WAEC and NECO can successfully conduct registration for their examinations online without experiencing duplication and/or swapping of applicants’ data, why should the approach of JAMB be different,” asked AESCCO.
The body said if the new JAMB policy is not rescinded, it will worsen unemployment in the country and increase crime rate, as the children of cyber café operators will drop out of school because their parents would have been forced out business.
Citing an international court ruling, the African Charter on Human People's Rights as well as constitutional provisions, AESCCO said the right to life entails the right to livelihood. The group cited Section 16 (1c) of the 1999 Constitution, which states: “The state shall within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of a few individuals or of a group."
AESCCO argued that JAMB 's decision to lean towards the CBT centres constitutes an abridgement of its members' rights as guaranteed by the constitution and other conventions on human rights. It called on the Senate Committee on Ethics, Code of Conduct and Public Petitions to investigate its members' concerns. If these are found to be valid, AESCCO wants the Senate to take measures, including adopting a resolution to compel JAMB to execute its functions in line with constitutionally guaranteed rights.