Blind candidates may require special consideration in CBT
A nationwide survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) showed that many schools of the blind had not prepared their students for the examination conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
Some of the schools are, however, eagerly awaiting the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), having adequately prepared their candidates for it.
In Ibadan, the fear is that with many institutions for the visually challenged faced with the dearth of computers and special software, the plan by JAMB to introduce the CBT may exclude this special set of candidates.
The survey showed that some of the institutions in the South West geo-political zone do not have the required infrastructure to prepare their students for the examination.
In Osogbo, the Principal of Osun Secondary School for the Handicapped, Mr Rasheed Agbelekale, said that the institution was not aware of the imminent policy on the CBT.
Agbelekale said that JAMB ought to visit the special schools before evolving the policy.
Besides, he said, the blind students in the school were not computer literate due to the non-availability of computer sets.
He called on JAMB to exempt the students from the examination until necessary arrangement had been made to enable them to participate.
The principal said the school had only six blind students and called on the state government to create awareness about it to attract more students and boost enrolment.
Similarly in Ilorin, the Principal of Kwara State School for Special Needs, Ilorin, Alhaja Faosat Aroyehun, said that inadequate computers and special software might adversely affect the performance of blind students.
Aroyehun said that 32 students would resume for the SS-3 class, adding that the school has only four computers and four Perkin Braille machines to teach them.
She said that the school needed a special software for the visually impaired students to be able to use the computer for the examination.
Aroyehun, who said the school had 200 students, lamented that it lacked qualified teaching staff.
She said the institution accommodates both students with visual and hearing challenges with the state government providing free tuition, boarding and feeding.
She said that apart from academic work, the school also prepared the students for vocations like tailoring and other crafts.
In the contrary, the Special School for the Blind in Ikere-Ekiti expressed its readiness to assist its blind students to participate in the examination.
The school authorities said the decision of the examination body to introduce the computer-based test was a welcome development.
The Principal of the school, Mr Peter Omotoye, said that six students would be qualified to sit for the examination next year.
He said a computer instructor had been secured by the school to train the blind students on how to operate a computer.
The head of skills acquisition and computer training instructor in the school, Mr Olajide Olatunbosun, said the students were well equipped with the basic knowledge of computer.
He advised JAMB to visit the school with its own special computers and software to train the students ahead of the examination.
Two students of the school, Niyi Oke and Adebayo Adeyanju, who will sit the examination next year, expressed concern about the computers to be used.
They said that three students of the school who sat for the examination last year failed because the computers given to them did not have the needed software.
Mr Michael Aborisade of the Special Education Unit in the Ekiti State Ministry of Education said that adequate consideration and assistance would be provided for the blind students in the examination.
He said that arrangement had been made with JAMB to provide an instructor for the students to enable them to perform well in the examination.
At the Cheshire High School in Ibadan, a teacher, Mr Kayode Lawal, told NAN that the school was a beneficiary of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC)/Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) knowledge-based initiative.
Lawal said that the initiative provided a well-equipped CBT centre with 45 units of computers and internet facility for the school.
He said that the students in the facility also acquired vocational skills, adding that there was no incentive to enkindle the interest of the students to further their education.
In Akure, the Ondo State Government said that its school for the visually impaired in Owo was prepared for the CBT.
Mr Jide Adejuyigbe, the Commissioner for Education in the state, told NAN that the state had provided special equipment such as computers with special software for the facility.
He explained that some computers with special software were also donated to the school by some philanthropists and NGOs while JAMB also had some special computers for the blind.
“We have a population of 120 students in our school for the blind which is located in Owo Local Government Area and they have all it takes to sit for any computer-based test by JAMB.
“We encourage them a lot because in Ondo State, we are committed to the schools.
“Tuition is free in all our special schools and we allocate N9 million per month to all the special schools in the state to run the system,” he said.
From the North West geo-political zone, the Sokoto State Government has promised to
provide adequate Braille machines and special computers for the blind candidates of the 2016 UTME.
The spokesman of the state ministry of education, Alhaji Nura Maikwanci, said there was only have one school for the blind in the state, the Abdurashid Adisaraji Special School, which ran an inclusive system.
”This means that even the students who are normal are studying alongside others who have disabilities in the school.
”They will be provided with more Braille machines, special computers and other necessary facilities to train the blind students to write the computer-based UTME in 2016,” Maikwanci added.
Similarly in Birnin Kebbi, the Kebbi State School for People with Special Needs said its visually impaired students were ready and capable of sitting for the examination scheduled by JAMB.
Alhaji Umar Jantullu, the principal of the school, said it was fully aware of the arrangement, adding that it even possessed the needed hardware and software to prepare the students for such examinations.
He said the school had 20 visually-impaired students and and that the school was ready to assist any of them who indicated interest to write the examination.
However, in Kano, a teacher at the Kano Special Education School said the school was not prepared for the examination.
The teacher, who pleaded anonymity, said that although the school knew about the JAMB plan, it had limits in its effort to meet up with the expectations.
“Our students are computer literate but they only acquired theoretical and basic knowledge of the computer.
“We have limited computers although the government said it will provide more so that the students can have access to more complicated technology,” the teacher said.]\
He explained that the school had 120 blind students and that all of them had acquired other skills apart from basic education.
In the North East, visually-impaired students of special schools in Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Yobe are grappling with some challenges, thereby affecting their chances in the examination.
The survey identified the challenges to include lack of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) instructors and facilities, insecurity and other logistics.
The Principal of the Bauchi State Special Education School, Malam Usman Baba, said that the major challenge was lack of instructors to enable the students get acquainted with online examinations.
Baba said that this year, 10 visually-impaired students sat for the UTME at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, and had unpalatable experiences.
“The students took part in the 2015 JAMB examination but had some difficulties because the training they had was for a short period.
“We need IT instructors to teach them for a long period. The school computers are 10 in number and this will not in any way provide the adequate training needed for them to be computer compliant,” he said.
In Adamawa, the Principal of the Special School for Blind, Deaf and Crippled, Mr Usman, said that the school was yet to be notified about the plans to involve the blind in computer-based UTME.
He, however, said that if there was such plan, they were likely to face some challenges because computer studies were yet to be introduced in his school that had up to 1,000 students.
Usman complained that after writing their WAEC examination, the students encountered difficulties in furthering their education due to lack of support.
Commenting on the development, the Public Relations Officer of the National Association of the Deaf, Blind and Crippled, Adamawa branch, Mr Ibrahim Alhassan, also confirmed that the special school lacked ICT facilities.
He said that out of 34 students that graduated from the school last year, only one female student secured admission into the University of Jos.
The situation in Gombe is, however, different as the state government has introduced computer courses in all its secondary institutions, including the Special School for Deaf, Blind and Crippled.
The Director of Examinations at the Gombe State Ministry of Education, Mrs Hadiza Shetimma, told NAN that even the special school had normal computers but lacked Braille computers.
Meanwhile, in Yobe, the School for the Blind in Goniri in Gujba Local Government Area, had to be closed down two years ago following the capture of the town by Boko Haram insurgents.
A source in the state ministry of education who craved for anonymity said that long before the town was captured, the school was deserted following incessant attacks.
“Unfortunately, unlike other students, the blind students could not be enrolled into any other school because of their special needs,” he lamented.
From Benin in the South-South geo-political zone, a teacher at the Ihogbe College, Benin, said that blind students in the school were not prepared for the computer-based examination.
The teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that there were neither computer teachers nor Braille computers to prepare the students for such examinations.
“Ihogbe College is the only integrated government school for male students with disability in Benin.
”The students are taught with type writers and they have their own personal typewriters which they use to write internal examinations.
”There are 10 blind students in the school, five of them in senior secondary school and we are expecting more students to enrol for the 2015/2016 session,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Port Harcourt-based educationist, Mr Joseph Ajomiwe, has called on JAMB to arrange special UTME for the blind.
Ajomiwe said that the board’s `s decision to make the UTME computer based would not favour the blind students.
He said that though computer based examination would prevent malpractice, blind students might not cope with others because of the time element.
Similarly, Chidi Amadi, a 17-year-old partially impaired student, said it would be difficult for him to sit in an examination hall and compete with others who see well.
He said that the computer-based examination was a good idea but that blind students might not cope or be as fast as others.
“I will suggest that blind students be exempted from the computer-based examination or at best, a special examination should be arranged for them to write their UTME,“ he said.
From the South East, the Special Education Centre (SEC), Oji River in Enugu State said that it needed more computers and instructors to prepare its students for the examination.
The Secretary of the school, Mr Henry Obueze, said it had 30 computers to train the 80 blind students and 100 deaf students.
“Our problem is that we lack computer educators so we need permanent computer educators and more computers,” Obueze said.
On his part, the Chairman of the National Association of the Blind, Enugu chapter, Mr Donatus Ilechukwu, said the test was good but criticised its sudden introduction.
In his reaction, another official of NAB, Mr Cosmos Edeh, said the government should introduce the use of computers from junior secondary.
A student of the centre, Chinedu Onu, said that the students were used to the computer application.
“Let the computer-based examination begin; we are all computer literate with the help of the 10 computers in our computer room,” Onu said.
Similarly in Abakaliki, some school principals said that students living with disability, especially the blind, were willing to have the computer-based test but that the facilities, teachers and environment were not conducive.
One of the principals said that the students were not familiar with computers and that most schools could not boast of the facility.
He noted that some schools that had the computers could not install and power them because they lacked electricity in the areas.
“The students are willing to have the computer-based examination with their counterparts but we lack facilities, teachers and the environment is not conducive because of electricity.
“Most schools cannot boast of these facilities and those with them don’t have teachers. We need more hands to prepare these students,” he said.
In Anambra, a school principal also said that the blind students were willing to participate in the computer-based examination if given the opportunity and facilities.
Mrs Ebele Ichoku, the Principal the Basden Memorial Special Education Centre, Isulo in Orumba South Local Government Area, said that the students would cope with the initiative with adequate facilities and teachers.
“We are looking forward to it,’’ she said, adding, however, that the school’s 25 blind students needed more teaching aids to train and prepare the students adequately for the examination.
Officials of JAMB from the various states promised that the board would provide the requisite materials for the examination in all the designated centres.
More reassuring, however, is the promise by the Acting Permanent Secretary in Federal Ministry of Education, Hajia Hindatu Abdullahi, that the Federal Government would supply all the equipment needed by the blind candidates for the test.
Abdullahi said the JAMB had a successful outing with blind candidates in the 2015 examination using Braille Apex Note.
“If you had the opportunity of monitoring the last JAMB examination, you would have seen that blind candidates wrote the CBT with Braille Apex Note without many hitches.
“The issue now is that JAMB will look at where there is a concentration of these types of students and then equipment will be pumped into those areas.
“Now that we have tested blind students using computers, it is left us to prepare for the next examinations going by the number of blind candidates that will enrol for the examination.
“In terms of facilities, definitely JAMB will look at where the facilities are needed and get them ready; it is not every centre that will have blind candidates.’’
She said that JAMB would also consider having separate centres for blind candidates in the future, saying that the CBT was relatively new and required further planning to address matters arising.