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Despite JAMB’s Effort, Visually Impaired Candidates Struggle with Unequal Opportunity 

Despite JAMB’s Effort, Visually Impaired Candidates Struggle with Unequal Opportunity 


Ndifreke Enefiok, Uyo. 


Edidiong Mark was studying to become a Computer Engineer in the University when his life took an abrupt turn in his second year in the University. In 2017, Mark who had hopes of becoming a Computer Engineer was forced to end his study half way to pursue the tortuous medical journey of saving his sight.


The phase Mark found himself became financially leaking as he spent all he had worked for going through different medical examinations, eye screening, purchasing drugs and seeking every medical assistance he needed to restore his sight.


As the day went by, Mark’s woes deepened, leaking further into what was left of his finances. Despite strictly following doctors’ advice and drugs prescription, Mark’s world came crumbling in 2020 when he woke up and discovered he could no longer see.


Even though Mark was broken with the trajectory of his life, he was unbowed in his pursuit for University education.


With an unbroken spirit, Mark decided to undergo rehabilitation at a Special Centre in Akwa Ibom. Rehabilitation is a process where people who have lost their sight are trained on how to use their Braille machine and other visually impaired materials in school.


Mark enrolled for rehabilitation which ran into months. He was later admitted into Senior Secondary one to continue his educational journey.


This year, during the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), organized by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Mark enrolled and sat for the examination at the Special Centre in Enugu amidst struggle, financial constraint and neck-breaking transportation from Akwa Ibom State.


The UTME is an annual nationwide exam conducted by JAMB for students seeking admission into universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education in Nigeria.


The now visually impaired man who’s in his 30’s recounted how arduous the journey to Enugu State where he chooses to write the examination littered with barriers that threatened his dreams for a University degree the second time.


Even though Mark surmounted the hurdles against all odds by traveling without a guide against JAMB’s policy due to his inability to fund the cost of transportation or hire a guide, his experience is not unique as hundreds of visually impaired candidates who sit for the annual examination face following the long travel from their respective States to Enugu or other centre far away where the examination is administered.


“Planning to go to Enugu was very very tough because you need to get in contact with many people. Some of them may give you excuse and some of them may have other things to do.


“Someone like me, I solicited for support from my pastor which he gave what he had for me to embark on the trip. Because it was not enough, I had to source from other places and also from my feeding money so that I can pay my fare from Akwa Ibom State to Enugu.


“Because of the increase in fare and other logistics, I couldn’t afford a guide. I went all by myself and it was very very difficult for me because nobody guided me throughout the whole journey. I had difficulty finding the way, navigating the school compound which had bumpy roads was a strenuous task for me, and this alone stressed me out.


“Traveling from Akwa Ibom State to Enugu as a visually impaired person is a big risk because you don’t know what can happen on the road and since you cannot see you may not be able to guide yourself. The road from Akwa Ibom State to Enugu was so bad and rough that at every point we were colliding into ourselves in the bus and we spent so much time on the road. Something that should have taken us 3 -4 hours, we ended up spending up to 9 hours because our car broke down on the road and I was left to continue the remaining part of the journey all by ourselves. The driver didn’t care to refund our transport. He even told us there’s nothing he can do because we paid at the park before boarding.”


JAMB Move to Address Visually Impaired Candidates’ plight 


Following the plight of visually impaired candidates who prior used to sit for the exams alongside sighted candidates, the body through its Registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede established the JAMB Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG), to conduct UTME and also look into the concerns of candidates with special needs across the country.


JEOG comprised of 43 senior academics and experts and saddled with the responsibility of conducting UTME for the blind, have so far processed about 2,600 candidates, with a third gaining admission to different tertiary institutions.


The body revealed that in 2019, 44.8% of 390 blind candidates were admitted, 25% of 351 blind candidates gained admission in 2020. The numbers further improved in 2021, with 33% of 332 candidates admitted.


The 2022 UTME results showed a 38% admission rate among 364 blind candidates, with five scoring above 270 and 92 scoring above 200.


In 2023 and 2024, the body announced an expansion of the special centres to 11 – Lagos Bauchi, Kebbi, Enugu, Kano, Ado-Ekiti, Yola, Abuja, Oyo, Benin, and Jos and introduced the bimodal mode where the candidates can use personal computers with traditional Braille, slate and stylus or typewriter to write answers to questions read out by subject experts.


In a bid to achieve more inclusivity, the body announced this year of a gradual migration to full Computer -Based Test (CBT) mode for visually impaired candidates. They however offered candidates the options for fully Braille, fully CBT or full read aloud.


Additionally, JEOG revealed this year that UTME registration will be free for special students as well as issuance of free application documents to all categories of disabled candidates including Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, and Down syndrome.


They however revealed that 577 special students will sit for the exams across the country, Audio books will be provided for blind candidates in popular formats like MP3, WMV, and WMA while transportation of N10,000 will be augmented for the candidates.



JAMB needs to do more – Mark


Despite the efforts by JAMB, the grueling experience faced by candidates like Mark will further create systemic inequality and exclusion in JAMB’s equal opportunity pursuit.


Even though Mark adjudged JAMB well for ensuring they had good accommodation and feeding, he believes the hurdles faced could be a discouraging factor for visually impaired candidates especially the poor ones and girls from pursuing their dream for fear of being left stranded or taken advantage of.


“Jamb tried in their reception. We were given good treatment in terms of food and accommodation but the issue I had was accessing the exams avenue by myself.


The hotel we were lodged was a bit far from the centre and I feared for myself and for others like me who couldn’t afford a guide.


You could be walking on the road and someone snatches your phone or device and you can’t raise alarm because you can’t see or know who collected the phone from you.


JAMB should have put this into consideration especially for security reasons. What if we get robbed, how do we raise alarm when we are visually impaired? Mark lamented.



Archaic equipment not helping, government should intervene – Blind Candidates 


Aside the grueling road travel to Enugu, Mark who although scored 355 in JAMB and intended to study Guidance and Counseling before he was discouraged by a counselor, complained bitterly on the archaic nature of materials used in writing the exam.


“The cost of even buying Braille papers to study from till rehabilitation point till you graduate is capital intensive and telling on our pockets. With inflation in the cost of goods, a rim of Braille of paper has increased drastically, leaving us with almost nothing to hope for.


“Also you know our world is moving and innovations are coming in to replace some kind of old typewriters.


“Most of the typewriters we have are either not functioning or are fairly used. We’re still using slate and stylus to write instead of Braille machine and we still have to buy the slate and stylus with our money.


“Even the recorder we’re using is no more functioning and we’re now using our phones go to record. Sometimes you record with the recorder once it’s filled, there’s no space to delete. The one that is durable and can serve us for some time cost between 50,000 to 60,000naira and I cannot afford it.”


“Most of the problems we visually impaired face is that we’re orphans and we’re fending for ourselves and you know blind education is very expensive,” Mark said.


To alleviate the suffering of visually impaired candidates, Mark stressed that Akwa Ibom State government should intervene by partnering with JAMB to establish a special centre in the state to reduce the burden for future prospects.

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Mark who now wants to study Political Science Education decried the state of the Special school and quality of learning materials used during preparation for the exams.


“I believe government can step in here to help us by funding our special schools with updated equipment such as typing machine, recorder and even assisting us in purchasing equipment to aid our study because we’re struggling.


“Some times you can ask someone to come and repair a broken typewriter, the person comes and spoils it the more.


“For me, I use up to three typewriters in case anyone breaks down, I can still further my education because nobody cares including the teachers if you’re coping with the sighted students.


“Even the Special teacher treat us as if we’re sighted, they come to class and write note on the board and go. They don’t care if you understand the topic or not and if you draw their attention to your plight, they’ll tell you to meet your classmates to help you record the subjects taught.


“And the students who we rely on to help us now turn around to tax us for recording for us. So it’s even bad when you don’t have money to eat and you’re using it to pay someone to record topics in class for you,” Mark added.


Like Mark, Uduak Bassey, another visually impaired candidate who sat for the exam in Enugu recounted the insurmountable hurdle he had to cross to write the exams.

Uduak Bassey.

Bassey who almost forfeited his dream, with the help of some savings from his petty business, a few supportive friends, he was able scrape together the necessary funds to hire a guide and transport himself to Enugu.


“JAMB should reduce the tedious process of blind people having difficulty accessing JAMB special centers. JAMB working on having a blind center at least one in every two states. Assuming there’s a centre in Uyo or Calabar, it would have been easier for people with disabilities in River State, Abia, Bayelsa to come down and write.


“Centralizing one JAMB special center in Enugu means every person in South-South will have to travel far distances to write JAMB,” he stated.


John also stressed the importance JAMB employing trained Special teachers to monitor the process instead of regular teachers who may not understand their disability type and the kind of help to offer when needed.


“Teachers teaching special education mostly should be there during the exams to assist us with the necessary help. I could have scored higher if I had a Special teacher to spot that my carbon paper was blank. We struggle on our own with the help of our classmates who sometimes get tired of recording notes for us to still come and face challenges during JAMB because some of the invigilators are not trained to understand our needs, hence more suffering for us.”


Despite the challenges, Bassey who said he is committed to his education stressed, “If there is a set of students or a set of human beings that want to elevate, that want to be elevated from one level to another, then it is visually impaired people, especially people as a whole,” he said. “We always see education as a platform or as a factor which can promote us, which can elevate us from one level to another.”



NAB’s effort to attract Special Centre in Akwa Ibom State suffers set back


The effort of the National Association of the Blind (NAB), to facilitate a special centre to cater to the needs of visually impaired candidates suffered set back some years ago.


The NAB outgone President, Akwa Ibom State, Sir Ubong Ben explained with a sigh how the association was moved to tears following the plight of visually impaired candidates in the State and swung into action to get a centre in the state.


Ben revealed that the problem has led to forfeit of dream by many members in his clusters who are denied admission due to inadequate facilities or financial constraint.


“As State Chairman, I did my best to make sure they established a center here in Uyo to serve the South-South. But unfortunately, while I was planning that, a friend in Lagos, who was my contact then passed on and that was how the project halted.


“Since then my plan to get in touch with the JAMB Equal Opportunity Group, the body in charge of JAMB for the visually impaired in Nigeria were unsuccessful till I left office.



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