The JAMB Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG) under the leadership of Professor Is-haq Oloyede, conducted the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for 364 visually impaired candidates at 11 centers across Nigeria from Thursday 27th to Friday 28th April 2023.

Among the 11 centers used across the federation was the Senate Chambers of the University of Benin which served as the venue for the special students from Edo and Delta states.

The program was set up under the leadership of Professor Is-haq Oloyede to oversee the conduct of UTME for special candidates who applied for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. The JEOG is made up of 43 senior academics including former executive secretaries of parastatals of the federal ministry of education, former vice-chancellors, a former Honourable Minister and experts in special education and other relevant stakeholders such as the President of the Nigeria Association of the Blind, National President, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, President, The Albino Foundation and President, Nigeria National Association of Deaf as well as the Anglo-Nigeria Welfare Association for the Blind.

As directed by JAMB, the group conducts the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for blind candidates and others with disabilities such as autism and down syndrome. 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 the candidates, as long as the candidate is intellectually capable and meets the minimum conditions for admission into the university/polytechnic/ college of education of choice, he/she should have a good chance of admission placement.

A visit to the Benin center of this year’s UTME for the blind provided enough evidence that JEOG is actually giving its best to encourage the physically challenged to pursue the courses of their choice in higher institutions while presenting a level playing ground for all candidates.

Prof. Oluwafemi Olaiya Balogun, a former vice chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta(FUNAB), coordinated the exams at the Benin center which had a total of nine students. He addressed them, and encouraged them to remove every other thing from their mind except for the exams they had to write, because their need of transportation, accommodation and feeding had been taken care of by JAMB.

Prof. Balogun also expressed his gartitude to the vice chancellor of the university of Benin for allowing them to use the school’s facility and for all the assistance she provided. It should be noted that medical personnels from UNIBEN’s health center were placed on standby at the exam hall throughout the period of the exam.

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At the end of the examination, N15000 was given to the students that came from Delta State, and N10000 was given to students from within Edo State for their transportation. A pre-run of the exercise was carried out an hour to the commencement of the exam to ensure preparedness and proper understanding of the process on the part of the students.

Since 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. This JAMB initiative has been cited in the last four years in several countries, as a good model for Africa.

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 category of students into the Nigerian higher education system.

Further, in 2020, 89 of the 351 blind candidates (25%) who sat for the UTME, were give admission. In 2021, a total of 110(33%) blind candidates were given admission, out of the 332 that sat for the UTME. In 2022, 139(38%) candidates out of the 364 candidates who took the UTME were admitted to the higher education institution of their choice. Five of the blind candidates scored above 270 in the 2022 UTME just as 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.

This goes to show that blind candidates can secure admission into higher institutions to a variety of courses like the candidates who are not blind. It is noteworthy that the following universities had relatively higher admission rates for blind candidates in 2022. They were Nnamdi Azikiwe University, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Lagos, University of Benin, and Obafemi Awolowo University.

Others were Gombe State University, Bayero University, Ekiti State University, Lagos State University, and Redeemer’s University.