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“Keeping silent can harm the victims”
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“Keeping silent can harm the victims”

Silence can be a crime, writes Chibuzo Chiwike, 16, a Correspondent from Aba in Nigeria, who argues that those who witness crimes without interfering or reporting it might as well be criminals.

I am not an angel; I have been silent several times. Today, I am shaken to the core by what has happened, and as I see the world moving on like nothing has happened, I want it to stop and listen.

Imagine you are in a crowded room, about to write the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) mock exam. The exam was billed to start by 7:00 am. By 12:00 noon, you are outside, drinking water. The exam has not yet started. By this time, centres across the city and across the nation have rounded up the exam. Those candidates are going home, but you have not yet started. Imagine that you are finally called in to start. You were told you would be provided blank sheets for calculations, but as you signal the examiner, you are ignored. You write on the back of a borrowed exam slip.

Ten minutes to the end of your time, the examiner tells you to leave. This makes no sense. The exam is timed and there is a countdown on your screen. You have until your time is up to submit.

You refuse. This short-changing on time should not be allowed. Your examiner shuts down your computer forcefully, and you did not finish the exam. It is mock, you say. It is not the real exam.

This is the real story of what happened at an examination centre in a school in Nigeria’s Abia State. But it was a mock exam, so we remained quiet. We committed this injustice with them.

There are several arguments against making the all-important matriculation exam computer-based. So many things could go wrong. The computer could crash, the hardware could be faulty, there may be a problem with the network. Nevertheless, all agencies are determined to show that they do in fact earn their money, and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is not an exception. So they have made the UTME computer-based, without even ensuring that there are enough computers to go around, or enough competent centres.

I told you a story about what happened on the day of the mock UTME, and you may sympathise, bearing in mind that it’s not the main thing. Imagine if you were a candidate on Friday, March 9, 2018. You have been posted to your exam centre. This is your first, or maybe your second, third, or fourth time. This is the main thing. This is your ticket to higher education.

Halfway through, something happens. Think about it: halfway through your exam, something happens. Your system malfunctions or there’s a disconnection from the server before your time is up. You are confused. You have paid for this; you have as much right to write this exam as the person next to you, but your computer system is faulty, and theirs is not. You cry. Your parents cry. Nothing is done. You try to reason with them as best you can, try to picture it as they see it and try to see their excuse in their eyes. But all their excuses and your dreams crumble to your feet because now it’s the real exam. They tell you the exam will be rescheduled; they tell you to wait. A few days later, your results are released anyway. You do not know what to do.

The exam centre reportedly informed the students a few days later that the Matriculation Board had been alerted and everything now lay in its hands. However, JAMB has declined to comment on the situation.

Perhaps at some point in our lives we have been perpetrators and we have been victims; we have been bystanders and we have been in the ring. Perhaps you are not in the ring today. For the students whose dreams were crushed that Friday, this is a nightmare. Today, don’t be a criminal. Today, don’t be silent.

Why do we watch these authorities mess up our lives and get away with it? Who do they think they are? They assign us to random centres that are inadequately equipped. They don’t care that we have spent years reading for this exam. One little error and that’s it, everything we’ve worked for is over, and no one is willing to take the blame. If the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board wants the matriculation exams to be computer-based, then they should give us their own centres. We should know who to blame when these things happen.

We want these students’ exams rescheduled. You do not have the right to take away everything they’ve worked for. We want you to take a walk to an exam centre and tell us if it looks like a CBT-centre. We do not want your silence! There are several things wrong with Nigeria, and our silence is one of them.

We are not criminals, JAMB, but if you remain silent about this, you are complicit.

Photo credit: barry burke1 Silence is golden via photopin (license)

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About me: I’m a student at Dority International Secondary School, Nigeria. I love reading, all things STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), football, and Formula 1. Writing, however, is what gives me the medium to express myself, to give my opinions on the things that matter to me most. My pen is my voice, but my words are still my words. I hope to one day be someone worth writing and reading about.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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