SUCCOUR has finally come the way of a Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) applicant with a disability, Esther Abiona.
The admission board has offered her an admission to study Medical Laboratory Science at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti.
Ms. Abiona has had a running battle with the board over registration for the United Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).
Abiona had claimed that she was denied registration for UTME because of her disability.
The 18-year-old Abiona, a Magboro, Ogun State resident, had gone to the centre to purchase a JAMB Electronic Personal Identification Number (E-PIN) for registration, but was rejected for not having 10 fingers required for biometrics.
She said: “It was on the last day of JAMB registration, which was on February 14, that I went to buy my e-PIN for N5,800. The reason I went on the last day was that I was expecting an admission from the Federal University of Oye Ekiti, but unfortunately, I wasn’t given one.
“The procedure is that you pay for the E-PIN and, then, go for the registration. On that day after buying my PIN, I queued for five hours and when it was my turn, a JAMB official, a woman who was attending to us said she coudn’t register me. I was confused, I said why? They saw me when I paid for the E-PIN and queued for that long and said nothing. When I asked why? She said because looking at me she could see that I have only five fingers and that the biometrics requires 10 fingerprints.
“The woman said I would have to go to the JAMB office in Abeokuta because that is where they can tell me what to do.”
According to Abiona, this year’s JAMB registration was not her first; she wrote JAMB last year and such an issue with having 10 fingers didn’t occur.
“I told them this was not my first time of writing JAMB exams and that I wrote last year and there was nothing like this. She took me to their boss who also said I should go to Abeokuta the next day for help.”
In the bid to make sure she succeeded, Abiona left for Abeokuta early in the morning but was told it was late as it was only in Abuja that her case could be handled.
“Early on February 15, I went to the Abeokuta JAMB office, when I got there, the officials also told me that they couldn’t do anything. They said I would have to go to their head office in Abuja because there is a law that said any case like mine should be brought to the federal level.
“The official further told me that February 15, was even the last day they wanted people with my case to come to Abuja and that it was late, asserting that I would have to wait till next year. I went home very sad. Just because of my disability, I was rejected for JAMB registration. I cried my eyes out knowing also that many other students were facing these challenges and crying underneath too.”
But in a statement made available to The Nation on March 7, the Board’s Head of Public Affairs and Protocol, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, explained that Abiona’s allegation, which was published in The Punch of Saturday, March 4, 2023, that she was denied the right to register for the 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) on account of her disability, was false.
He said that Abiona registered for UTME at Mountain Top University CBT Centre, Ogun State, at 4.46pm on May 12, 2021 and given her obvious condition and in line with the guidelines, she was registered with five fingers and five toes.
The statement read: “She applied for MBBS at OAU. Unfortunately, she did not meet the requirement for admission into any course. It would be recalled that the Board, since 2020, when the biometric verification was grossly abused by some candidates, had established that anyone whose disability is not obvious would have to come to Abuja for his/her registration and the Board had always borne their travel expenses.
“It is, however, instructive that Ms. Abiona had never been among those invited to Abuja as she had all along been registered without necessarily having to undertake the trip. Thus, she was registered in Ogun State and not required to come to Abuja because her disability was obvious and not in doubt. Those whose disability to thumbprint was doubtful or not physically obvious had to register in Abuja (with their transport expenses paid by the Board), just as the Board provides transportation, hotel accommodation and feeding for every blind candidate as well as his/her guide for the UTME.”
He added that the board is an equal opportunity organisation and, as such, has put in place adequate operational processes to cater for candidates, including those with special needs right from registration to admission.
On 2022 UTME registration, Benjamin said Abiona was registered with five fingers on March 8, 2022, as was done for her the previous year.
He said the UTME registration on time recorded at 3:24 pm was carried out in Oye-Ekiti.
He said: “She applied to Federal University, Oye -Ekiti, to study Medical Laboratory Science. While this was being processed, she suddenly changed to Microbiology last month (February 2023).The Board felt the change to Microbiology was unnecessary because she could still make her first choice and was investigating the reason for the change. That was where we were when she went to the media.
“In the newspaper, she claimed that the ‘university admission officer told her to register for a supplementary admission in another department in the faculty of sciences’, which she did. A claim that the university’s Admission Officer has refuted. She later informed the Board that an unidentified person in town, who claimed to be a staff of the university advised her to do the change.”
An elated Ms Abiona yesterday said: ‘’The varsity portal read ‘admission in progress’ around 8am but later changed to admitted at 9am.”