It was with trepidation that the Education Minister, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai struggled last Saturday to explain the dilemma the Federal Government is facing over the explosion in the number of candidates seeking admission into Nigeria’s universities.

This reality was fully brought home last Saturday during the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, in which 1.7 million candidates participated. The visibly distraught minister could not help but voice out the government’s dilemma after she announced that out of the 1.7 million candidates that sat for UTME last Saturday, only about a third of that number, precisely 500,000, would gain admission into existing tertiary institutions, while the remaining 1.2 million won’t find space.

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When this number of candidates cannot find admission every year, the number that will accumulate could become potential tools to be used by the devil.This is a very disturbing development which is a fallout of the failure of relevant authorities to plan. With the nation’s population growing rapidly in the past decades, it was just a matter of time before facilities would become grossly inadequate for the teeming number of candidates that would seek admission into such institutions. But the relevant authorities went to sleep and now we are faced with this university admission quagmire.

It is not enough for Ruqayyatu to appeal to private investors to build universities. What has the Federal Government done to expand existing infrastructure in its universities across the country? The long years of neglect of the education sector has led to the huge decay of infrastructure in the tertiary institutions. And the lack of adequate facilities has made it impossible for universities to admit students more than they could accommodate.

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Private universities that should have bridged that gap have not helped matters as their insane profit motive has driven them to charge very outrageous fees. How do you explain a situation where a private university charges N3 million as tuition fee per session? Where would the average Nigerian get that kind of money to train his child? Must everybody become a thief to be able to send his child to a private university?

Ruqayyatu said President Goodluck Jonathan is worried about this admission crisis. He should go beyond worrying and take practical steps to expand existing facilities in tertiary institutions to accommodate more qualified students. The government has the resources to do that. Jonathan should muster the necessary political will to address this time bomb before it explodes.

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