The Federal Government has express regret that over 20 per cent of eligible candidates who sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) annually are unable to secured admission into universities.

This was made know by the Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.

Shekarau, who spoke on Tuesday, in Abuja, at a news conference to unveil activities marking 2015 Commonwealth Day Celebration, said this was because Nigerian universities had low absorption capacity.

The minister noted the conventional Nigerian higher education system was hard pressed to meet the demands of the ever-growing population of the country for highly accessible, affordable and qualitative education.

Shekarau, however, said the Federal Government had strengthened the Open and Distance Learning in line with the objective of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), which Nigeria was a major donor, to alleviate the problem.

According to him, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), operating the ODL, had been at the vanguard of improving access and equity in Nigerian education sector, since its inception in 2003.

He said: “ODL has been embraced as an effective alternative mode of learning, ensuring that higher education is not kept for the limited and exclusive few.”

He said the theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day Celebration: “A Young Commonwealth” was apt in view of the fact that people aged 29 and under, account for the majority of the Commonwealth population, saying these young people played significant role in the heart of sustainable development and democracy.

Shekarau insisted that the development of young people was a collective responsibility of all stakeholders, including governments, parents, schools, corporate and non-governmental organisations.

Recalling some of the contributions of the Commonwealth to Nigeria, the minister disclosed that in the 2014/2015 academic session, the Commonwealth Commission awarded 13 postgraduate scholarship to qualified Nigerians for study in the UK universities.

Over 1.7 million candidates sit for UTME annually, with only a fraction of them being able to secure admission into the existing universities.

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