Underage Students Pose Challenges in Tertiary Institutions, Minister Warns

The Minister of State for Education, Mamman, has raised concerns about the increasing presence of underage students in higher institutions, attributing some of the challenges encountered in universities to this phenomenon. 

Speaking while monitoring the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in Abuja, Mamman emphasised the need for students to attain a certain level of maturity before embarking on university education.

“The other thing which we notice is the age of those who have applied to go to the university. Some of them are too young,” Mamman stated.

 “If they are too young, they won’t be able to manage properly. That accounts for some of the problems we are seeing in the universities.”

Highlighting the current admission age set by most tertiary institutions at 16 years, the Minister reiterated the importance of maturity in navigating university life effectively. 

He urged parents to avoid pressuring their children into higher education prematurely, emphasising the significance of allowing them to develop the necessary skills and maturity.

The issue of underage candidates participating in the UTME has prompted discussions within legislative circles. 

In 2021, the Senate announced plans to amend the law establishing the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to restrict the age of candidates sitting for the examination to 16 years and above. 

Senator Akon Eyakenyi, then Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, highlighted the necessity of this amendment to curb the influx of underaged candidates into universities.

Despite the challenges posed by underage students, Mamman commended JAMB for its efforts in conducting the UTME seamlessly, with minimal cases of examination malpractice.

 He attributed this success to the adoption of technology in the examination process, which has enhanced efficiency and reliability.

Meanwhile, the Minister emphasised the importance of skills acquisition as an alternative pathway for youths who may not secure admission into tertiary institutions. 

He advocated the integration of skills development into the educational curriculum, starting from the primary level, to equip students with practical abilities for the future.

In a related development, the Minister of State for Education, Dr. Tanko Sununu, expressed satisfaction with the standard and integrity of the UTME, noting its expansion beyond Nigerian borders. 

Sununu praised JAMB’s management for maintaining objectivity and reliability in the examination process, citing measures implemented to prevent malpractice.

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