SAY NO TO FEE HIKE AND ATTACK ON SCHOLARSHIP IN LASU!
Education Rights Campaign statement
SAY NO TO FEE HIKE AND ATTACK ON SCHOLARSHIP IN LASU!
FOR A ONE-DAY LECTURE BOYCOTT AND MASS PROTEST TO DEMAND:
(1)Reversal of Outrageous Fee Hike, (2) Reversal of the Review of Scholarship Scheme, (3) Restoration of LASUSU, (4) Improved Funding of Education
All right-thinking people will certainly condemn the Lagos State Government and the Lagos State University management for their continuous disregard of the calls by students and parents for the reversal of the outrageous fee hike. It shows the state government has nothing but contempt for the people.
The public would recall that the state government introduced a 725% hike in the tuition fees payable in Lagos State University last year with new students expected to pay between N193,750 and N348,750 as against the old fee of N25,000.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) believes this fee increment is wicked, unacceptable and a brutal anti-poor agenda to price education out of the reach of poor working and middle class families. Just like the Federal government, the Lagos State government is forcing these harsh anti-poor policies down the throat of students, staff and parents. This explains why the Students’ Union of the University was banned recently at the height of the public agitations against the hike.
PRICING EDUCATION OUT OF THE REACH OF THE POOR!
The criminal manifestation of this outrageous fee hike is already being felt. As the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa himself admitted in a letter dated Thursday, January 5, 2012 to the Governor seeking extension of payment deadline, “extension of the registration deadline would correct the shortfall in the required number of students registered till date then which is just 10,367 or 59 per cent of the 17,679 students expected to fulfill the registration requirement.” “As at January 5, this year 9,217 or 70 per cent out of the 13,111 returning students have paid their school fees and completed their registration process, while only 1,150 or 25 per cent of the 4,568 fresh students have registered for their various programmes.”
It is instructive to note that the university management had mandated all students to conclude payment and registration for the new session on or before November 30, 2011! But faced with the glaring reality that most cannot afford it, the university management had since extended the deadline for payment of school fees and registration four times in a row including the approval of installment payment of school fees on a 70-30 ratio!
This again demonstrates the fact the new fee regime is beyond the reach of students from poor working and middle class backgrounds. This is why we again call for immediate reversal of the criminal fee hike and urge the Lagos State government to commit adequate funds to reposition LASU and other tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
ATTACK ON STUDENTS’ SCHOLARSHIP
While jerking fees through the roof, the government is at the same time tampering with the LASU scholarship scheme which had before now been the last straw available for some indigent but bright students to hang onto to complete their studies.
In a bulletin released by the university management on Friday, 20th January, 2012, the Governing Council of LASU “agreed that it was necessary to regulate further, the requirement for the award of university scholarship. Scholarship should be restricted to the best 5 students in each year per level. Minimum CGPA to qualify as a scholar should henceforth be 4.50”. By this review, government is attempting to reduce the inadequate scholarship funding it provides for bright students instead of increasing it.
Prior to this new policy, there was no limit to the number of scholarship awardees with qualification pegged at a minimum CGPA of 4.00. 424 and 525 students benefitted from the scholarship awards in 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 academic session respectively but given the 2010/2011 results, fewer than 20 students will be eligible for the scholarship under the new policy.
This attack on students’ scholarship represents a new low in the anti-poor record of the state government. Indeed under the old scholarship scheme, awardees are paid back their whole school fees with an additional N20, 000. Now under the new scheme approved by the Governing Council some days ago, students are expected to pay the full school fees first and upon qualification for the scheme, only 25% of the fees paid will be refunded!
The LASU Students Union, Staff Unions, trade unions and civil society organizations must condemn this criminal attack on the Lagos State University Scholarship Award Scheme by the university’s governing council.
Besides it is a contradiction of Governor Babatunde Fashola’s claim that the government will mitigate the effect of the fee increase on indigent students with the provision of scholarship awards. Rather than boost the existing scholarship schemes, the government is trying to reduce the beneficiaries of the university scholarship scheme.
The scholarship review together with the fee hike is part and parcel of the neo-liberal package of the ACN government to destroy public education in the State. This is why the state government is pushing forward this agenda to reduce number of scholarship beneficiaries at the same time that fees were outrageously increased by 725% such that many new students are being forced to abandon their admissions.
FREE AND QUALITY EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE
The whole anti-poor education policies of the Lagos State government further demonstrates how much far the party is from being a credible alternative to the PDP looters.
While this can only be fully possible with the enthronement of a working and poor peoples’ government that is completely committed to using Lagos State’s resources primarily for the benefits of ordinary working Lagosians and the poor, yet a lot of difference can still be made if the present government is really sincere about turning the fortunes of public education around in the State.
Just by cutting the outrageous salaries and allowances of all political office holders in the State and the wasteful spending going on at the state government and local councils, it is possible to free huge sums of money that can be used to begin to renovate all the state public institutions, expand faculties, laboratories and libraries, build decent students’ hostels and employ more teaching staff without burdening poor parents with high fees.
Equally by fully and thoroughly democratizing governance through the establishment of committees comprising elected representatives of the working people, youth and poor with the task of monitoring government revenue and spending, it can be possible to equally block the corrupt leakages through which taxes and other revenues of the state are siphoned by political office holders and contractors.
Or is it not a contradiction that while Lagos State Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is the highest among the 36 states, the fees of its only public university is among the 5 most expensive public university in Nigeria? This is because a lot of these revenues (a sizeable chunk of which are taxes paid by poor Lagosians!) end up in the bank accounts of politicians, god fathers and looters of various shades.
But unfortunately Governor Fashola and his ilk are merely interested in turning Lagos to a “mega city” on the bones of ordinary Lagosians and the working class. This neo-liberal mindset explains the concessioning of the Lekki-Epe expressway and the imposition of tolls which elicited mass protests that were crushed with armed police at the instance of the state government. Instead of cutting their salary and halting the criminal waste of public funds so as to save more money to fund education and other vital social services, they prefer to implement policies that satisfy the private sector or ensure the continuous looting of resources by politicians to the detriment of working class and poor people.
MASS STRUGGLE IS THE KEY
We must take our destinies into our hands and begin to fight against the fee hike in LASU while demanding that the state government must increase the budgetary allocation to education in the state. This must go hand in hand with building a working class political alternative to the anti-poor ACN and their neo-liberal attacks on the condition of students, youths, workers and the poor.
LASU students and the Students Union have a responsibility to continue to organize mass resistance against these anti-poor attacks. Student activists and progressive groups in LASU must insist that the union does not use the excuse of its purported proscription to suspend the struggle. Indeed, the only reliable way to get the Union restored is by pushing the struggle against fee hike to a logical conclusion. Most importantly too, the student union leaders and activists must convene an immediate STUDENTS’ CONGRESS to discuss the attacks and how to continue the struggle.
As a starting point, the DSM and ERC call for a one-day lecture boycott and mass protest. If this action is declared by a STUDENTS’ CONGRESS in defiance of the ban of the union, it can force the school management and government to the negotiation table. However this action must be part and parcel of series of mass actions like rallies, boycotts and demonstrations that must be organized continuously until the criminal policies are reversed.
The DSM and ERC urge the staff unions of LASU, trade unions and civil society organizations to equally condemn the fee hike publicly and join forces with LASU students to demand affordable and quality public education in Lagos State.
Join DSM and ERC to fight for:
(1) Immediate reversal of the fee hike
(2) Immediate reversal of the scholarship review. Instead we demand the increase in the funding of the scholarship scheme
(3) Immediate restoration of the banned students union
(4) Increase in education budgetary allocation up to 26% as a step towards provision of free education at all levels
(5) Reduction in the outrageous salaries and allowances of political office holders and the usage of the saved money to fund public education and other vital social services
(6) Democratization of the decision-making bodies in LASU and other higher institutions in the State to ensure involvement of elected representatives of students and staff unions in vital decision making organs.
(7) Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working people.