LASU: Fee Hike Causes Drop in Admission
LASU: Fee Hike Causes Drop in Admission
By Keye Ewebiyi
Last year, the Lagos State Government introduced a 725% hike in the tuition fees of Lagos State University. This is an increase up to between N193, 750 and N348, 750 as against the old fee of N25, 000. To fully impose this increment, the Students’ Union was banned for mobilizing for protests and demonstrations.
The brutal reality of this attack is already manifesting. As the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa himself admitted in a letter dated Thursday, January 5, 2012 and written to the Governor seeking extension of payment deadline, only 25 % of the over 4000 fresh students have registered for their various programmes.
Before now the university management had mandated all students to conclude payment on or before November 30, 2011! But faced with the reality that most cannot afford it, they had to extend the deadline four times in a row including allowing payment by instalments on a 70-30 ratio!
This picture became clearer at the matriculation ceremony held on 12th March, 2012 when only 39.8 %, 1,951 students out of over 4,903 students offered admission turned out to take the oath. This is a far cry from the admission last session. It is to the credit of this anti-poor fee hike that only 801 students could pay the fees between January, when the VC pleaded for extension, and March!
Lying through gritted teeth, the Vice-Chancellor tried to explain away the drop in the admission figure to be a result of an allegedly new admission policy which he said emphasizes merit. But the real truth, which they find so uncomfortable to acknowledge, is that it is the fee increment that is responsible for the decline in admission.
A TWIN-PRONGED ATTACK
While jerking fees through the roof, the government is also tampering with the LASU scholarship scheme which had before now been the only 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 weeks 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! Students and education workers, 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.
FREE AND QUALITY EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE
The whole anti-poor education policies of the Lagos State government further demonstrates how much far the ACN is from being a credible alternative to the PDP looters. Clearly the present government is not 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 and expand their faculties.
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.
MASS STRUGGLE IS THE KEY
LASU students must take their destinies into their 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 must 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 fighting the struggle against fee hike to a logical conclusion.
As a starting point, a one-day lecture boycott and mass protest should be organized. This must be connected with other mass actions like rallies, boycotts and demonstrations until the criminal policies are reversed.