LASU FEE-HIKE: Two Years After
LASU FEE-HIKE: Two Years After
(By James Foluso)
Barely two years after the introduction of the 725% hike in tuition fees of Lagos State University, the resultant effect of this anti-poor policy has become very obvious in the institution. The hike which resulted in new students paying between N195,750 and N348,750 as against the old fee of N25,000 has successfully denied thousands of poor Lagosians access to university education.
The brutal reality of this fee hike was first manifested during the first post-fee hike matriculation ceremony held on 12th March, 2012 when only 1,951 students (representing 39.8%) out of 4,903 students offered admission for the 2011/2012 academic session turned out for the oath. In the same vein, for the 2012/2013 academic session, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oladapo Obafunwa disclosed that out of the 2,784 students offered admission; only 2,008 were cleared for matriculation. Meanwhile, about 3,000 students sat for the post UTME examination. For the incoming academic session, according to a report by the Punch newspaper as at July 19 only about 1,100 candidates had registered for post-UTME examination (Punch July 30, 2013). These figures are a far cry from what was obtainable in the pre-fee hike era. The number of students that used to sit for similar examination in the four years before the hike fluctuated between the 15,000 and 20,000. It also fall short of the 5,000 carrying capacity issued LASU by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
The low patronage suffered by the institution has forced the management to make admission an all-comers’ affair by allowing those that did not choose the institution but scored a minimum mark of 180 in the 2013 UTME to write the second-round of the Post-UTME Screening Test. Meanwhile the university scholarship scheme which used to provide a lifeline for indigent but brilliant students during the old fee regime has come under serious attack by the university management. In a recent publication by the university, the Governing Council directed that only indigent students who obtain a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.5 at the end of each session will have his or her tuition taken care of by the university.
This is contrary to the pledge made by the Lagos State Government in the heat of the fee hike struggle that bursary and scholarship awards would be given to cushion the effect of the fee hike. The scholarship scheme during the old fee regime guaranteed all students with a minimum CGPA of 4.00 tuition-free academic session plus a N20,000 textbook allowance. Record has it that 424 and 525 students benefitted from the scholarship awards in 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 academic session respectively but given the latest results, fewer than 20 students will be eligible for the scholarship under the new policy, and this few will have to be subjected to a background test to determine whether they are indigent or not.
It is pertinent to note that Lagos State University is the highest fee-paying state-owned institution in Nigeria, an institution owned by the opposition party and a much taunted progressive party the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now known as All Progressive Congress (APC). This goes to show that most opposition parties are oppositions only in name and slogan. They implement the same anti-poor, pro-rich policies with the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Meanwhile, workers of Lagos State University are reported to have begun a face-off with the management over its planned restructuring policy.
According to The Nations Newspaper of July 18, 2013, “teachers at Lagos State University are oiling their guns in readiness for a battle with management against the institutions ‘no vacancy, no promotion’ policy and proposed restructuring of some programmes. They believe that the planned restructuring would lead to the sacking of some workers”.
This assertion by the teachers is not far-fetched. As enrolment level drops and drop-out rate rises on account of unaffordable level of fees, some programmes and courses in the university may be rationalized due to inadequate number of students, and subsequently some programmes and departments could be shutdown. In this case, teaching and non-teaching personnel will be sacked.
There is need for an urgent fight-back! The campaign for the reversal of the fee hike should be re-launched as a matter of urgency by both staff and students’ unions. Given the glaring facts and figures available on the outcome of the hike, a strong campaign that will appeal to the masses is possible, to fight for the reversal of the hike. A joint struggle by the Student’s Union, ASUU, NASU and NAAT is needed to defeat this anti-students/workers policy.