NO TO ‘KILLER’ FEES IN OAU
NO TO ‘KILLER’ FEES IN OAU
- Mass Actions Including Protests, Rallies and Media Campaign Should be Organized
- ASUU, SSANU, NASU, NAAT and Alumni Association Should Reject the Fees, and Support Students’ Struggle
By Oluwole Engels, Osun State ERC Coordinator
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby calls on parents, workers, students to reject the fee increments in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife. We support all peaceful and civil actions taken by students including protests, rallies, press campaign, leafleting, etc which are meant to mobilize support of the public and send appropriate message to OAU management, and authorities of other universities. We also call on Nigerian students’ movement particularly, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Zone D, to oppose the fee increment. It is time for NANS to organize a national movement against education commercialization that is fast becoming norm in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
This fee hike, which will see fresh student paying between N100, 000 and N150, 000 is actually a killer fee. It will send thousands of youths to academic journey of no return, while denying millions of younger ones opportunity to have university education. How will OAU management, in its wisdom or otherwise, expect workers on N1 8, 000 minimum wage send their wards to a public university where fees are up to N100, 000? It is ridiculous that, in a country where more than 70 percent of Nigerians are poor, for management and the government to ask students to pay N100, 000. Worse still, there are no jobs for graduates after schooling as less than ten percent of graduates are employed after graduation. Therefore, this increment is a bad investment.
MANAGEMENT’S ARGUMENT IS BASELESS
The argument of the Prof. ‘Tale Omole-led administration that the university is underfunded, as excuse to deny young Nigerians the right to university education, is patently fraudulent. While we agree that the university system, and indeed the education system are grossly underfunded by the anti-poor capitalist government, we maintain that the irresponsibility of the government should not be made the burden of students and their poor parents. Moreover, the university administration has also been mismanaging the little resources accruing to the university. Just recently, the university hosted Nigerian University Game (NUGA) in which hundreds of millions of naira were spent, yet the university did not collapse. In a show of clear mismanagement, the same university management that committed hundreds of millions of naira to building a swimming pool, which is now idle, is claiming not to have money to fuel generators or fund online registration of students. Indeed, the university has earned more money from students than before, with nothing to show for it. For instance, while about 5, 000 fresh students are made to cough out an exorbitant but unjustified ‘acceptance’ fee of N20, 000 every year for the past three years (running to almost one hundred million naira), aside other fees, no substantial improvement has been seen in the quality of education students receive, neither are the student hostels faring better. The laboratories are still archaic and inadequate while water supply and the sanitary system in the hostels are eyesores.
The increment is unacceptable. Part of the victories won by ASUU is the federal government commitment of N200 billion yearly, for the next five years, as special grants to universities. While these monies are indeed meager, they can at least improve facilities in universities if judiciously and democratically managed. We then ask; why is the OAU management hiking fees again? Interestingly, when ASUU was fighting for proper funding of education, university administrators, including the OAU management, played the role of strikebreakers against the struggle. Yet, after some concessions have been won, OAU authorities want to rubbish the gain of the struggle by making university education inaccessible to young Nigerians through this devilish fee hike.
THE LASU EXPERIENCE
The recent experience of the Lagos State University (LASU), where fees have also been increased is a lesson to students, parents and staff. The three years of exorbitant fee regime in LASU has turned the university to a ghost of its past. Since the fees, ranging from N193,750 to N348,750, have been introduced, no fundamental improvement has been witnessed in the university. Most departments in the university have been decimated while working conditions of staff have worsened. Currently, lecturers’ union, ASUU-LASU is on industrial strike due to glaring neglect. The fresh students, who were forced to pay the new fee three years ago, can hardly afford to pay now, as the economic realities are biting harder. This is why we welcome the open rejection of the fees by ASUU OAU branch and call on all staff unions in the university to oppose the increment and give adequate support to students in the struggle. If the fee increment is allowed, it will lead to decimation of student population in departments, which will justify management’s attack on staffs. This fee hike will also rubbish the essence of the struggle of the staff unions for proper funding of education and provision of accessible education for all Nigerians.
FEE INCREMENT IS A SIGN OF RETROGRESSIVE GOVERNMENT
The latest planned onslaught again underscores the anti-poor and retrogressive character of Nigerian government. Despite the unprecedented wealth that has accrued to the country, the bankrupt capitalist ruling elite cannot fund quality and free education. Meanwhile, Cuba whose national wealth is not up to that of Lagos provides free and quality education for all its citizens at all levels. As against Nigeria’s 30 federal universities, Cuba with just 11 million people has more than 40 universities and 24 medical schools. Yet, the country provides free and quality education (one of the best in the world) for its citizens. This is clearly achievable in Nigeria, but for the anti-poor, capitalist policies being implemented in Nigeria. This is why Nigerian students and working people in general must spare thought for the struggle for total liberation of Nigeria from the clutches of neo-liberal, neo-colonial capitalism.