ERC CONDEMNS CLOSURE OF THE OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY (OAU)
ERC CONDEMNS CLOSURE OF OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY (OAU)
RE-OPEN THE UNIVERSITY NOW
We Support Students’ Demand for Reversal of Hiked Fees
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the Authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife for closing the University after students in their large numbers peacefully protested against the recent astronomical increment of fees for both new and returning students.
We demand the immediate re-opening of the University and reversal of the hiked fees. We also call on the University Management not to victimize students for taking part in the peaceful protests.
This unfortunate closure was announced by the University Senate on Wednesday 18 June 2014. In accordance with a sinister agenda of the University authorities, this closure may be followed by the victimisation of student leaders and possibly an attack on the recently reinstated Students Union itself.
We believe this is one closure too many. The closure was uncalled for, despotic and vindictive. The students were peaceful and orderly and there is no evidence that a single University property was damaged during the protest.
We consider the haste at which the University Senate closed the university on the request of the Vice Chancellor as an abuse of the Senate’s powers and a sinister agenda to punish students for daring to protest Management’s anti-poor policies. Otherwise a reasonable University management would find all possible means to negotiate with students with a view to meeting their legitimate demands.
It is only in an undemocratic academic setting that the position of the Vice Chancellor or a seat in the University Senate confirms supreme powers on a small number of people to close the campus at will and thereby elongate the academic career of students unnecessarily. According to reports, the Vice Chancellor got the Senate to approve closure by selling a lie that students were violent. In the Vice Chancellor’s wild reckoning, the fact that students had employed the use of a gas cooker to prepare puffpuff which all protesters peacefully occupying the Senate on Wednesday 18 June 2014 ate immediately constituted “acts of violence”.
Only a completely despotic Vice Chancellor could conjure up this kind of bizarre allegation against his students. OAU students are reputed for their non-violent struggle even in the face of extreme provocations. An individual like Prof. Bamitale Omole is no doubt a threat to the University community which is built on the principles of academic freedom and everywhere he holds a responsible office.
However, this essentially is why the ERC very often argues for the involvement of elected representatives of workers and particularly in this case, students, in the Senate and other decision-making organs of the University. If students’ elected representatives were sitting in the Senate, they would have been able to refute the Vice Chancellor’s cocktail of white lies.
The students’ grouse is the astronomical hike in payable fees by the University management. According to new regime of fees announced by the University Management, fees payable by new students in the Arts/Law/Social Sciences category shot up by 322%; Clinical Sciences and Pharmacy by 267% and the Sciences 253%. For the returning students, fees were increased by over 200% to between N19,700 to above N33,700.
The ERC considers this fee hike as unacceptable and anti-poor. We stoutly believe that the fee hike is unnecessary especially coming on the heels of a N200billion intervention fund won by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) during the six-month long strike last year which is to be devoted to the upgrade of facilities in all public Universities. If there is any legitimate financial need, we expect the University management to utilize its share of the N200 billion intervention fund.
However what is at stake in the fee hike imbroglio in OAU is the question: whose responsibility is it to fund public education? In the reckoning of the OAU Vice Chancellor, who is incidentally a beneficiary of free and subsidized public education, poor working class parents who are hardly able to afford three-square meals for their families should be straddled with the additional financial responsibility of funding public education. The ERC disagrees and it is clear that thousands of OAU students also disagree.
Nigeria is endowed with enormous human, material and natural resources to fund and provide free and quality education at all levels. It is the responsibility of government at all levels to mobilise these enormous resources and judiciously utilize them to fund education and other public social services and ensure a humane living standards for the populace and a future for the Nation’s youth.
However due to the highly exploitative system of capitalism which is in place in Nigeria and by extension the rapacious greed and looting of the treasury by the corrupt ruling elite, Nigeria’s enormous human and natural resources has failed to transform the lives of the mass majority of the people. Public education, health and other social services are the direct victims of this capitalist mismanagement of the Nation’s enormous potentials. It is also the reason why a majority wallow of Nigerians in poverty and hundreds of thousands of the nation’s youth are without jobs despite the ocean of wealth in which the Nation swims.
The only solution to this distasteful state of affairs is for a mass mobilisation of the people to overthrow the corrupt capitalist ruling elite, end the exploitative system of capitalism and put in its place a democratic socialist system only under which Nigeria’s enormous resources can be democratically utilized for the needs of all.
The ERC shall continue to support the struggles of OAU students, and by extension students of other campuses, to fight obnoxious fee hikes and other exploitative and anti-poor policies of education commercialisation.