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Socialist Democracy July - August 2003 Index



By Ibrahim Kolawole, OAU DSM, Ile-Ife

n spite of mass opposition by students, the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife have imposed a regime of higher school fees.

Under the new regime, the total fees payable by a fresher was increased from N1,140 aid last year to N9,090 while fees payable by returning undergraduates was raised from N590 to N4,590. The increment includes a hike of accommodation fee from N90 per bed space to N2,590. A completely new fee of N1,000 for sports has been introduced.

The school had just resumed for a new session after a year of closure. Disagreement between the students and the authorities over the new fees had been on before the school vacated in June, 2002.

These new fees are very unpopular. At congresses, held on 3rd and 5th June, 2003, students resolved to resist the fees. On 26th and 27th May, 2003, there were mass protests by students on the campus to pressurise the authorities to drop the fees. In response, the vice-chancellor, Professor Makanjuola Rogers, ordered the suspension of four student leaders for one academic year.

But the one year closure and the loss of six months in the session before have really created weariness among many students. Though opposed to the new fees, many students are not prepared for any prolong struggle against it. Also, the decentralisation of the method of payment by the authorities which means that a student can pay the fees in any bank in Nigeria makes building mass resistance much more difficult. In other words, the authorities are implementing script of the federal government and the World Bank and IMF for the commercialisation of education which is meant to make education the exclusive preserve of the children of the already few rich and thus make life more miserable for the masses. Authorities slogan is: "If you have money you can go to school, if not you can go to hell!"




It is therefore not a surprise that the number of candidates entering into universities have reduced from 150,000 in 1999 to 90,000 in 2002 while the number of students who sat for JAMB from 1999 to 2002 have increased from 800,000 to 1.1 million. The reason for the lower number of freshers is inadequate and deteriorating facilities in the universities which cannot cater for the increasing number of eligible students.

The low budget for education has made universities and other tertiary institutions to continue to charge more fees and use other arbitrary ways to get fund. The authorities of OAU have said that it is the underfunding of the university that made them to increase the fees.

This atrocious fee increase is not the first and it will not be the last, so long as the present system continues. The fees were increased in 1997 from N30 to N590 (more than 1500% increase). The fees would have been increased in 1999 if not for the massive resistance of the students and their leaders then. In the next one or two years, the authorities based on the neo-liberal policies of the government will want to increase the fees again. The worst thing is that such increment has never and would not translate into improvement in academic and welfare facilities on campus.




The only way to solve the long lasting problem of inaccessibility to social services and the deteriorating state of living of the working and toiling masses is by fighting for a system which will put the commanding heights of the economy under collective ownership of workers' and the poor peasants' control and management, so that resources would be available for massive funding of the social services to provide free and good quality education, free health, affordable access to electricity, water, communication , transportation, etc.

In the meantime, the OAU students' union and the entire studentry will have to campaign for improvement in the academic and welfare facilities on the campus. In addition, a campaign has to be organised for the immediate reinstatement of the four suspended student leaders.





Socialist Democracy July - August 2003 Index