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Socialist Democracy July 2004

 

OSUN STATE: OAU - No To Hike In Fee

By Hon. Ayeni Jasper, Clerk of the Students’ Union and member, DSM, OAU

 

The management of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife has once again embarked on a new round of anti-masses policy of commercialisation of education. Of course, it is an undisputable fact that the Obasanjo government lacks the correct disposition towards education and the provision of other basic social amenities for the masses. The five-year reign of Obasanjo has not only been marked by economic privation but has also left the masses in a state of hopelessness. This assertion is even corroborated by the recent hike in petroleum products prices.

Despite the high level of poverty in the nation, the management of OAU still has the effrontery to come out with obnoxious, ridiculous and pocket-tearing fees increase. Its arguments for these illegal and unjustifiable fees are under funding and the need for good quality education. But we ask: whose responsibility is it to fund education and provide qualitative education? Is it the duty of our parents, 70% of whom are living in penury (living on $1 a day) to provide N300 billion needed to put the education sector in its 1970's state, or to pay for N140,000 the government claimed it is spending on each university student? It is the responsibility of the government to provide such, since education is known to be an important instrument for national development. Rather, the government takes delight in white elephant projects, looting and manipulation. For instance, the government spent over N100 billion within two months on mere jamboree hosting of Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and All African Games (COJA) while education, health and other social services are in shamble.

In addition to the irresponsibility of the government, the problem on our campus cannot be divorced from the high level of mismanagement of resources and misplacement of priorities on the part of the school authorities. Just last session, the management increased the fees by 800% (from N590 to N4590) as if skyrocketing of fees will solve the endemic problems facing the university. Fees such as N1,000 sport levy was collected from all the students. Disables were not speared despite the fact that there is no provision for special sport. Again, N2,500 hostel maintenance charge was equally collected. All these have made living and academic conditions unbearable for majority of students. But what was the money used for? Over N19million was claimed to have been spent on mere painting of two hostels and about N10million was also claimed to have been expended on tarring of a less than 100meter Health Centre road!

Also last session, the university authorities introduced a pre-degree programme which, according to them, is one of the ways to solve the problem of underfunding facing the school. Over N150 million has so far been generated from this venture, yet, the university finds it difficult to pay salaries of workers. The truth however is that pre-degree programme is education commercialisation in disguise

These developments underscore the point made by the Ife DSM branch during the struggle against fee increment in 2002/2003 session that the policy of fee increment or any other related shortcut measure cannot resolve the perennial problem of funding faced by the university system. Only massive investment of public funds in public education by government can fundamentally solve the problem. This would be accompanied by the democratisation of the school system such that the management of the affairs of the institution, including finance, will be the collective responsibility of all interest groups within the system, including students represented by their democratically elected representatives in all decision making organs of the university including the senate and governing council.

The Students' Union must be prepared to lead the students in a coordinated campaign against this latest attempt to commercialise education out of the reach of children of the poor working class background, who actually constitute the majority of OAU students population. It must also be prepared to work with other trade unions in the education sector like SSANU, NASU, ASUU, etc whose members are also being negatively affected by the policy of education commercialisation.

 

We call on all Nigerian students to join us as we demand:

 

1. No to fee hike, for a total reversal of the hike to its 2001 level.

 

2. 26% budgetary allocation to education by the government as recommended by UNESCO.

 

3. Probe panel, which must include representatives of all unions in the university, to look into the mismanagement of fund by the school authorities.

 

4. Reinstatement of all politically expelled and rusticated students' union officers and activists.

 

5. Prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments of staff, teaching and non-teaching, in order to resolve the current impasse where lecturers have refused to process results of final year students due for service in September.

 

 

Socialist Democracy July 2004