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Harsh economy, failing facilities boil campuses to closure

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Protesting students at Unilag.

Protesting students at Unilag.

Since the beginning of the year, not less than six higher institutions of learning have been closed due to students’ unrest. Ajibola Amzat (Features Editor), Geraldine Akutu, Tanba Stephen and Victoria Olisa examine the consequence of this disruption on the quality of tertiary education in Nigeria.

“All academic activities on campus are hereby suspended with immediate effect. The University is therefore closed with immediate effect.”

With this announcement, University of Lagos (Unilag) on Friday, April 8 sent home about 45,000 students offering both full-and part-time courses. The students were just getting ready to write their first-semester examination when they got shooed out of the campus.

Unilag is not the only university that slammed the gate against the students last April, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba (AAUA), Ondo State; University of Port Harcourt (Uniport), Rivers State;  Benue State University (BSU), Benue; and University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo State have followed suit.

The eviction order in each of the colleges is the climax of unresolved dispute between the university administration and the students, mostly the undergraduates.

In Unilag, the students’ protest was about the poor delivery of social services on campus, according to the students who spoke anonymously with The Guardian. The power and water supplies on campus are erratic, and the prices of goods are exorbitant compared to the prices off-campus, they said. So the protest was about “the fight against poor state of welfare of students,” Muhammed Olaniyan, the President of the proscribed University of Lagos Students’ Union (ULSU) said in an interview.

But Unilag registrar, Dr. Taiwo Ipaye debunked the claim of the students in an interview with The Guardian. She said though power supply has been a major challenge in Nigeria currently, Unilag provides adequate power supply either through PHCN or generators for 12 hours every day, which is distributed to hostels and staff quarters.

“Then from 8am to 7pm when school activities commence, electricity is distributed to the school academic areas but the library is supplied by stand by generator,” she told The Guardian, continuing, she said, other universities can only guarantee 7 to 8 hours electricity supply. We also have one of our hostels that enjoy 24 hours electricity through solar power. In terms of water supply, there have been challenges in the area of Lagos State water system but regardless of that we still maintain regular water supply.”
If students were persuaded by the argument of Dr. Ipaye, perhaps there would be no breakdown of law and order on that Wednesday which lasted till Friday when they got evicted.

Barely 24 hours after the eviction of Unilag students from campus had the students of AAUN received their quit notice. The University decided to send the students home in order to prevent further loss of life.

The violent protest of Friday April 8 was triggered by the death of a 200 level student of Economic Department, Ojo Afolabi Daniel. He was on his way to write an exam when he had an accident on a commercial motorcycle. His colleagues wanted the exam postponed so that they could mourn him; but the University management refused, and hell broke loose.

The students riot at Uniport started when the University authorities denied students access to write the first semester exam until the school fee of N45, 000 (about $200) is fully paid. Many students failed to comply with this directive despite the eight-week shift. Students, on the other hand, argued that their parents are broke because of salary delay occasioned by the current harsh economic condition in the country. But the authorities think this argument is a mere excuse not only to default payment, but to avoid writing exam. More so, only two percent of students have not completed the payment of school fees, according to the Deputy Registrar, Information of UNIPORT, Dr. William Wodi.

The University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale also thinks that the protested is masterminded by his “enemies and detractors” who are bent on having him sacked. Three students were reportedly killed during the protest, but the police insisted that only one casualty, Peter Ofurum, is recorded.

The same day the UNIPORT was “boiling”, the students of Benue State University trooped to the street protesting the University management’s decision to increase student’s charges by about 400 percent. Acceptance fee which was formerly N5000 has been increased to N25, 000; certificate fee which was N5000 has also been increased to N25000 and hostel fee increased to N5000 from N1800. The students believe that the fee increment introduced at the time their parents experience economic hardship is inexcusable.

In thousands, they mounted a siege at the University gate preventing entry into the campus. The management henceforth ordered the University closure immediately.

The most recent clash between students and the university authorities is the event leading to the closure of UI last week.
The students became livid with anger when the Disciplinary Committee of the University recommended a 500-level student of the Department of Petroleum a Engineering, Michael Tunji Epeti, for rustication. The student allegedly led his colleagues to protest over the poor supply of electricity and water in the halls of residence.

In Yaba College of Technology, the February protest was about the negligence of the authorities that led to the death of a student, Dazan Charity Oluwabukola.

The spate of student protests this year is a continuation of the 2015 campus unrest that affected academic programmes in other colleges such as Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife Osun State and Lagos State University, Lagos among others.

In fact, all Nigerian universities perhaps with the exception of private universities have been closed down at one time or the other over issues bordering on students wellbeing.

In contrast, the news of university closure is a rare occurrence in other countries in spite of students’ disagreement with the university administration.

This situation, therefore, raises questions. Is the university administration in Nigeria lacking in competence and creativity required to manage a community of youths drawn from diverse background? Or are the Nigerian students a different stock from the students elsewhere?

In one of his papers, “Future of Higher Education in Africa,” which was recently presented at the third international conference organised by the Babcock University, School of Education and Humanities, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Ishaq Oloyede has identified poor funding as a major pitfall of higher education in Africa.

Oloyede said funding of all universities in Nigeria put together constitutes less than the funding of one university in Europe and America.

That is no exaggeration.

The financial statement of the Columbia University published on its website shows the total expenses of the college in 2015 was $3.8 bn; for Harvard, it was $4.4 bn whereas the Nigeria’s education budget for 2015 and 2016 is N415.9bn ($1.3bn) and N403.2bn ($1.2bn). At the parallel market exchange of N320 per dollar, the total budget for education in the two years still comes short of the Harvard budget for one year.
Though the two universities mentioned are private which draw their funding largely from alumni contribution, Nigerian universities hardly court the alumni for financial support, said Are Afe Babalola when he was launching Unilag Alumni Foundation as Pro-Chancellor a few years ago.

Though UNESCO recommends that 26 percent of national budget should be allocated to education, no Nigeria government since 1999 or before has hit that mark. The 2016 budget only allocated 6.7 percent of the total budget to education.

It is a different story in the Nigeria’s close neighbour. According to the Ghana Ministry of Education, Ghana allocated 23.1 percent of its resources to education between 2006 and 2009, which is the second highest among the 10 neighbouring countries. Little wonder Nigerian parents are sending their wards to Ghana. The University World News estimated about 7500 Nigerian students in the Ghanaian universities and colleges.
Another common problem according to Professor Oloyede is ‘massification’ in enrolment. University of Lagos desires to parody itself as the Nigeria’s Harvard. With its meagre funding compare to Harvard, the university enrolment stands at 45, 000, whereas Harvard with it humongous fortunes only has 21,115 enrolees.

Another common problem according to Professor Oloyede is ‘massification’ in enrolment. University of Lagos desires to parody itself as the Nigeria’s Harvard. With its meagre funding compare to Harvard, the university enrolment stands at 45, 000, whereas Harvard with it humongous fortunes only has 21,115 enrolees.

With such large number of student population competing for the use of limited infrastructures, the probability for students’ unrest is high.

Indeed, researches have shown that poor funding of higher education has a multiplier effect on quality of service rendered by the university which in the end affects quality of university education in the country.

A study of the condition of living the in South West Nigerian universities attempts to explain the recurrence of student protests in tertiary institution. The study noted that inadequate provision of basic amenities in the university leads “to overcrowding, stress, unruly behaviour, distractions and gradual decay of symbolic things that help pattern human behaviour.”

Professor J Aminu accused Nigerian universities of poor strategic planning in its physical development. The university don observed that “large part of the capital fund in some Nigerian universities is tied to useless uncompleted projects that litter the campuses with many of them over designed, grandiose and were stated without proper financial planning.”

This conclusion points at poor management of scarce resources available to universities.
Another observation from the findings is that universities in South West Nigeria faced problem of maintenance culture. The finding reinforced other studies that asserted that Nigerians have not developed the culture of maintaining facilities, especially public utilities.

The finding also support the argument that escalation of student violence and secret cults’ activities are the major problems facing the educational institutions.

The ASUU Chairman of Niger Delta University, Dr. Stanley Ogoun blamed Nigerian government for dabbling into the running of universities.
According to him, university are better left in the hands of private sector who in turn can pay tax to government on the profit made.
Meanwhile the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof Joseph Ajienka has said “Government should convert current subventions given to universities into loans for indigent students, while those who can afford pay fees.

This system works in the advanced countries such as USA where student can access loan, scholarship and other supports. Experts in education sector believe that the approach could work here, but it requires trust. But with Nigeria, that value comes in short supply.



2 Comments
  • Ogbonnaya Okike

    Oh! the almighty, bogus and giant of Africa – that can not provide its self with commodities to eat, no electricity no water to drink, no library. Oh! the big mouthy with nothing upstairs that is the country Nigeria.

  • amador kester

    They should avail their consultancy units and science laboratories to find economic and technological solutions to this battered economy. And something should be done urgently to make the chargeable fees bearable for indigent students that cannot afford two meals daily!