COVID-19: Parents, Caleb varsity at loggerheads over fees
As the coronavirus pandemic rages, aggrieved parents and the management of Caleb University, Imota, are at loggerheads over fees being charged by the school. The parents described the fees as outrageous.
Already, over 100 of the parents have written several complaint letters to the management to draw their attention to the irregularities going on in the school.
A parent to a 100-level Accounting student at the university, Olaoluwa Ogundemi, said the school mandated parents to make full payment for the session, even when the institution moved from physical to e-learning as a result of the pandemic. Ogundemi said the matter has been on since March when the Federal Government directed schools to shut down in the wake of the pandemic.
“This issue started in March. Some of us live abroad and we have been trying to get a hold of the school after they said they would start online lectures. Not only did they charge full school fees, they allegedly charged for services not provided such as accommodation, internet, library, hospital and others,” he said.
In a letter sent to the institution by some concerned parents, issues around the welfare of students and rights of the parents were highlighted.
In the letter signed by 121 parents and made available to reporters, they raised concerns over demand for payment of full tuition during the COVID-19 pandemic; payment for hostel accommodation and other services that were not provided as a result of COVID-19; commencement of learning through an ‘ineffective and abysmal online learning portal’ without due consideration of internet network connectivity, bandwidth capacity, and more importantly, the cost of data for already financially subdued parents.”
Other issues raised were migration of students to the online platform without conversations with parents and guardians; the university making decisions on a “parent forum,” which comprises less than seven per cent of the university and charging parents and guardians N20, 000 per session for a forum which 90 per cent of them are not part of.
Ogundemi said when he contacted the vice chancellor on the issues and how parents could be added to the parents’ forum on WhatsApp, the school claimed the group was full.
“If the school has over 4,000 students and its claiming that the group is full with just about seven per cent population of parents, part of which are staff who have children there, then the action calls for concern,” Ogundemi stated.
Another parent, Femi Ojikutu, said the school failed to carry them along on decisions made about the students and allegedly imposed decisions made by a few on the larger body.
Mr Ojikutu alleged that the school has no official channel of communicating developments directly to parents, but rather through the students.
Emmanuel Aderemi, a parent of a 200-level student at the university, alleged that the school denied students access to the online learning platform except they pay upfront.
Aderemi said this was without consideration to the economic hardship many parents are experiencing as a result of COVID-19. When contacted, the university spokesperson, Elvis Otobo, claimed in a statement that the institution had successfully conducted academic training and other regular activities on the university’s online platform, with student’s enrolment on the e-learning platform moving from eight per cent on April 20 to almost 100 per cent by the beginning of July 2020.
The statement read in part, “Caleb University emerged one of the selected institutions to commence e-learning without interrupting its academic calendar. The institution early in the semester granted all students at undergraduate and post-graduate levels as well as lecturers, free access to various e-library resources to enhance research, learning, and teaching experience and capacity.
“Numerous other social, political, and spiritual activities are also going on virtually. The Student Representatives Council (SRC) elections are ongoing, with students currently campaigning to solicit for votes into various positions. Activities will culminate in manifesto presentation and the inauguration of the new executive virtually.”
The statement also said the university, in a bid to keep up with godly character, started an “optional online prayer meeting,” which holds once a month.
On his part, the solicitor for Caleb University, Femi Falana, reminded that Nigerian universities accept tuition and other fees at the commencement of the session, such that even when schools are closed, no refund is made.
Falana said there is a recognised parent body in the university through which all complaints could be lodged to the school, adding that the school would not recognise any other parents’ body.
“If you don’t like people on that (parent) platform, you throw them out democratically. They said they briefed a lawyer who wrote to the school. We replied the lawyer that he cannot act for parents whose identities are not disclosed.
“If these parents are genuine and they want to defend their children, it is something they should take up,” he said. When asked about the challenges posed by the limit to the number of parents that can be admitted on the parents’ forum, Mr Falana said every school has rules and regulations guiding it.
“Again the way it is done, if they want an all-comers forum, such that every parent must be there, no problem, but if the body is run in a representative capacity, you are now asking for a change that we want every parent to be on the forum, I can’t see the school opposing that.
“But for now, there is a channel of communication. If you don’t like the forum, then tell the school that the forum is not representing you. If you love your children, you should be ready to stand by them,” Falana added.
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