Spike in tuition: Education gradually becoming a privilege
In a move that has raised concerns on the fate of indigent students, authorities of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) have made a startling decision to increase school fees substantially, a decision that has been widely criticised by all concerned, reports IYABO LAWAL.
As the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and other universities announce an increase in fees ahead of the commencement of the 2023/2024 academic session; students, parents and stakeholders have expressed concerns about their fate.
The announcement has, however, caught many students unawares, as school fees were raised from N21,000 to a staggering N190,750, sparking heated debates and discussions both within and outside the school.
A couple of federal and state universities have equally announced new fees payable by new and old students, heightening fears that education may be out of the reach of the poor.
While universities battle increasing costs of running schools, cases of higher fees are raising concerns about access to education and the potential impact on learning.
Last Friday, the University of Lagos (UNILAG) announced an adjustment in fees for both returning and new students of the institution. The increase is coming amid soaring food inflation and high cost of living in the country.
The new fees payable by fresh and returning students range between N120, 750 and N240, 250, depending on the course of study.
Until the latest announcement, returning undergraduate students on campus paid between N26, 000 and N76, 000, depending on course of study.
According to the statement by the university, all fresh students who study courses without the use of laboratories and studios will pay a flat rate of N156, 325, while their counterparts who would be required to make use of laboratories or studios will pay N206, 325.
The new rates are inclusive of N10, 000 for toxicology tests and yearly utility charges of N20, 000.
For returning students, the charges range between N120, 750 and N170, 250 depending on course of study.
For returning medical students, fees range between N210, 250 and N240, 250. This includes the mandatory N20, 000 utility fee and N30, 000 for convocation ceremonies.
The university used to charge N25, 000 for convocation before now. Items to be paid for by the students include registration, identity cards, examination, library services, information technology and entrepreneurship, medical services, sports, and endowment fund, among others.
For returning medical students, payable fees range between N210, 250 and N240, 250.
But the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has warned that the increase may force indigent students out of school.
National President of the union, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, appealed to the Federal Government to review the increase by public universities and find a safe landing for the nation’s future leaders.
Pointing out that the increase could be counter-productive, Osodeke said it is imperative for the Federal Government to find a way out.
Osodeke, while faulting the decision, said: “I think the whole thing now boils down to the parents. These have been part of our agitations. We were fighting on the need to right some wrongs, but rather than get support, we were attacked.
“UNILAG is not the only tertiary institution that has increased fees in recent times. The likes of Bayero University Kano (BUK); Benin and Abuja, among others, have all done the same. What this will translate to is for children of the poor to withdraw from schools.
“However, we should be mindful of the inherent danger that may accompany such development when it comes to vices, especially among youths. It could become a willing pool to recruit from. It is indeed sad.
“We hope President Bola Tinubu will review the situation and find a safe landing for our future leaders. Government could set up a high-powered commission, made up of people of integrity and brain, to review all the issues as it concerns the country’s education sector,” Osodeke said.
Similarly, parents and students have kicked against the increase, describing it as insensitive at this time.
Citing the current economic challenges, they urged school authorities to have a rethink on the new fees.
A 400-level student of the faculty of engineering, Tomiloba Adewusi, said the hike in fees could mean the end of his academic pursuit.
“I do menial jobs to see myself through school, especially during vacation. Sometimes, I work as a night guard in some establishments around. My parents are both not too strong, so, I took up the challenge to do something for myself to enable me take care of my siblings and my parents too.
“Should I just allow all I have laboured for to get to this level go down the drain? I may not be able to stand this,” Adewusi lamented.
Another student, Chike Obunde, said the thought of fee increase in this sick economy is distressing.
Obunde noted that the increment might cause some of their colleagues to drop out, as most of them are already burdened by current fees.
Similarly, the Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Mr Tope Giwa, who is a student of UNILAG, faulted claims by the management that the students were party to the fee increment.
Giwa said UNILAG has banned students’ unionism on campus for a long time and refused to lift the ban despite students’ persistent agitation for reinstatement.
He noted that only the students’ officers at departmental and faculty levels are in the university and they are not in any way invited by the management to discuss important issues that concern them and even if they do, it is not to seek their opinions.
“So, to us as students of UNILAG and every other public university nationwide, we say no to increments. This is a very difficult time economically for us and for our parents, increasing fees at this time would mean adding to our pains and we cannot accept it.
“We told President Tinubu when he introduced the students’ loan scheme that the policy should not translate to fee hikes and he assured that it would not. That is why I would describe these new fees as laughable and we will never accept it,” Giwa maintained.
Already, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has threatened to shut schools if the government fails to reverse the trend.
The students, in a statement made available to The Guardian said the present hike in school fees by almost every institution would no longer make education accessible to the poor and average Nigerians.
The students asked President Tinubu to declare a state of emergency in the sector, warning that if he fails to do so, they would not hesitate to shut down schools.
Vice President of the students’ body, Akinteye Afeez called on the UNILAG management to reverse the fees or risk shutting down the school indefinitely.
NANS also warned other tertiary institutions planning to increase their fees to have a rethink and source for funds elsewhere to meet their needs.
Afeez said: “Since ages, education has been one of the most viable levellers of the different classes in Nigeria. Education has made it possible for the poor to meet up with the rich and change the class of his immediate and extended families. Stories like this may soon go into extinction because the present hike in school fees by almost every institution will not make education accessible to the poor and average Nigerians.”
He insisted that if any sector of government would need palliatives, it has to be the education sector, and most especially the tertiary education sub-sector.
He lamented that the increment puts parents under unnecessary pressure, considering the fact that most of them are of the average class and are already battling with subsidy removal or salary increase for civil servants.
“This is why we are appealing to the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the sector, while stakeholders should look for lasting solutions to the myriads of problems confronting the sub-sector.
“Also, the UNILAG management must, as a matter of urgency, revert the fees to the usual amount. Failure to do this, UNILAG will incur the wrath of Nigerian students and the school would be shut down indefinitely until our demands are met.
“This is also to send a note of warning to other tertiary institutions planning to increase their fees to think twice and source for funds elsewhere to meet their needs. Otherwise, they should be ready to receive us as unusual guests until they yield to our demands,” Afeez warned.
Similarly, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), while describing the increment as cruel and unjustifiable, called for protests to reject the wave of fee hike across the institutions.
The group alleged that the students’ loan policy of President Tinubu is a ploy to officially hands-off funding of public education, while shifting the burden to parents and students.
But the university’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Folasade Ogunsola, has justified the increment, saying the old fees regime is no longer sustainable.
Ogunsola said the university has consistently recorded deficits of about
N1 billion yearly.
She said when students are on campus, the university pays as high as N160 million monthly on electricity, apart from the huge cost expended on diesel, water and janitorial services, among others.
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