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Controversial hike in school fees and Delta State government

By Jerome-Mario Utomi    
28 February 2022   |   2:46 am
Even though previous opinion articles, commentaries and interventions by this author favoured or supported policies and decisions of the Delta State government

[FILES] Okowa

Even though previous opinion articles, commentaries and interventions by this author favoured or supported policies and decisions of the Delta State government, it will, however, for reasons considered very logical, rational and practical to say that the same state government will definitely feel hesitant as to why they should read this present piece. Or accept the content of solution it proffers as beneficial and helpful to the real development in the state education sector, as the piece stoutly opposes the state government’s inconsiderate decision, and describes as ill-timed, the recent hikes in students’ fees in virtually all the state-owned institutions of higher learning.
 
Aside from the belief that in Nigeria, once a direction is chosen by an average Nigerian leader, instead of examining the process meticulously and setting the right course, many obstinately persist with the execution of such plans regardless of a minor or major shift in circumstance. I have also in the past few weeks read with dismay, so many articles, commentaries and analyses that scantily suggest why the Delta State Government should not be blamed for the thoughtless hike in school fees across Delta State-owned institutions of higher learning.

 
Synoptically, while some argued that this was not the time to hold our state government accountable for a hike in school fees because there are more important matters confronting the state, others argued that the only remedy for this problem is simply to encourage parents to accept the fate as across the world, education is neither easy nor cheap. Indeed, while this scant and slanted reasoning may have been allowed to fly on the faces of Deltans, the truth must be told to the effect that the state leadership is bound to face confusion in their minds if they allow these new fee regimes to stand.
 
Before proceeding to critical analysis, it is important to underline some unpalatable actions that recently spread out their wings in the state education sector and have as a consequence caused concern for the students and brought dropping spirits among parents.
 
Very recently, the management of Ogwuashi Uku Polytechnic, one of the state-owned institutions of higher learning, in a statement released on January 10, 2022, stated that all new students of Delta State origin undertaking the Ordinary National Diploma (OND), are to pay the sum of N75,500, while non-Deltans are to pay N99,180. Also, new Delta State students in Higher National Diploma (HND) would pay N80,500, while non-Deltans are to pay N99,180. Moreover, the old OND students would pay N60,400 for Deltans, while non-Deltans would pay N72,900. As for the HND, non- Deltans would pay N71, 650, while Deltans are to pay N60, 400.
 
Alarmingly, before the dust raised by such a thoughtless increase in fees could settle, that of the Delta State University, Abraka, another state-owned university was up. A peep into the university fees structure reveals that a new intake in the Law faculty has to cough out N242, 000, among others.
 
As if that was not enough woes for the knowledge-hungry students and their parents, the state University of Science And Technology (DSUST), Ozoro, came up with another fee regime that requires indigenes of the state to pay N185, 000 as school fees while non-indigenes are expected to pay the sum of N225, 000.
 
Looking above, it is evident in my view, that the state has defined leaning too narrowly in a manner devoid of process and outcome fairness by getting preoccupied with revenue generation without consideration to the student’s comfort or well-being. From the shocking phenomenon of declining standards of physical infrastructures and the near-total collapse of basic facilities that ought to be functional in a tertiary institution, to thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts proposed by the school authorities ahead of logic – a development that is financially squeezing the life out of the innocent students and their parents.
 
At this point, this piece will cast a glance at the scary consequences of the present hike in school fees if allowed. Fundamentally, there are a large number of youths in the state that are knowledge/education hungry and daily project vividly and openly their potential, nature, character, behavior, performance skills and talent that needs to be nurtured in a conducive environment and fairest fees. As we know, any developmental plan in the state without youth education delivered in a well-structured learning environment and fair fees will amount to a mere waste of time and effort.
 
The second point is that with this increment, Deltans and the world at large are bound to feel, and validate as true that education in the state is in shambles simply because of the government’s progressive non-recognition of the right to education as a human right despite Nigeria’s membership of a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right is respected. It also exemplifies the fact that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led’s administration has not adopted a different, practical, factual, base level and off-beat approach to this highly important and sensitive sector. More than anything else, the development projects a realistic picture, a different scenario and exposes the factual situation, which is the ground-level reality of the poor education sector in the state.
 
This piece is not alone in this belief system. Recently, a well-respected community newspaper in the state, in one of its weekly editorial comments described as ill-timed, thoughtless and a decision reached in a bad light, the recent upward review of students’ school fees by the management of Ogwuashi-Uku Polytechnic. A development the Newspaper added has fuelled a disquiet relationship between the students and the school management with the students threatening massive protest if the management of the school insists on implementing the new school fees/service charge regime introduced recently.
 
While the news organisation called on the school management to halt the present move, particularly as their argument that the increment was necessitated by the need to sustain qualitative education and a conducive environment for learning in line with the global best standard, can no longer hold water when faced with embarrassing facts. It essentially urged the Delta State Government to immediately call on the Rector and of course the Governing Board of the institution to rescind this decision.
 
Likewise, this piece on the final note underlines that if providing quality education is the interest of the state government, the state should make effort to increase state budgetary allocation to education and not by taxing the students or their parents of which majority of them are either without jobs or are retirees whose pensions are not promptly paid. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led’s administration must also not forget that education is the right of our children and the bedrock of development. That ‘with sound educational institutions, society is as good as made –as the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects.
 
The State Governor urgently needs to find a new approach to demonstrate that he truly loves education via a reduction in fees of these students. Taking such action will in the opinion of this piece offer him an edge over others in the leadership corridor. This is the way to go.

Jerome-Mario is the programme coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA).

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