I practically was going to keep quite over this fees hike in LASU for a number of reasons. However, having listened to people in government and their justification for the fees; and seeing the same thing happening in OAU, it appears not saying anything about it amounts to supporting such a move.

Let me say that understanding both schools are managed under different government level, the responsibilities of each level of government towards education and all other sectors are well spelt out and defined.

I need to quickly say, as someone, who has worked very closely with decision makers in Lagos State, my understanding of the way the apparatuses of government function makes it clear that not every comment form government appointees are a reflection of a prefect understanding of what they are saying or firm believe in what they are defending. This makes it easy for me to ignore comments from certain quarters as I know for a given that the implication of the positions they maintain on this matter is far more of concern to them than the implication of the hike.

I listened particularly to the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye trying to justify the fees and how they arrived at what should be paid by students of LASU. The video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JkqkxbUdqo&index=47&list=UUKnyVIW5QvfnsXddsjFKx4A) I saw was kind of short so I couldn’t tell for sure whether people asked questions or not. However, I feel he canvassed a very popular argument posed by a government whose mind is made up to go a particular route.

Issues bothering of fee payment did start today nor did it start with LASU, as I write, it is the same crisis in Obafemi Awolowo University and I am going to have to react to that too. Very many angles are available to x-ray this matter and very many people have maintained different positions either as a result of a rethink or anunderstanding of how things work or change in position from masses to government; whichever applies, it is almost possible to tell where every individual stands from their respective submissions.

What are the issues are where do I stand on this?

Should students pay fees: By existing policies of government, yes, they should. Whether this policies are reasonable or not is another discourse entirely. Attempting to transfer the duty of making education qualitative and affordable to students and their parents is what cannot be understood. At what point were the old fees reviewed and what informed the review? What has changed and how has the government reacted to the changes before fixing new fees.

I can tell for a fact that as a one time student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, back then, the more we paid, the less we got from the school in the areas of amenities and services. The hostels became tighter as they accommodation fees went up.

This trend shows the policy makers are quite detached from reality and as such it may be very dangerous to trust figures they come up with as new fees.

Fee Hike: It interests me how government arrive at fees especially considering a system where data management and policy formation predicated on near to accurate data is overtly non-existent. Mr. Ade Ipaye was quick to say that the government had been very mindful of existing concerns before arriving at the respective fees. He equally said they have tried to identify people who can truly not pay this fees and have therefore raised the scholarship and bursary awards to meet this indigent students at their point of needs but does this justify the hike? No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t because the same concerns he claimed were critically considered stand firm as reasons why no sensitive government should attempt such hike. The minimum wage is of grave concern, corruption in the civil service is of equal concern, lack of data is a concern and the brazen wasteful attitude of politicians is of concern. All of these couldn’t have been truly considered in view of their over-bearing implications and then arrive at such obnoxious fees.

The nomenclature of the fees payable are interestingly irritating. One of such is the ‘acceptance fee’. A student, having written all exams and scored the expected grades, is obviously ready to take his quest to the towers. What is there to be accepted again? Students are asked to pay fees for embarking on teaching practice! Where is that done?

Nobody is talking about the cost of running a university side by side its breakdown. What actually goes into teaching and closely related service, what goes to salaries and remunerations, what goes to researches if any is still being done? What goes to curriculum development? What goes into exchange programmes? What, besides fees, are income generating sources for the university? How many government policies have been influenced by decisions from the ivory towers? How many private firm are investing because of the potentials of a thesis being postulated by a particular student or department? How many students are within that school age? Where are they coming from? All of these and many more are salient questions that must be critically reviewed and answered but such don’t happen in a lazy system like ours. I am therefore more than sure that these fees are just not it.

What can students do: I have had problems with a number of friends over this and I kind of feel it is not about to end. Students, in a case like this, always have just one option; protest. I don’t subscribe to violence and as such would pitch my tent with peaceful but very aggressive scientific protests. It is common knowledge that times like this would up the energy of protesting students and the chances of falling into temptations to take the protest to the next level is always high. The authorities (school management, government and their errand boys; mobile police) are always quick at defining what violence is and thus would make you pinch yourself to see a professor or SAN define marching with placards and putting up barricades as violent protests. The implication of being careful here is that it is very easy to divert the scope of the protest when sanctions are meted out on participating students or arrests are made. In worse case scenarios, students get killed. I would expect students to maintain a very realistic position and engage the society at the barricades and the press. The social media has made it far more convenient to propagate campaigns without having to travel an inch. Union leaders should be mindful of the thin line between making realistic demands and pushing popular demands. From what I have read about the LASU union’s demand, it appears the students are already suggesting what they think is payable; how that was arrived at is also unknown. This brings me to the point that students’ reaction to fee hike differ from institution to institution and of course, ideological beliefs. I don’t see an Ife Union suggesting regimes of fees even if at the end of the day something midway is finally agreed upon, it would be as a result of continued agitation and not as the LASU situation is playing out. The danger I foresee in the LASU scenario is that students by their submission have suggested the fees should actually be increased but not as much as the government has decided to implement and both parties are back to the same question of metrics; how did you arrive at what is payable.

The truth as I see it: It is a very distasteful experience having to combat a society wide madness from within the school campuses. It is no news that the government at all levels have failed to provide for the citizens the basic needs. One level of government points a finger to the next level like the comic ‘oga at the top’ and that is usually the excuse of the school management. Where are the research funds going if any? Where are the investments by private establishments if any? What are the expectations of the government from tertiary institutions, if any? I would have thought that for a government that sees higher institution as factories that churns out the largest percentage of her work force, investing in education should be a top priority. Anything short of that suggests the government has the least interest in the ivory towers. This tells you why the quality of services you get from government agencies is very appalling and then they say little is enough.

I strongly feel these fees are very unrealistic, extremely detached and have no semblance of a well thought out process. The government has a duty to make education affordable and qualitative and not the people for whom these services are meant.

There is no point talking about combatting poverty, unemployment and insecurity if attention is not paid to a sector like education. At the tertiary level, I am no advocate of free education as it looks almost unrealistic within the present Nigerian context however, I believe in something affordable and qualitative. Affordable must be defined by what is obtainable within the remuneration system of Nigeria workers and accurate data for better policy development.

I salute the courage of students who have joined this protest and who have done so because they understand the implications of being part of such movement. Every generation must, according to Frantz Fanon, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it. The truth has always been that, those who do not fight have lost and those who do, may win.

Aluta Continua

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