With the recent announcement by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that some tertiary institutions have increased their tuition, Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal, examines how such action can affect learning and the students.
Many of them gathered around the notice pasted on the wall. With books firmly clutched in their hands, their pensive eyes probed the information on the wall. It was in June that the news filtered in that there would be a new regime of tuition, starting from the 2017/2018 academic year for federal universities in the country.
A young man withdrew from the motley crowd. Without parental support, he fends for himself. It will take a leap of faith for him to be sure of being able to pay his tuition for the next session.
If the said increment of University of Lagos’ school fee from N14, 500 to N63, 500 is true, the young man may be faced with a nearly impossible mission of completing his education.
“I can imagine a lot of girls that will go into prostitution because of this hike in our school fee,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Specifically on June 26, with journalists milling around him, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Ibadan (UI) Chapter, Dr. Deji Omole, raised the alarm that no fewer than 38 Federal Government-owned universities across the country have increased their fees.
The disclosure is ominous given the fact that many homes are struggling to make ends meet as the country’s economic recession bites harder.
Omole condemned the hike and said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration seems designed to further impoverish the Nigerian masses and make education almost out of their reach.
“The latest increment might be attributed to poor funding by the federal and state governments as ASUU poorly rated the President Muhammadu Buhari in the area of funding of university education,” he said.
Tertiary institutions, experts say are already haemorrhaging due to insufficient budgetary allocation to the sector.
Apart from UNILAG which allegedly increased its tuition to N63, 500, the following institutions are reported to have taken similar action: Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) increased its tuition from N27, 000 to N41, 000; University of Nigeria (UNN), from N60, 450 to N66, 950; Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), from N19, 700 to N55, 700.
Others are Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), from N20, 100 to N65, 920; Bayero University, Kano (BUK), from N26, 000 to N40, 000; University of Abuja, from N39, 300 to N42, 300 and Usman Dan Fodio University, from N32, 000 to N41, 000.
Similarly, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) increased its school fees from N36, 000 to N41, 000; University of Benin (UNIBEN), from N12, 000 to N49, 500; Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) from N13, 560 to N83, 940; Federal University, Minna, from N20, 000 to N37, 000; University of Calabar (UNICAL), from N30, 500 to N42, 750; University of Uyo (UNIUYO), from N71, 000 to N84, 250; Federal College of Education, Akoka, from N16, 000 to N40, 000; and Osun State University, from N95,000 to N135,500.
Said to have joined the hike in tuition are Anambra State University, from N76, 000 to N139, 000; Lagos State University (LASU), from N96, 750 to N158, 250; Imo State University, from N120, 000 to N150, 000; Plateau State University, from N50, 000 to N100, 000 and University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) from N16, 000 to N75, 000, among others.
But in a twist of event, some of the named institutions have refuted the claims by ASUU.
For example, the Vice Chancellor of UNILORIN, Prof. Abdulganiyu Ambali, said few days after the union’s claim, “There is no iota of truth in that online report. We never sat at the university management level to fix school fees or fees for the 2017/2018 academic session. We do not charge fees. We are FG tertiary institution and government’s directive is that it is tuition-free. Whatever we charge is just for utilities by our students. UNILORIN dissociates itself from the content of that publication.”
Other institutions also debunked the claim of ASUU.
According to the University of Benin’s Public Relations Officer, Michael Osasuyi, ASUU’s claim is unverifiable.
He stated, “UNIBEN has not increased any fees. We do not know where the issue of N12, 000 to N49, 500 came from. We urge parents to confirm from the school before giving money to their children. There is no increase. The report is false.
Speaking in the same vein, the Vice Chancellor of Igbinedion University, Okada, Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, said the institution has neither increased its tuition nor has plans to do so.
“Be informed that contrary to the post on increased fees making the rounds, Igbinedion University, Okada has not increased fees, and has no plans to do so. In fact, rather than increase, we have lightened the burden of paying fees by allowing parents to pay in instalments.”
Similarly, the Deputy Registrar, information unit, UNILAG, Mr Toyin Adebule has denied claims of increase in tuition fees.
According to him, UNILAG as a federal university does not charge students for tuition. Instead, he clarified that what students pay for termed “other charges” are accommodation, health insurance and laboratory services for those studying science-related courses.
He said, “ UNILAG as a federal university does not charge tuition fees, but students pay other charges.
The management of FUTA and University of Ibadan (UI) have also denied claims of increment in tuition fees.
While the institutions continue to react to the claim of ASUU, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has vowed to resist any hike in school fees by the institutions.
NANS President, Chinonso Obasi, noted that the institutions and the government have always made students to bear the brunt of “administrative ineptitude.”
He said, “In saner climes, education funding includes revenue from researches and consultative collaborations. Implementation of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) strategies, particularly commercialising research findings, should occupy Nigeria’s educational institutions rather than constant hike in tuition fees payable by hapless students. NANS believes that the planned hike in tuition fees would be the last straw that would break the cycle of obnoxious levy on learning and pursuit of education.”
Obasi pointed out that such increase could jeopardise the future prospects of youths studying in various higher institutions.
“Consequently, NANS wishes to serve a notice to the authorities concerned that Nigerian students will never endure any increase in tuition at this time of the nation’s socio-economic challenges. If administrators of Nigeria’s educational institutions have run out of ideas of funding and sustaining educational institutions in the country, they should feel free to liaise with students to explore new ways of funding the institutions.
“While we express our readiness to speak with chief executives of tertiary institutions, NANS wishes to reiterate the fact that Nigerian students have been patient with the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The President Buhari administration should recognise that this is the time to reward the understanding and cooperation of Nigerian students with education subsidy, proper funding of education and adequate welfare initiatives for students.”
In May last year, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, promised that the Federal Government would harmonise tuitions of all federal universities to stop arbitrary charge of fees by some institutions.
“Since the protests started, we have summoned the authorities of the universities and sat down with them and we are going to harmonise everything. Because, I think it is N45, 000 that is the maximum that should be charged. I know that in some places, there has been other arrangement. But the ministry would harmonise everything and I believe there will be no more protests over fees,” the minister had said.
One year after, that remains a promise yet to be kept.
In 2016, the universities of Lagos, Ibadan and Port Harcourt were shut down following students’ protests over increase in tuitions, lack of water and power supply on the campuses.
In Nigeria, according to experts, national universities have always grappled with issues of admission, accommodation, education policies, student unionism, and funding.
Awards of scholarships to indigent and exceptional students have become the exception rather than the rule.
On the problem of hike in tuitions and inadequate facilities conducive for learning, Dr. Nkechi Okoli, noted that such inadequacies brought about the 1978 “Ali must go” saga.
Students had taken to the streets with some of them killed by Nigerian soldiers.
“In the early 1970s, governments were giving grants, subsidies and scholarships to as many as gained admission into higher institutions. Many candidates who were indigent and who never dreamt of seeing the four walls of a university had the opportunity to go to school,” Okoli noted.
By 1978, following the “Ali must go” saga, parents began to pay full fees for their children and that closed the doors to indigent candidates who could not pay school fees. Since then there has been steady increase in fees at the higher education level.
The Federal Government has made it mandatory for universities to find avenues of generating funds internally. It seems apparent that hike in tuition is driven by this mandate.
However, scholars have noted that increasing tuition especially while the country is going through difficult economic and political situation will result in damaging impact on students.
Enrolment in tertiary institutions will drop; and absenteeism will increase as some self-sponsored students go into the streets to see how they can support themselves – combining schooling and doing odd jobs, and so maximum attention will no longer be paid to lectures. Thus, poor performance academically sets in.
Add to that, many students will be unable to buy textbooks because of fees increase. They do not have easy access to the Internet to browse for research.
Not a few parents and students will hope that the announcement by ASUU is nothing but a ruse and that the claim by the institutions is correct.