A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the authorities of the University of Ibadan and Adekunle Ajasin University to reverse their recent increases in school fees.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Deputy Director of the group, Timothy Adewale, said the hike in fees may ‘stigmatise’ students who will be unable to pay and which may lead to ”filtering out of such students, foreclosing their contributions to the progress of our country”.
The group said students that are unable to pay the fees may become disillusioned, gradually disassociate from the universities, and eventually drop out.
“The dramatic increases would have the effect of discriminating against disadvantaged students who may be unable to pay the new fees, and who are not granted any exemption, thereby creating a classification based on the economic and social status of their parents. The increases would also undermine the students’ rights to education and equal protection guarantees,” the statement said.
The group said institutions should find solutions to their funding challenges elsewhere, warning that it would take legal action if the schools fail to reverse the increase within seven days.
SERAP also urged the leadership of the National Assembly to come up with legislation that would end arbitrary imposition of fees.
“The right to education is too important to be left to the budgetary circumstances of individual university or socio-economic status of parents and families. Any perceived financial hardship faced by the UI and AAUA cannot justify the violations of the students’ constitutional guarantees of equal protection and Nigeria’s international obligations to ensure equal access to the right to education. The right to education is not a commodity for sale.”
Similarly, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) appealed to Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, to reverse the increase in the tuition fees in state-owned institutions in the state.
According to News Agency of Nigeria, the National Public Relations Officer (PRO), Bestman Okereafor, said this in a statement on Thursday in Enugu.
He said the recent increase in the tuition fees was alarming and beyond normal.
Mr Okereafor said that students were paying between N25, 000 and N30, 000 but the fees had been increased to N120,000 and N180,000 in state-owned institutions.
The students of the school have since embarked on street protests to express their displeasure.
Also, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), condemned the repression of the protesting students of Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba Akoko (AAUA) by armed policemen on the orders of the state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.
The national co-ordinator of the group, Hassan Soweto, in a statement said the students were peacefully protesting when policemen descended on them with live bullets and tear gas.
“On Monday 9 April 2018, a student was shot in the leg. Equally on Wednesday 11 April 2018, the peaceful protest was again attacked and several students were arrested by the police. demands the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested”, the statement said.
The group called for the immediate sack of the Commissioner of Police in Ondo State for the attacks on students.
“The right to peacefully protest injustice is a universally recognized inalienable right. We warn the Ondo state government to desist from unleashing violence on students demanding their rights. We call on the labour movement and civil society organizations to condemn the repression. We hereby join students to demand an immediate and unconditional reversal of the hiked fees as well as increase in the subvention of AAUA and other state-owned tertiary institutions”, the statement said.
According to the group, given the dire economic situation whereby workers and artisans are struggling to keep their heads above water, the hike will lead to massive dropout of indigent students.
“On this basis, we therefore urge members of staff of AAUA not to be hoodwinked or cajoled to support the fee hike in the expectation that it would ensure that workers’ salaries are paid as at when due. Now workers of the institution are being owed backlog of salary and allowances spanning months”, it said.
It further said the argument of the University’s governing council that it is cash- strapped and must increase fees is unacceptable.
“We therefore demand that a full statement of the University’s finances be published and that an independent panel made of elected representatives of staff unions, students unions, alumni body and other stakeholders be constituted to probe how the University’s finances has been managed or mismanaged in the last 10 years.”
The group advised the pro-Chancellor and vice-chancellor of the university to resign if they have no other means of rectifying the financial situation of the university except by increasing the burden of students and their poor parents.
“As far as we are concerned, education is a right and not a privilege. It is the social responsibility of government to its citizens. We are strongly of the opinion that the Ondo state government can fund public education appropriately if the state resources are placed under democratic control and management and the routine corruption of elected public office holders stopped”, the statement concluded.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi, defended the fees increment. He said it was to shore up funding for the institution.