• AAUA, UI students up in arms against gov, varsity managements
Gabriel Dike; Bamigbola Gbolagunte
Recent increment in school fees by the managements of the Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba (AAUA), Ondo State and the University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo State, is generating ripples.
Students of the two institutions have vowed to continue with their protest against the hike while stakeholders seek amicable resolution of the face-off to avert the disruption of academic activities.
Less than a week to AAUA students’ resumption after staying home for over 85 days, the management announced an increment in tuition fees by about 250 per cent for old and new students. With the increment, students are expected to pay N180,000.
The hike has continued to generate tension in the state, even as the students led by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the state government have been exchanging hot words with none of the party ready to back down for the other.
The development has also affected commercial and social activities in the state, especially Akure, the state capital as students of the university on daily basis protest the hike, with a call on the state government to reverse the school fees or close down the institution.
The students have insisted that they would not resume until the state government reversed the tuition to the old regime of N26,300. This is even as the leaders of the Students Union Government (SUG) threatened to prevent students and workers from entering the university campus until the tuition is reversed.
During the administration of former governor Olusegun Mimiko, the university’s fee was increased to N30,000. For the eight years he was in the saddle, it remained so. But, in less than one year of the present administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the fees have jumped from N26,300 to N180,000.
Governor Akeredolu recently appointed Dr. Tunji Abayomi as the chairman, governing council of AAUA and it was speculated that the new tuition was part of the recommendations made by the council as a means of generating revenue for the institution, as the state government has allegedly stopped giving subventions since Mimiko’s regime.
Students of the university and their colleagues from other institutions across the state are threatening a showdown with the management of AAUA should the state government fail to reverse the tuition in the next 14 days.
The ultimatum was said to be an aftermath of an emergency congress of the SUG and the action of the students.
Dr. Abayomi while commenting on the development said Governor Akeredolu would decide if there is going to be any reduction in the new school fees.
The council chairman revealed that palliative measures, like scholarship for brilliant students, expansion of the institution’s work-study scheme and discount payments for physically challenged will be introduced.
Abayomi who said he had held a meeting that ended in a deadlock with the students, said the increment became necessary as a result of what he described as “the precarious situation of the university.”
He disclosed that new students in the faculties of Arts and Education would pay N75,000 per semester while returning students would pay N60,000 per semester.
According to him, new students in the Faculties of Agriculture, Science, Social and Management Sciences would pay N90,000 per semester while their returning counterparts would pay N75,000 per semester.
Abayomi also stated that new students in the Faculty of Law would pay N100,000 per semester while returning students would pay N75, 000 per semester.
He disclosed that in 2016, the university did not receive any subvention from the state government for seven months, thereby leaving the institution to run on past savings, adding that the reduction being demanded by the students cannot sustain the university as the institution had no money to operate.
“The total income of the university from students and government is N2.7 billion. Looking at the expenditure of the institution, with the 17,000 students, we have an average of N500 being spent on each student daily, which amount to N15,000 per month and N180,000 per year and if you multiply that by 17,000 you will get N3.60 billion.
“The salary is N220 million per month and multiply by 12 you will get N2.40 billion and if you now add the expenses on the students and to sustain the campus life, which is N3.60 billion and the salary, which is N2.40 billion, you will now have N5.7 billion. That is the minimum amount to sustain the university. If you subtract the income of the university, which is N2.7 billion from the expenditure, which is N5.7 billion, we now have N3 billion.
“We now said we should divide this amount among the students and their parent and the council. That the council should look for money everywhere from Foundations, talking to people and other sources. We said that the council should assume N1.290 billion that the students should look for N1.700billion in order to arrive at N5.700 billion.That is the basis for increasing the school fees.
“The present government immediately it assumed office started releasing N212 million as subvention every month which the university tried to manage but when it got to July 2017, with the overwhelming pressure of expenses, including payment of salaries, the government said it cannot continue and cut the subvention by 30 percent. So the situation of the university became more precarious.
“We are now at a point where the university has no money to operate and it is simply inevitable to raise fees to a position and standard where the university can function. The state has three universities and one polytechnic and it makes a little over N5 billion in a month,” he stated.
While reeling out fees payable at state institutions across the country, Abayomi added that AAUA l is still cheaper than other state-owned universities.
Cheaper or not, President of the Students Union Government, Ijanusi Olawale warned that no student should pay the new fees or resume for the academic session until the government reversed the tuition.
“The students should remain calm and refuse to pay any money or resume until they hear from the leadership of the SUG. We stayed home for three months, so, staying home for another one week will not affect us. They should not resume and also not pay any school fee. We want at most a 30 percent increase in our tuition,’ he stressed.
Also, the chairman National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Ondo axis Adewumi Adebowale insisted that the students will not pay the new tuition.
Adebowale who addressed the students during one of their protests in Akure said the new tuition was not only outrageous but also murderous, stressing that the students would do everything to resist the hike.
A students, Banji Babalola said if government refused to reduce the tuition, he would have no choice than to withdraw from the university as he is the one sponsoring himself since the death of his father and mother two years ago.
“Many students will be forced out. That is why we are appealing to the state government to consider the children of the poor in the university and have a rethink on its stand.”
Meanwhile, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has condemned the repression of students of AAUA who had gone to Akure to protest the astronomical hike in fees.
The statement signed by ERC National Coordinator, Hassan Taiwo said at least one student was shot by the police, adding, “we condemn this unprovoked violence and demand the immediate removal of the Commissioner of Police.”
It described the fee hike as anti-poor and unjustifiable.
“We hereby call on the AAUA authorities and the Ondo state government to reverse it immediately. We strongly believe that the state resources can fund public education adequately if democratically controlled.”
In a related development, the management of UI have sent its medical students out of their hostels for staging a sit-in protest.
The Senate had recommended increment in hostel fee from N14,000 to N30,000 for main campus and N40,000 for College of Medicine with effect from 2017/2018 academic session.
The Registrar, Mr. Olujimi Olukoya, in a statement said the decision was taken by the academic board during a meeting.
The decision did not go down well with the students, especially those at the College of Medicine who staged a protest urging the school to rescind its decision. They described the increase as astronomical and lamented that the amount paid by both pre-clinical and clinical students would adversely affect their programme.
But the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, had earlier stated that the institution “is at a point where it is difficult to continue to subsidise the running of the halls of residence and carry out some other academic functions.’’
“This cannot be feasible without a slight adjustment in accommodation charges and in some fees items payable by students in some faculties,’’ he said.
He said only the increase in accommodation fee affected all students who desire to stay in the halls of residence, adding that “residency in the halls of residence is optional.’’