As More Students Shun LASU
By James Foluso
The resultant effect of anti-poor policies of fee hike and commercialization of public education has started telling in Lagos State University. Last year, the Lagos State Government introduced a 725% hike in the tuition fees of Lagos State University. With the increase, new students were asked to pay between N193,750 and N348,750 as against the old fee of N25,000.
The brutal reality of this fee hike first manifested during the last matriculation ceremony held on 12th March, 2012 when only 1,951 students (representing 39.8%) of over 4,903 students offered admission for the 2011/2012 academic session turned out to take the oath. The reality became much clearer during the Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (Post-UTME) for the 2012/2013 academic session conducted by the university on Monday, 18th June, 2012.
In the past, the Post-UTME examination was held as a week-long activity considering the large turnout of candidates with a resultant heavy human and vehicular traffic on campus. But the reverse was the case this time around as it was reported that a meager 3,000 candidates came for the exam as against past figures which fluctuate between 15,000 and 20,000, and the exam was also conducted in one day! This was after the University management had placed expensive adverts in daily national newspapers wooing candidates including those who never chose LASU to come and participate in the exams.
This development cannot be disconnected from the fee hike as it has scared away prospective students who could not afford to pay the huge tuition fees. Faced with this scary situation, the University management has introduced a second-round Post-UTME exercise to cover up for the low turn-out. This latest effort is a clear departure from the past when the management is usually overburdened with the pressure of sorting and admitting thousands of applicants considering the low admission space in the university.
The excuse by government that it cannot fund free and quality tertiary education is untenable and unacceptable. Just by cutting the outrageous salaries and allowances of all political office holders in the State and the wasteful spending going on at the state government and local councils, it is possible to free huge sums of money that can be used to begin to renovate all the state public institutions, expand their facilities and pay living wage.
Commercialization of education is a central policy of the ACN-led government of Babatunde Fashola. Cuts in social spending are vigorously pursued so as to have more idle funds to mismanage or channel towards private-interest ventures. So, it is profitable for those in power to commercialize education and other social amenities.
LASU Staff and Students' Unions must as a matter of urgency re-launch a campaign for the reversal of the fee hike because in actual fact both staff and students will be affected. As enrolment level drops and drop-out rate rises on account of unaffordable level of fees, some programmes and courses in the university may be rationalized due to inadequate number of students. As the crisis deepens, some programmes and departments could be shutdown. In this case, academic and non-academic personnel will be sacked.
A joint struggle against the fee hike should be embarked upon by the Students' Union, ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT to defeat this anti-students/workers policy. This should take the form of boycotts, rallies, mass protests and demonstrations until this anti-poor policy is reversed.
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