The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) University of Lagos chapter totally condemns a statement made recently by the Vice Chancellor the University of Lagos, Prof Rahmon Bello, whereby he proposed that "government should consider payment of tuition fees for University students rather than subvention". This statement was reported in vanguard news online on Tuesday 13 May, 2014.
According to the report, the VC made this point while delivering a lecture at the 2nd annual memorial lectures of Prof. A. Sofoluwe which was organized by the University of Lagos Alumni Association under the theme "funding of University education in Nigeria: Trends, challenges and new direction"
We see this statement as a calculated attempt to multiply the burden under which students of public Universities including UNILAG have already being placed. A majority of students in public Universities are from poor and low-income working class families. Many parents depend on a monthly National Minimum Wage of N18, 000. Advocating introduction of tuition fees when many students are dropping out of school as a result of inability to afford the present regime of fees is not only unacceptable but completely insensitive.
Prof Rahmon Bello's advice if taken by the government will see to the rapid collapse of public education as it will price education out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians. At a period when a violent religious fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, is on the ascendance destroying schools, killing pupils and adopting school girls all to discourage western education, pricing public education out of the reach of the mass majority is hardly the wisest decision for the Nation to make.
Indeed what is urgently needed to save the public University system is massive injection of public funds by the government and the subjection of these funds to democratic control and management to ensure they are put to good use.
The VC in his statement described the challenge being faced by public Universities as gross underfunding. According to him, "the amount of money that the Nigerian government devotes to education, which is lower than 26 percent of its expenditure as recommended by UNESCO, explain in part, the little progress…" he continues by saying "Lack of adequate financing has been identified as the greatest problem facing education development in Nigeria."
However rather for the VC to face the main issue of calling on government to curb corruption and fund the Nigerian education sector appropriately as recommended by UNESCO, he chose to heap the burden on the ordinary poor Nigerians. The ERC believes that in a country where illiteracy is the order of the day, massive public investment in public education is the only effective way out.
For instance at the Lagos State University (LASU) where tuition fee was introduced, students pay as high as N350,000 as school fees with no meaningful development to show for it. Facilities in LASU are fast decaying despite hike in fees. After several years of hike in payable fees, the institution has witnessed continued drop-out of students and low turnout of admission applicants such that some academic levels in some departments have less than 10 students. Today, the University is a shadow of itself while the jobs of academic and non-academic staffs are on the line.
All this goes to show that commercialisation of education such as the UNILAG Vice Chancellor has proposed will only make an already bad situation to become worse.
We call on all students both at UNILAG and other institutions to join the ERC in condemning this call to price education out of the reach of ordinary working class Nigerians.
ERC shall resist any attempt to introduce tuition fee. We demand adequate funding of education and democratic control and management of schools in order to ensure that all Nigerians who desire education have unfettered access.
Coordinator, ERC UNILAG Chapter