- Student Union Should Call an Immediate Congress
- Mass Actions Including Protests, Rallies, Media Campaign Should be Organized
- ASUU, SSANU, NASU, NAAT and Alumni Association Should Reject the Fees
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby totally rejects the planned fee increment by management of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife. We call on Nigerian students, the wicked fee hike. We also call on Nigerian students' movement particularly, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Zone D, to oppose the fee increment. This is the time for NANS to organize a national movement against what is fast becoming a norm in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
This fee hike, which will see an average student paying as much as over N100, 000 is actually a killer especially Great Ife students, to oppose planned increase in school fees. We call on students to organize mass actions including protests, rallies, press campaign, leafleting, etc in order to send appropriate message to OAU management, and authorities of other universities. The same spirit students committed to the restoration of their union should be given to the current struggle against fee. It will send thousands of youths to academic journey of no return, while denying millions of younger ones opportunity to have university education. it is sheer callousness that the university administration will increase fees at a period when most families in Nigeria are facing hard time. How will OAU management, out of its wisdom or otherwise, expect workers on N1 8, 000 minimum wage send his or her ward to a public university where fees are up to N100, 000.
Management's Argument is Baseless
The argument of the Prof. 'Tale Omole-led administration that the university is underfunded, as excuse to deny young Nigerians the right to university education, is patently unfounded. While we agree that the university system, and indeed the education system are grossly underfunded by the anti-poor capitalist government, we maintain that the university has also been mismanaging the little resources accruing to the university. Just recently, the university hosted Nigerian University Game (NUGA) in which hundreds of millions of naira were spent, yet the university did not collapse. In a show of clear mismanagement, the same university management that committed hundreds of millions of naira to building a swimming pool, which is now idle, is claiming not to have money to fuel generators or fund online registration of students.
Indeed, the university has earned more money from students than before, with nothing to show for it. For instance, while about 5, 000 fresh students are made to cough out an exorbitant but unjustified 'acceptance' fee of N20, 000 every years (running to almost hundred million naira), aside other fees, no substantial improvement has been seen in the quality of education students receive, neither are the student hostels faring better. The laboratories are still archaic and inadequate while water supply and the sanitary system in the hostels is eyesore. We challenge the university authorities to open the account books of the university for public scrutiny.
The planned increment is indeed suspect. Part of the victories won by ASUU is the federal government annual commitment of N200 billion for the next five years as special grants to universities. While these monies are indeed meager, they are at least going to improve facilities in universities. We then ask; why is the OAU management hiking fees again? Interestingly, when ASUU was fighting for the struggle for proper funding of education, university administrators, including the OAU management, played the role of strikebreakers against the struggle. Yet, after some concessions have been won, OAU authorities want to rubbish the gain of the struggle by making university education inaccessible to young Nigerians through this devilish fee hike.
The management is trying to use divide-and-rule approach to break the fighting spirit of students. This it is trying to do by first announcing increment for only fresh students so as to disarm other students from fighting the increment. If students fall into this divisive antic, it will take management no time to hike the fees for stale students. More than this, if the increment is allowed, it will lead to drop in student population, as many prospective students will not honour their admission, which will give management excuse to underfund departments and even reduce staff strength. Fundamentally, students have the historic responsibility to oppose education commercialization as an anti-poor policy. Therefore, this divide-and-rule tactic of the OAU management must be rejected.
Staff unions should oppose the fees
We call on staff unions in the university, including ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT to oppose the planned increment and give adequate support to students in the struggle. If the fee increment is allowed, it will lead to decimation of student population in departments, which will justify management's attack on staffs. For instance, if student population is very low, some departments may be closed down, which will lead to retrenchment. Aside this, funding of research and projects in departments will be seriously curtailed. Aside this is the need for staff unions to see the latest planned onslaught as part of the IMF/World Bank inspired neo-liberal agenda for Nigeria's education system, which is premised on drastic reduction of graduates and university staff, and close down of many departments and courses. This agenda has been rejected by ASUU; however, university administrations, under the directive from government are reintroducing it through the backdoor, with this increment. If the latest planned fee hike is allowed, it will rubbish the essence of the struggle of the staff unions for proper funding of education and provision of accessible education for all Nigerians. This is why we call on staff unions in OAU to give adequate support to the struggle by opposing the fee hike.
The LASU Experience
The recent experience of Lagos State University (LASU), where fees have also been increased is a lesson to OAU students and staffs. The three years of exorbitant fee regime in LASU has turned the university to a ghost of its past, while industrial crisis has become the norm in the university. Since the fees, ranging from N190, 000 to N370, 000, have been introduced, no fundamental improvement has been witnessed in the university. Currently, lecturers' union, ASUU has declared industrial dispute with the government, which may lead to another round of school closure. Just like the latest plan, fresh students who were forced to pay the new fee three years ago, could hardly afford to pay now, as the economic realities are biting harder.
Fee Increment is a sign of retrogressive government
The latest planned onslaught again underscores the anti-poor and retrogressive character of Nigerian government. Across campuses, fees are being hiked indiscriminately, without recourse to economic realities. Despite the unprecedented wealth that has accrued to the country, the bankrupt ruling elite cannot fund quality and free education. Meanwhile, Cuba whose national wealth is not up to that of Lagos provides free and quality education for all its citizens at all levels. As against Nigeria's 30 federal universities, Cuba with just 11 million people has more than 40 universities and 24 medical schools. Yet, the country provides free and quality education (one of the best in the world) for its citizens. This is clearly achievable in Nigeria, but for the anti-poor, capitalist policies being implemented in Nigeria. This is why Nigerian students must spare thought for the struggle for total liberation of Nigeria from the clutches of neo-liberal, neo-colonial capitalism.
What should be done?
We call on student union to:
1. Convene an immediate student congress to draw up plans and mobilization for the struggle.
2. Reach out to staff unions including ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT, and Alumni Association, both locally and nationally to drum up support for the struggle
3. Call for convocation of a special NANS Zone D meeting to mobilize Nigerian students' forces against the increment
4. Start aggressive media campaign and agitation. This should involve press conference, and protest marches to press houses
5. Start mass mobilization through leaflets, posters, rallies and protests on campus and in major cities.
6. Petition major banks against collecting the fees. In additions, protests should be organized in all the major banks and their headquarters as a follow up
7. Call for public petitions and protest letter.
If we fight, we may win, if we don't fight at all we have lost.
ERC Leaflet Issued on May 14 2014