• Demand of OOU Students for Further Reduction of Hiked Fees Must be Met Immediately and Unconditionally
• Only a Solution that is Acceptable by Students of All the Affected Institutions in Ogun State Can Guarantee Academic Peace
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on the Governor Amosun-led Ogun State government to immediately and unconditonally meet the justified demand of students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) for further reduction in their tuition fees to an amount less than N50,000.
While the ERC welcomes the reduction of fees across all tertiary institutions in the State as announced by the Ogun State government on Monday 11 August 2014, we believe that it is still too marginal to assuage the suffering of students from poor working class background especially those at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) who pay as high as N300, 000.
The ERC therefore fully supports the students' demand for further reduction of their fees to an amount less than N50, 000. However we must quickly point out that even this falls very short of what can begin to resolve the crisis in public education in Ogun State. The ERC is convinced that only full reversal of all hiked fees and a commitment by the State government to improve funding to all the tertiary institutions together with democratic management of the schools can guarantee affordable and accessible education for all students in Ogun State.
On Thursday 14 August 2014, Students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) irked and unsatisfied by an announcement by the State Government to marginally reduce all tuition fees of all the State-owned tertiary institutions had trooped to the Governor's office to demand further reduction of their fees to a sum less than N50,000. Very instructive is that fact that many students see the reduction announced by the State government as a mere publicity stunt as it is a minimal reduction which does not translate into a serious change of fortune for poor students from working class background.
The ERC believes the points being made by OOU students over the reduction carried out by the State government are very valid. We commend them for seeing through the deceit and fraud of the State Government. Right before now, students at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) pay far more than other students in the State. Therefore a marginal reduction across board will not mean the same in OOU compared to their colleagues in other institutions.
For instance based on the fee reduction, medical students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), who had been paying N301, 610 would now pay N176, 596, which is 41.4 per cent reduction. Also, students of the Faculty of Arts in the same university would be paying N81, 112 instead of the current fee of N126, 540, a 35.9 per cent reduction. In comparison, students of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, will now be paying N40, 000 for Higher National Diploma (HND), while National Diploma (ND) students will pay N22, 300, a reduction of 31.1 and 9.6 per cent respectively. Fresh students of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) will now pay N75, 000 instead of N103, 435, representing 27.5 per cent reduction, while returning students, who were paying N93, 465, would now pay N65, 000, representing 30.4 per cent reduction. Higher National Diploma (HND) students of Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa, currently paying N118, 000, would now be paying N46, 000, a reduction of 61 per cent.
To make matters worse, the marginal fee reduction would take effect from the 2014/2015 academic session, sometimes after the 2015 elections when the government would be under no pressure to keep its promise. The reality is that OOU students are fed up with the routine deceit, habitual lies and propaganda of the APC-led government in the State. For instance, Governor Amosun of the APC promised a 50% reduction while campaigning during the 2011 elections and only implemented a 10% reduction after getting elected.
For the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led governments in every state, lying has been perfected into a state craft. Hapless okada riders in Lagos were the guinea pig upon which the laboratory test of this new art of governance was first carried out. In LASU, there is as yet the palpable fear that the current reversal will only last till the 2015 elections. We believe OOU students were being farsighted to have taken the decision not to accept hook, line and sincere the Ogun State Government's deceitful promise of reduction. Students of other Institutions in Ogun State would be wise if they join up with OOU students to fight together for not just a further reduction but a full reversal of all fees and increase in funding that will take effect immediately and unconditionally.
We believe the Amosun-led State government's decision to reduce the fees was motivated more by the concern of the All progressive Congress (APC) to mend its anti-poor image especially as the 2015 elections approaches than by a genuine concern for the interests of the poor and toiling students, especially those in OOU, who have been agitating over their hiked fees since the inception of the present administration.
Against the background of the recent successful struggle of LASU students, the argument that fee hike cannot be fully reversed have been defeated. Inspired by the victory in LASU, students in Ogun State and nationwide cannot settle for less. Therefore the State government will be saving itself a lot of troubles if it immediately reverses the fees and goes on to increase the budgetary allocation to the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) and all the other tertiary institutions in the State to ensure that the fortunes of public education in Ogun State is turned around for the better.
The ERC staunchly believes that free, public-funded and democratically-managed education is possible in Nigeria. Why the All Progressive Congress (APC), the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and other political parties have been unable to achieve this despite the huge resources at the command of the States they are ruling is because of their anti-poor and pro-capitalist orientation and the endemic corruption of their party members in government. This is the more reason why a new political party like the newly-formed Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) which promises to implement socialist economic policies that will ensure the provision of free education at all levels needs to come to power.
Ultimately, the struggle to save public education can only win when political power is won by pro-masses party or parties that can do the job of fixing the Nation's problem. The APC has been fully exposed as an incompetent party that talks "progressive" but does everything opposite. While the party inscribes in its manifesto support for "free" education, at the same time the party is carrying out the biggest attacks on public education and tertiary schools in the States where the party exists charges the highest fees. We need a new political party that truly puts the working and poor people at the centre of its policies and programs and not false progressive parties that routinely make promises at election times only to break them once elected.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary