ERC Demands Immediate Reversal
The authorities of the Afe Babalola University has carried out an outrageous hike in the fees of its Clinical students (400 level medical students) from the already whopping sum of N1.7 million to a stupefying sum of N2.6 million. Nothing on earth, except plain profit-making, can justify this exploitative hike.
By this fee hike, what the ABUAD authorities appear to be saying is that the University is open to only the children of treasury looters, corrupt politicians and oil bunkerers! The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby calls for the immediate reversal of the hiked fee. Even the old rate of N1.7 million is extortionate and exorbitant. We insist that education must not and should not be a “debt” sentence.
We urge Nigerian people to publicly condemn this fee hike and prevail on the authorities of the institution to rescind its decision. Without the immediate reversal of the fees, many medical students already in their 400 level risk being thrown out of the University. This matter is therefore a matter of urgent national importance.
Contrary to the opinion of some that private institutions are meant to be funded from fees paid by students and therefore no one has the right to protest any astronomical tuition, the ERC believes that in so far as private Universities are service providers, the public including students and their parents have a right to protest any of their policies considered inimical to their future. Not only does the public has the right to determine the amount of tuition private schools can charge, the public also has the right to determine the quality of their services etc. This is because whether private or public, education is an inalienable universal human right.
This is more so because the idea that only the rich send their children to private Universities is no more true. As a result of the complete decay of public education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, many working class and middle class parents are increasingly compelled to enroll their wards in private schools which they can only afford by taking loans etc. This is because everyone wants the best education for their children which is no more possible to obtain at an affordable rate as a result of the destruction of the public education system. In addition to this is the inability of existing public tertiary institutions to admit all eligible applicants. Therefore whether they have the means or not, many parents are compelled to enroll their wards in private institutions. Increasing fees at such outrageous rate as ABUAD has done is therefore an unacceptable pressure on parents and if unchallenged, this fee hike can force many of the Clinical students to drop out of school.
Out of the N2.6 million, the tuition portion is just N950, 000. However what makes up the rest is simply stupefying. For instance, Clinical students are being asked to pay N350, 000 for clinical posting and another N200, 000 for community medicine posting. For examination and assessment, the students are to pay N125, 000. What manner of examinations cost this much? Despite N950, 000 already allotted for tuition, students are to pay another N150, 000 for practical/laboratory. So what exactly constitute tuition in the first place? Accommodation is N350, 000. Library fees which used to be N10, 000 was jerked up to N20, 000 while ICT was pegged at N30, 000. Course registration, a simple administrative exercise, attracts a cost of N10, 000! Also students are to pay N50, 000 as deposit against damages.
This outrageous hike however confirms our consistent opposition to the privatization of public education on the basis of IMF and World Bank dictate. We have often maintained the position that the privatization of education would not solve the problem of access but only deny an increasing percentage of the population access to knowledge. According to the Punch newspaper of Tuesday February 24 2015, statistics from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board shows that only two per cent (or 18, 667) of the 1.6 million candidates applied to study in the nation’s private universities in the 2014 academic session. There are 50 private universities in the country. This shows that over 98 per cent of candidates preferred the 79 federal and state-owned universities to the private ones.
The fee hike in ABUAD is a confirmation that all private institutions offer is mega exploitation of the frustration being felt by Nigerians over the decay of public education infrastructure. In the case of ABUAD, many of the students who have been finding it difficult to afford the old fee of N1.7 million are now confronted with the reality of dropping out of school entirely given the new fee of N2.6 million. The ERC insists that the only socially-beneficial way to make education affordable and accessible to all is for the government to invest massively in public education by utilizing the enormous wealth of the country.
Whether public of private education, the ERC stand opposed to exploitation. We join ABUAD students to condemn the fee hike. Unfortunately from the inception of the university, the ABUAD administration has illegally prevented student unionism in direct violation of the constitutional rights of students. We condemn this and demand that the authorities of ABUAD allow students to establish an independent and democratic students union through which they can protect their rights and interests at all times. However what this means is that at this critical time, ABUAD students have no union through which they can mount a stout resistance to the fee hike. Regardless of this however, we urge the students to take their destinies into their hands by organizing and mobilizing in peaceful protests and demonstrations until their demands are met. If they are prepared to do this, we are confident that workers, parents and ordinary Nigerians will stand by them.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator National Secretary