Calls on Students and Workers to protest this latest onslaught on the right to education
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly condemns the increase of acceptance fee and indigene verification fee by the authorities of the Lagos State University (LASU). The acceptance fee for fresh students of the University was recently increased from N10, 000 to N20, 000 while the indigene verification fee was increased from N1, 000 to N5, 000.
As far as the ERC is concerned, these increments are exploitative and unacceptable. After the massive defeat its tuition hike policy suffered last year, these increments represent a renewed attempt by the LASU management with the State government’s backing no doubt to increase the cost of education through the backdoor. The ERC demands an immediate and unconditional reversal of these increases and a refund paid to any fresh student who might have been compelled to pay.
With these increases however, Governor Akinwumi Ambode proves the ERC right that he would inevitably pursue the same neo-liberal and anti-poor education policies as his predecessor who turned Lagos to a city in which the poor had no stake. While campaigning, Governor Ambode repeatedly promised Lagosians not to increase fees in LASU. But once in power, he has turned round to do the opposite. Students and workers in LASU should demonstrate to Ambode the consequence of failing to keep one’s promises by responding with mass struggle, boycott, strikes and protests.
As experience shows, only mass resistance can convince the state government and LASU management that their education commercialization policy is unacceptable. Mass struggle is the only language oppressors understand. On this basis, we call on students and workers of the University to embark on mass protest, boycotts and strikes to compel the authorities to rescind this ill-thought, mindless and anti-poor fee hike policy.
By targeting only fresh students, the government and LASU management hope to divide students. This was the same tactics they employed in 2011. We urge all students, both fresh and returning students, to unite to resist this policy. Otherwise if they get away with this, they would gain confidence to launch general neo-liberal attacks on all students as well as workers.
These latest increases are coming barely one year after a mass struggle of students, education workers and civil society groups including the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) rocked the institution and the entirety of state over an increase in the tuition fee from N25, 000 to N348, 750 which the Lagos state government introduced in 2011 allegedly in order to transform LASU into a so-called “world class University”. Not only was the government forced to reverse the fees after students protested for months and workers unions downed tools in an impressive show of class solidarity, it also had to cough out millions to pay a refund to all students who had paid the fee since 2011.
So popular and widely supported was the struggle of the students that had the government not reversed the fees last year, the ruling party in the state could have been roundly defeated at the March 2015 elections. Now having survived the elections and returned to power, the government hiding behind its minions in the LASU administration is willing to give the anti-poor policy of fee hike another shot.
LASU management’s justification for these criminal increases is vexatious and ridiculous to say the least. In a recent comment credited to the University’s Registrar Mr. Akin Lewis, the University made the claim that payment of acceptance is a norm and that it has the right to increase fees. Our position in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is that education is a social responsibility which government must discharge to the citizens using the collective wealth produced by the labour of workers. It is not a business and students are not customers. Therefore no University management, or any academic institution for that matter, has a right to increase fees. Moreso, the insistence that a University management has a right to increase fees, without consulting students and their Union, betrays the despotic and undemocratic characteristics of the managements of academic institutions in the country.
As far as the ERC is concerned, payment of acceptance fee which is painfully a norm in academic institutions across the country is illegal and plain daylight robbery. It has only being allowed to stay because of the
weakness of the students’ movement exemplified by the ideological collapse of
the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Otherwise what exactly is
acceptance fee for? Is it a fee that fresh students are required to pay to show
gratitude to an academic institution for offering them admission? If this is the case then what are the
activities that Universities and other academic institutions undertake in the
process of admission that constitute acceptance and in what ways are these
activities so costly that a specific charge should be created for them? To us
in the ERC, acceptance fee is nothing but daylight robbery because what it
means is that after paying for myriads of examinations including UTME and
Post-UTME, fresh students are again required to pay another amount to show they
have graciously accepted an admission they labored and already overpaid for.
All of these multifarious fees charged by academic institutions are merely ridiculous efforts by managements of academic institutions to raise their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) against the background of chronic underfunding of public education by government at all levels. This is why the ERC fights for adequate funding of education. We also call for democratic control of resources by elected representatives of workers and students as it is a fact that the allocations to schools are usually mismanaged and looted by the administrators. Instead of justifying what is no more than a ridiculous fee policy as LASU’s Registrar is trying to do, University officials who still have conscience should rather join efforts of students and education workers to fight for an increase in education funding.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator (07033697259) National Secretary