Education should not be a money-making venture
By Oko Owi Ocho Afrika
From the inception of the All Progressive Congress (APC) ascension to power, those with the proper orientation will be able to immediately point out that the APC political party is the 'abiku' counterpart of PDP. In a situation where the mindset of the elite is firmly rooted in anti poor policies, it is certain that no matter the elements brought into power, nothing whatsoever will change.
One of the evidence that proves that the self-acclaimed elements of change in Benue State are no different from all the 'execuTHIEVES' that have graced the Nigeria political scene from our history is the fee hike at the Benue State University. How can a government that cares for its citizens hike the school fee of its students at this crucial time when the people barely have enough to feed their family? Benue State University (BSU), outside from being a state institution, has imposed cumbersome fee on students irrespective of the deplorable state of the institution. A school where students learn or receive lectures through what they call 'lectures by rumour' because of the cage the institution calls a lecture room and other unsuitable-for-learning atmosphere of the institution ought not to even dream of increasing its school fee. The hostels are kiosk-sized rooms where people are packed like animals in zoo, smells more than anything and the state of the water is a story for another day. Nothing is well in the school yet the management in collaboration with the state government has laid ploys to further exploit the poor masses by jerking up fees.
The Students and all working class people of Benue state need to stand up and fight against this neo-liberal policy. This is broad daylight extortion. How can a government increase a University’s acceptance fee from five thousand five hundred naira (5,500) to twenty five thousand naira (25,000) in a state where workers are not being paid their salary as at when due?
It is on this note that the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns this exploitation of students. For a place as backward as Benue, its government ought to do everything to encourage people to go to school otherwise the future is very bleak. Firstly bursary that is being paid to other students in other institutions is not being paid in Benue State University (BSU). In addition, the amount of fees that indigenes and non-indigene students pay even before the increment is alarming. This new increment has further made an already bad situation worse. One thing the people of Benue state should be in mind is that silence can only give this capitalist tutored elements to act is if they are the alphas and omegas.
The ERC commend BSU students for their recent protest against the hike. This protest must continue until the fee increments are reversed and all other demands met. To avoid rotten compromises and betrayals which often characterize students’ struggles, the mass of students should insist that the Students Union leadership call frequent congresses. This is to ensure that the rank and file students are carried along in the process of negotiation with the authorities over the demands for reversal of hiked fees as well as every other demands on issues of poor conditions of living, teaching, learning and research. Above all, only initiatives from the rank and file of students supported by radical organizations like the ERC can ensure that the organizational and ideological weakness of the students’ movement is overcome and struggle achieves its desired aim.
(1) There should be an immediate reversal of the fee hike; the students should be made to even pay less than they are paying now. As we all know, irrespective of the huge payment, that generates internal revenue for the state, lecturers are not being paid well, the institution cannot boast of any standard of any kind.
(2) For increase in funding to education in Benue State to 26 percent as the first step in achieving adequate funding of public education and democratic-running of schools.
(3) More lecture halls are needed. The 'lecture-by-rumour' style is not appropriate as, it does not provide room for real learning.
(4) The Students’ Union should embark on sensitization of students and even youths around on the affairs of the state. It is the role of the students’ union to create a level of consciousness.
(5) The institution should make available conducive environment for learning. The hostel should be allowed to be spacious and fewer people in a single room.
(6) The Students Union and NUBESS (National Union of Benue State Students) should carry out a massive movement against exploitation.
(7) For things to flow appropriately, the lecturers must be paid their salaries in full. And must as well, be paid at the proper time. If those in government are not being owed and collect allowances like sitting allowance, talking allowances (who knows if they are collecting sleeping allowances) then why on earth should lecturers and teachers not be paid handsomely?
It is on this note that Education Rights Campaign (ERC) call on all the students to put their voice together. The commercialization of education in the country is a very disastrous one. The anti-people government is so 'clever' that it will try to create divisions and segregation among the students by trying to say that most of the new charges will only have effect on the fresh students but that is a blatant lie. Whether fresh or returning, we are still one single body of students. Even the hike in hostel fee and all other exploitative increments should be reversed. Education is not a money making venture. The politicians should stop stealing from us. Education should be affordable as it is not an exclusive preserve for only the rich.