Fee-hike season in Varsities: the OAU story

It all began when the Prof. Rogers-led university management indicated their intention to blow up the payable fees in the university from N590.00 to N4,500 for the old students and from N1,500 to N9,500 for the new students. The crisis has been lingering since then. It all began when the Prof. Rogers-led university management indicated their intention to blow up the payable fees in the university from N590.00 to N4,500 for the old students and from N1,500 to N9,500 for the new students. The crisis has been lingering since then.

The management argued that the astronomical increases are justifiable since the university has suffered a lot from insufficient funding from the government. On the contrary, the students through their union vehemently posited that it is not a case of one-way traffic as interpreted by the management. They did not disagree that the university, like all tertiary institutions in the country, may be facing problems of insufficient funding from the government. But that if that is the case, then it is not by charging the students and their poor parents that a lasting solution can come forth, but by pressurizing the government to provide the educational sector with enough funds. The students believed the management is only being hypocritical and insincere in their excuse of underfunding.

The university authority's tears of under-funding remain crocodile tears. They are working in line with the Obasanjo regime's programme of commercializing and privatizing education.
The students equally believe that it is true that the Nigerian government, with its rabid hatred of an educated populace, has systematically starved the education sector of funds needed for the proper harnessing of the resources of the nation, both human and material, for the primary purpose of advancing the productive capacity of the nation. It is not also in contest that such starvation is of a national character, but that there are some peculiarities in the level of economic reality of the predicament of the school's management. The students believed and ascertained that there exist some financial malpractices of a very big magnitude. The management has unsuccessfully tried to extricate itself from the avalanche of allegations of corrupt practices levelled against it by the students' union. 

One such is the management's claim to have expended last year about N17 million to tar the Health Centre road which is only a few metres long. Another is that of sixty million Naira supposedly spent on the painting of two halls of residence in the university. The students' union considers this as a clear case of inflated contracts.

There are so many other cases of ghost projects for which money was collected but never executed. The students also thought that the shifting of the financial burden onto the heads of students, through the school fees increment, to fund the profligate life-style of the structural constituent of Prof. Rogers-led management is transparently an inhuman act and the same constitutes an act of sabotage against the educational ambitions of the students. Numerous luxurious cars have being purchased at intervals and many more are being speculatively budgeted for the principle officers of the university.

The students having been hardened by the justness of their cause have persistently inquired as to whose duty it is to fund education. Is it the government's or the masses', and also who benefits ultimately from an educated and enlightened populace? Consequently, they have tutored those who care to learn that it is the responsibility of the government of the day not only to fund education adequately, but also to make it free, accessible, qualitative and functional.

We hold the view that adequate investment in the education of the citizens is the only thing that can pre-conditionally guarantee the future survival of any society. As such, we are of the mind that it is the sole responsibility of the government, as the custodian of the public coffers, yields of our parents' labour and taxes which are supposed to be for the purpose of funding education.

With unshakeable confidence in the validity of the argument that cannot in anyway be faulted, the students have also shown the statistical porosity in the school's management by pointing to this aforementioned scandalous financial mismanagement and have resolved to fight for a cause. The students have consistently moved to the press to table the case before members of the public and present the rationale for our defiance so far.

Having resolved to grasp with the reality of protest that is inevitable, the management have resorted to several ploys to foil the collective defiance of the students. One of such is their arrangement with some banks across the country to collect the accursed blood money on their behalf just to outsmart the students' union.

The latest plot is the plan to victimize the students' leaders and genuine students' activists on the campus through various vicious vindictive panels set up at the slightest chance or excuse.
On the final note, school fees increment is just one of the variety of attacks with which the working people are faced today. Nothing could be closer to the truth, in a situation where even a police officer who earns N5,500 per month is faced with the burden of the school fees of his two children in university that charges N15,000 per head.

Therefore, the working people need not see it as simply a students' thing. The better if we forge solidarity and merge our strength to put up a formidable resistance to these neo-colonial dictates of the agents of global governance, the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF and World Bank, in disguise.

It is therefore deducible that until the working masses alongside the students rise up courageously to put an end to the exploitative capitalist stranglehold, till then we will only continue to wallow and wander in the vicious circle of protest after attack and attack again, after each protest and so on in such capitalist rigmarole.

Without being unduly self-deceitful or pretentious, we can state that persistent school fees hikes under the present system is a reality; and tireless war against it is also a reality. It is only with a "resistanceless" populace that the ruling class can get away with this, but with a "resistanceful" mass, they cannot have a field day. The struggle continues, this time around, in a more resolute manner.

May, 2003

*Olutope Anointing is a student activist at OAU Ife

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