With the refusal of the Lagos State government to listen to their call to reverse the hike in tuition fee, students of the state university are resorting to different means to press home their demands
Students of Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos State, are resorting to unusual means to register their grievances over what they consider an outrageous hike in their tuition fees by 725 per cent, from N25,000 to N250,000 per session. They had earlier protested through conventional means such as demonstrating in front of the state House of Assembly and addressing press conferences. But last Monday, November 21, when it became clear to them that government was not shifting ground, they decided to barricade the Ojo-Badagry Expressway with a seized Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, bus and an articulated truck, making vehicular movement along the expressway impossible. During the over 10 hours protest, vehicles moving towards Badagry were stuck, just as incoming ones into the Lagos metropolis could not go beyond the school gate.
Azeez Rasheed, speaker of the school’s Students Parliamentary Council, SPC, said the students were angry because during their meeting with the lawmakers at the House of Assembly, they were told that Governor Babatunde Fashola could only reduce the proposed fees by five per cent. As if that was not enough, the lawmakers also said that the governor has threatened to shut the institution should the students fail to accept the proposal. In the view of Akeem Durojaiye, president, Lagos State University Students Union, LASUSU, issuing such a threat after promising quality education to the masses in his manifesto “shows that Fashola’s government is not bothered about the plight of the less privileged.”
Contained in a bulletin issued by the Information and Public Relations Unit of the Vice Chancellor’s Office, dated October 12, 2011, entitled: Proposed Increase In School Fees for the 2011/2012 Academic Session, new students admitted into the Arts/Education Faculty have been asked to pay N193,750 every session, while their counterparts in the Social and Management Faculty will have to cough out N223,750 per session. Similarly, those intending to read law have to get N248,750 lined up, while new entrants into the Communications/Transport Faculty are required to pay N238,750. Those seeking to study engineering and medicine are to pay N298,750 and N348,750 respectively. Though the new fee affects only incoming students, the entire student body has criticised it, stressing that it is outrageous and could keep students from average families away from school.
The position of the authorities is that it is meant to transform the university, derisively described as a glorified secondary school, into a 21st century institution of higher learning. In the words of Lateef Raji, special adviser to the governor on information and strategy, the increase was meant to tackle the litany of financial problems facing the university. “Government is not imposing unnecessary burden on parents. What the authority of the school had done was to embrace the new cost-sharing formula in the interest of the institution,” Raji said, adding that education is a joint responsibility involving the government and parents.
But critics of the new tuition regime believe that it is as high as what some private universities pay. Should state universities introduce such a tuition fee, it then means that their students from average homes, who opt for state universities because of the high fees in private universities, may not find it easy acquiring university education. But some others believe that high tuition fees are not new to state-owned universities. For instance, students of Osun State University have been paying over N250,000 as tuition for a long time. The same is true in some other state universities across the country. The only difference, however, is that while students of such universities are used to high tuition fees, it is new to LASU students and it will take time before they get used to the new system.