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FASHOLA, LASU STUDENTS AND THE SCHOOL FEES HEADACHE

By MOMODU Kadiri
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On Thursday, May 15, 2014, Wande Baruwa, a 300 Level student of Fishery, LASU, laments:

'I am spending five years in this school and you can imagine me paying that outrageous amount of money with other miscellaneous fees. I support ASUU impending strike wholeheartedly. Who knows, there might be a total reversal' -. The Nation

Oh LASU students, how did we find ourselves in this state of melancholy? How I feel sorry for our predicaments. They have increased our school fees from N 25,000 to N 348,000, just to tactically truncate our educational ambitions and rendered us servants, as our parents have acted to them. Our civil servant parents, petty traders and the likes, are weeping but the authority must not see their tears. They preach free education but yet is beyond the reach of the poor. Academic calendar is always staggered, as lecturers have embarked on another strike in the wake of a new academic calendar (2013/2014 session). Some of our colleagues have been forced out, as the remainders are battling for survival (Survival of the fittest). We use to welcome over 4000 freshers (from 2006) annually, but now, is a little above 1,000 (2014).

Greatest LASUites, who do we blame for our woes? Ourselves, or parents, for their apathy towards politics where they could have amass enormous wealth to airlift/sponsor us to foreign universities or indigenous private institutions to learn.

In the last couple of months, we have suddenly turned 'young Turks'- agitators, fighting for our rights - School Fees Reversal. To say the least, between January 22 and 23, 2014, there was an uprising at the main campus- Ojo, as a result of Porter Closure which forced the university's management to shutdown the school. This came few weeks after the nationwide ASUU trike, which lasted for nearly six months, by which time, academic activities and the likes were paralysed. Now, another one (internal strike) which will further prolonged our statutory years of graduation has just begun. Is this not a justification for the bad reputation that LASU is known for in midst of other Nigerian universities?.

It's unfortunate that these infamy has earned LASUites several aliases few of which are 'LASU students arrogant', 'LASU students radicals' e.t.c., even though they do complement it by saying: 'though they are radical intellectuals as well'. But the fact that the name, 'LASU' is often found in the front pages of national dailies, in my opinion, does not speak well of our degrees in the labour market. This explains why there are reports of discriminatory remarks on the bearers of LASU certificates while searching for employments.

Meanwhile, the management team headed by the vice chancellor, Prof. Obafunwa has been very tenacious to annihilate this scourge, as could be seen in its slogan:

' LASU, Repositioning for Excellence'. However, this perestroika must be complemented by the government through proactive and students - friendly policies.

Articulate LASUites, our collective struggle in the last few months has been strengthened despite challenges, appealing to the governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), to heed to our demands.

No doubt, the Students' Union (SU) under comrade Nurudeen (a.k.a OPTIMIST), has become more vibrant than ever; the National Union of Lagos State Students (NULASS), under comrade Adeyemi (a.k.a ONIKORO), is blaizing; and comrade Momodu (a.k.a EMBASSY), has turned 'advocate of the students' through his writings on the LASUites' struggles- all in the quest to SAVE LASU for ourselves and future generations.

On numerous occasions, we have been maimed and frustrated for agitating for a just-cause. In whichever way, no this, whatever it we cost us, no matter how long it will take, we must remain resolute and repudiate any advances of being susceptible to compromise to enable us triumph in this struggle, which in my opinion, has trans-generational benefits. It is noteworthy that whatever little thing we enjoys today, be it democracy, education, individual freedoms, etc. were not gotten on a platter of gold, but through stress and strain, undergone by our Heroes' Past.

Recall in the words of Thomas Jefferson, when he said: 'the tree of liberty is watered by the blood of tyrants and patriots'. Though, while this struggle is far from being bloody, we must let- go all the demons of fears in ourselves and put on the jackets of brevity in other to record maximum success; because, as the saying goes: 'an injustice to one, is an injustice to all'.

It's imperative for me to caution that, as the struggle for a downward review of our FEES lasted (which is being championed by different pressure groups and students in general), it should not in any way cause any misunderstandings or acrimony among us, noting the fact that, all that matter to us is making LASU 'Affordable and Accessible' to all Lagosians. For instance, while the S.U's 17-pages proposal that was sent to the governor is asking for a 'Reduction' as against ASUU-LASU, whose demand is for 'Total Reversal; SAVE LASU Group (SLG) maintained similar position to that of the latter which meant reversal to statusquo-(N25,000).

For the purpose of elucidation, permit me to briefly enlighten you that SLG is an independent movement formed for the purpose of expeditious actualization of our collective demands from the government. In parts, it was its voiceferous crusade that culminated into the April 3rd, 2014 dialogue (called by the government) between the students and the Lagos State government, wherein, we (students) were told to 'go back and come with a programme of payment that we think would be suitable to us' within a specified period. Amongst SLG's demands which numbered 1-6, only one: Reversal of Fee Hike is yet to be meant, while others have been successfully achieved. Any further information concerning SLG could be gotten via: 08120567606.

In a related development, what appears to be a relief to our greatest headache today- (school fees), the PUNCH of Wednesday, May 14, 2014 had reported that the Lagos State government through its commissioner for education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye as saying: 'very soon, you will hear our pronouncement as a government on the issue. We are not insensitive. We know what is happening and we are not proactive'. Government will soon present the proposal before the executive council, she added. In a similar vein, the special adviser to the governor on education, Mr. Fatai Olukoga, also lent his voice on the same issue. This is in contrast to our deep seated high-expectations that the issue of our school fees may soon be a thing of the past as the government may have been putting finishing touches to all that is needed to make a favourable pronouncement on the issue. For obvious reasons, why should the government be in a haste to take decision where their wards are having it smooth elsewhere? After all, the governor has told us that education is not meant for the poor, which translate to what may be seen as an offence to hail from a poor family. I pray the government is not pushing us to go 'ganga'. I think the authority is vacillating over what to do which is why my last article was purely advisory: ADVICE TO FASHOLA ON ASUU-LASU DEMANDS.

It's unfortunate that we are experiencing this under a government superintended by one of us (educated politician) whom we taught, would be more sympathetic to his 'academic' constituency.

Accordingly, The Nation of May, 15, 2014 editorial was not left out in what I consider massive media sympathy on our plights. In its story entitled: 'Teacher, students join forces against LASU', wide-range of issues affecting us were brought before the public awareness. I must therefore use this medium to express the students' appreciation to the entire media houses for their undeterred concern by ensuring that whatever we write or say pertaining to this struggle, is publicised.

As the strike eventually commences today, I hope the government will act fast to cure off our headache.

MOMODU Kadiri/historian/diplomat/prolific writer, writes from the department of History & Int'l Studies, LASU. Email:[email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of MOMODU Kadiri and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."