Fashola, LASU Students Face-Off Over Tuition Increment Deepens
The face-off between Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and students of the State-owned University, LASU, Ojo, Monday, worsened when the students took to the streets and blocked a major road which links Lagos with Badagry for hours.
Their grouse is that the Governor has remained adamant over the recent increment in the institution's tuition fees by 725 per cent from N25, 000 to between N193, 750 and N348, 750 depending on the faculties for the 2011/2012 fresh students.
The students were further infuriated that while discussions are still on-going, the government is making moves to increase the tuition of the old students from same N25, 000 to N120, 000 after promising that the old students would not be affected by the controversial increment.
The institution's management had pasted a document announcing the increase in the students' fees with the title: "Government's View on the Report of the Visitation Panel to Lagos State University" in September, 2011.
The document had read: "In view of the enormous financial commitment required to run a university viz-a-viz other competing demands in the public sector, government accepts the recommendation to increase tuition fees. Government directs that the new tuition fees shall not be applied retroactively as current students are exempted from the increase. The new tuition fees will take effect from 2011/2012 academic session."
The document then stated that prospective students of Arts/Education are to pay (N193, 750); Social and Management Sciences (N223, 750); Law (N248, 750). In the document, Communication/Transport, Sciences, Engineering and College of Medicine are respectively to pay (N238, 750), N258, 750), (N298, 750) and (N348, 750) as against present fees which ranges between N25, 000 and N62, 500.
The students who had been facing problems of dis-accreditation of many of the institution's courses and another crisis between them and their former Vice Chancellor leading to his sack by the State government, then took to the streets, in protest, for days and daily subjected road users to harrowing experiences.
They also attacked government officials and agents who coincidentally stumbled on the protest and said they would continue till the government reversed its decision on the fee increment. The protest further disrupted the second semester examinations of the institution.
When the situation almost became unbearable, the State House of Assembly had intervened by summoning the management of the institution, representatives of the government and the student union government to the House for a dialogue. But the students who arrived the Assembly in droves and seized commercial vehicles were not satisfied with the comments of the Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, who had told them and other people at the Assembly, that tertiary education is not meant for every Nigerian child.
He had also queried the rationale for their agitation when the government had said the increment would not affect the old students, but was quickly interrupted by another lawmaker, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, who told him that as a former head of the LASU SUG, it is a policy for them to fight for the both old and prospective students. The Speaker then set up a committee made up of all the stakeholders after his colleagues complained that the amount was too high.
However, days after the setting up of the committee, the students have again taken to the streets, this time almost becoming violent. The protest also forced those using the road to turn back.
Comrade Olateju Azeez, who is the Public Relations Officer of the Students' Union, said the State government had remained adamant over the increase and has even threatened to close down the institution if the students did not continued to reject the new policy.
He said: "There are indications that the Lagos State government is trying to increase old students' school fees along with the freshers' to N120, 000. Therefore, the Lagos State University Students' Unions are protesting against all political miscreants in Lagos State."
Speaker of the Students' Union Parliamentary Council, Azeez Rasheed, added that they actually met with the lawmakers of the State Assembly, on Sunday, November 20, 2011, and that the students body were told that Governor Babatunde Fashola said he could only afford to reduce the school fees by five per cent. "They also affirmed to us that the governor said he would shut down LASU if we don't agree with his proposal," he said.