EDUCATION: THE APC EXAMPLE IN LAGOS
The on-going drama in Lagos State between the students of the Lagos State University (LASU) and its owner, the government of the State over school fees, puts a lie to all the talks of being progressive trumpeted by the All Progressives Congress (APC). The fiasco shows the last battle between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government as a child's play: not because of the duration of that last strike, but that a supposedly 'Progressives' State can consider charging the huge fees that Lagos government threw at the students.
It is difficult to understand why the APC government will contemplate charging between N190, 000 and N330, 000, when in the same Lagos, the federally-owned University of Lagos charges less than N20, 000. Many have suggested that the APC government is desperately in search of funds to prosecute the 2015 national elections, but that sounds too preposterous even for the leader of the party to consider. But there may be some measure of truth in the other suggestion that funds are need for the huge, deep pocket projects that the Lagos government is embarking on.
A day after the Lagos Assembly gloatingly, through its Speaker, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, last January, commended the students' union for using the e-voting system for a successful election of its officers and called on Professor Attahiru Jega and the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to take lessons from the students and organize a credible e-voting elections in the country in 2015, the state government suffered the embarrassment of the LASU management shutting the school. What a way not to be an example!
It said in a statement then: 'In the wake of the violent protest by some affected students of Lagos State University (LASU) over the closure of the university portal for registration of courses for rain semester 2012/2013 examination, the university management has decided to shut down the university indefinitely. Also, examinations have been put off till further notice. With this decision, students are expected to vacate the university premises until further notice.'
For two days, students of the school made a mess of the image of an APC government that claimed it was pursuing its education agenda better than the PDP-controlled federal government that had universities shut for five months on account of dissatisfied school lecturers. This time, it was students who should be in school that were bearing the brunt of a government that is being made to look irresponsible in its handling of such a vital sector and its most important segment.
Students of the school went on the rampage destroying the school's property, burning tyres on the expressway and disrupting the second semester examinations.
According to newspaper reports, they were not happy with the management for closing the registration portal against about 1,292 of its students who had not yet registered for the second semester examinations. The examinations were disrupted by the angry students who vowed not to carry over their courses to the next semester due to their inability to pay the exorbitant fees charged by the school.
At the time the students went gaga, only about 700 students were able to register before the portal was shut and were the only ones approved to take the exams. Soldiers, the same federally paid ones like the policemen, got the Lagos government out of the logjam of dealing with the riotous students.
The inscriptions on some of the placards the students carried were instructive: 'Fashola, pity us, our parents are poor,' 'Obafunwa (the vice chancellor), open the registration portal or there will be no exams.'
The management of the crisis in the state university, the beacon of the opposition APC, watchers have warned, is a clear indication of how the bumbling party may handle education if it ever wins the election at the centre. It is another vote of no confidence on the party that is at the middle of an internal crisis. Even the much vaunted Fashola magic is failing to work in this crucial sector, and many are teasing that governance is not all about construction and turning of the State into a business haven. Lagos has the rich and the poor; the very rich and the very poor that need services, so Fashola will do well to help all.
In his reasons for the imbroglio, the Vice Chancellor, Obafunwa said 'In a joint meeting, Wednesday, between the Governing Council and the university management team, it was deliberated extensively on whether the registration portal should be opened for the affected students to register for their 2012/2013 second semester courses or otherwise. After the deliberations, it was decided that the portal should remain shut for smooth commencement and effective administration of the scheduled 2012/2013 rain semester examination.
'There is little or nothing the management can do at this moment to open the portal, because it is the decision of council and not Obafunwa's decision.
'Of the over 12,000 students in the university, about 1,292 could not meet the registration deadline. Examination dockets have been printed so there is no way the portal could be opened again for registration. However, the council also decided that those who failed to register before the deadline, but have paid their tuition fees and are not legible to write the examinations would not pay tuition fees again, when they come for re-sit of the courses.'
'This portal cannot be opened at this moment (January). There is nowhere in the world where it is done. If we allow the portal open, where examination dockets are already printed, students will go and do addition and deduction of courses which will definitely distort the information on their dockets. This will amount to huge complications for the university to handle. We have been so lenient with the students. A two-week grace for registration was extended to two months, so we believe that is enough time for students to pay their tuition fees and proceed for registration of courses.'
Obafunwa may be right in his position, but these are also Nigerians, and they need his understanding, and that of the APC, because the arrogance being displayed by all concerned shows that these are not people who can be trusted to run Lagos again, talk less of Nigeria. A word is enough for the wise.
Written By Femi Ayelabowo