Abia Polytechnic boils over increase in school fees: by Pascal Joseph

Source: huhuonline.com
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Peace last week took flight in the once peaceful Abia State Polytechnic, Aba. The students protested what they considered an outrageous increase in their school fees. In the new fees regime the students would now have to pay N48, 850 instead of the old regime of N39, 550.Other fees affected are acceptance which was initially N6, 500 is N10, 000; X-ray which was initially conducted at the rate of N1, 950 is now conducted at the rate of N5, 000.The Students Union Government (SUG) fee which was initially N2, 500 is allegedly affected by this indiscriminate increase.

Elder Alwell Onukaogu explaining why the increase became necessary noted that the increase was targeted at the fresh students. But some old students who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity accused the school authority of being economical with the truth. According to the students, the increase is not only outrageous but the school authority is now allegedly forcing the old students to pay the fees.

The school is now under key and lock as the students protested exchanging gun shots with the police who came in to quell the violent protest by the students. While the students claim that a student was shot dead and several others wounded, police sources are debunking the claim, maintaining that no casualty was recorded.

The incident has disrupted academic activities in the school .According to investigations by this reporter, the session could have been concluded this month. Also, examinations to conclude the session have begun .A student who expressed dissatisfaction with the situation lamented that the most worrisome aspect of the incident is that it has disrupted his Higher National Diploma Programme which could have successfully concluded by this month.

“I hoped to concluded the HND programme this month but from the look of things the programme would now be unnecessary extended to next year .And nobody is sure when the conflict would be resolved considering the Nigeria pattern of doing things, “he expressed his worries.

According to him, his worries are compounded by the fact that his parents are aging and he needs to pass out of the school system as soon as possible to enable him cater for him. ”My parents are aging and I need to act quickly to enable me cater for them and my younger siblings,” he declared.

Increase in school fees has now become a culture among authorities of tertiary institutions owned by the Abia State government. Mid this year the students of Abia State University protested the increase in their school fees. The university's management increased the school fees of the student by over 100 percent .In the new fees regime, students who were paying N28, 000 as school fees are now paying N60, 000, while those who were paying N32, 000 are now paying N70, 000.

According Professor Mkpa Agu Mkpa, the Vice-Chancellor, the increment in the school fees was necessitated by the drive by the school management to improve its internally-generated revenue to augment its revenue which Professor claimed was adversely affected by the inadequate grant which the school now receives from the Abia State government.

Pundits are concerned with what is the problem Abia State government. Recently the Theodore Orji Government revoked the free-education policy from primary to post-primary schools which it inherited from its predecessor Chief Orji Kalu .In a recent circular distributed to heads of primary and post-primary schools and other appropriate authorities in the State, pupils of primary schools are now to pay N1, 500 per term which amounts to N4, 500 per session. Their counterparts in the junior secondary school would now have to pay N2, 000, N2, 000, N3,000 which amounts to N7,000 in a term, while those in the senior secondary school would have to pay N3,000,N3,000,N4,000 which amounts to N10,000 a term. According to the circular parents would have to pay these fees in some designated banks.

Analysts and government officials are divided over the cause of the situation .While the State government is claiming that the economy of the state is seriously affected by the economic meltdown which has affected its allocation from the federal government, opposition in the state are accusing the governor of mortgaging the state fortune through investing huge resources of the state in securing victory in the Appeal Court.

According to Dr. Chukwuemeka Okwuonu, everything about Abia State has collapsed. He further noted that what could bring an end to the plight of the Abia people is change of government. ”Is this a state? The infrastructure has collapsed totally. Insecurity everywhere No good roads .My brother this is not a state. People earning their salaries .It is a very big problem but very soon it will come to pass,” he concludes.

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