OAU students cry out over fee hike

By NBF News
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Students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife have appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene in the crisis brewing in the campus over fee increase by the university administration.

Speaking at a press briefing in Osogbo, yesterday, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the students union, Mr. Adediran Adeyemi a.k.a Africano, condemned the recent increment of the university's acceptance fee from its initial N2,000 to N20,000.

He also bemoaned what he called the imposition of N1,600 as compulsory health insurance fee for all the students.

Accompanied by other members of the students' union executive council, Adeyemi picked holes in the action of the university administration to increase the fees in the face of biting economic hardship and inflation. While describing the action of the university authorities as 'a class struggle' to deny them the right to be educated, the aggrieved students based their objection to the fees' hike on the recent revelation by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the spending of the National Assembly as well as the paltry sum allocated to the nation's education sector compared to N1.13 trillion allocated to 'just over 17,000 political office holders' in the country.

The students also decried the over-killing posture of the university authorities on the fact that despite the N3 billion grant the university received from the Education Trust Fund (ETF); $9.7 million from the World Bank and alleged mismanagement of over N683 million unspent budget discovered by the Independent Corrupt Practice and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the school authorities could still burden them with fees increase.

'From the analysis above, it is clear that there is a class struggle going on. Majority of the citizens of this nation are poor as they belong to the 'factory workers' or 'menial workers' category. About 145 million citizens are in this class and they are either extremely poor or simply managing. 'There is a class struggle going on in this nation and the poor must learn to take a stand. The wealthy must not deny the children of the poor from reaping the benefits of education; those who enjoyed the era of Awolowo's free education must not deny us our right to education,' Adeyemi stated.

The students disclosed that all efforts to appeal and convince the university administration to change its stand and consider their plights were met with threats and intimidation from the management and harassment from officials of the State Security Services (SSS). They vowed not to give in to intimidation from 'those who ought to be fathers to us,' but now treating us as 'mere criminals.' They, therefore, called on the general public, parents' forum, religious bodies and human rights groups to intervene in the brewing crisis before it gets out of hands.

Meanwhile, the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University have come out to explain the rationale behind the hike in acceptance fee of students admitted to the institution. Speaking on phone with Daily Sun yesterday, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the university, Mr. Biodun Olanrewaju, stated that the increment was informed by the economic reality of the country. The students of the institution had kicked against the 900 per cent hike in acceptance fee for fresh students, which was hiked from N2,000 to N20,000 and mandatory N1, 600 health insurance for each of the students.

'The university management is only being realistic. We know what private schools across the country are charging. Some of these students went to private secondary schools before gaining admission to the university. And I want to say that with the increment, OAU fees still remain the lowest in the country.

'We want to assure them that accountability is on the ground and we know what to do with the money we are charging,' Olanrewaju stated.

Reacting to the allegations by the students that the university had more than enough money in its kitty as grants and subvention from the Federal Government and multi-national organizations, the university spokesperson explained that the monies referred to were tied to specific project, which did not include tuition fee. On the mandatory health insurance of N1, 600, Olanrewaju explained that the insurance was in the interest of the students, saying no responsible parents would complain of that.

'The N3 billion Education Trust Fund (ETF) is not for any jamboree even though the money was yet to be released by the Federal Government. There are structures and infrastructure that the university want to upgrade. The proposal to government for the ETF fund does not include tuition fee. 'I think the students only want to demonstrate to show that they are in school and that the union is still vibrant. I think they are acting on the basis of youthful exuberance,' Olanrewaju added.