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Crisis over LASU fee hike deepens

By Emmanuel Edukugho, Ikenna Asomba & Joy Osuji
The crisis rocking Lagos State University (LASU), over steep increase in tuition fees has deepened with students openly confronting government to seek reversal of the hike, while the school’s management has directed fresh students to commence payment of the new fees with immediate effect.

Since September 2011, when the Lagos State government released its White Paper to the University management, specifying its views on the report of the Visitation Panel sent to the university in 2009, mixed feelings have continued to trail some sections of the panel’s recommendations.

According to the White Paper entitled: “Government Views on the Report of the Visitation Panel to Lagos State University, September 2011”, made available to Education Vanguard, Section 4.0, Terms of Reference III, made clarifications of the new regime of tuition fees, among other things.

Panel’s observation

From the above Terms of  Reference (T of R) entitled: “Administration and Application of University Funds”, the observations of the Visitation Panel reads: “The Visitation Panel noted with concern the funding of the University by the Lagos State Government which it (the Panel) described as grossly inadequate.

 

It observed that between January 1999 and December 2009, the period specified in the Panel’s T of  R for this assignment, the total disbursement from Development Fund to LASU for capital project was Two billion, twenty-three million, seventy-five thousand, two hundred and fifty-four Naira (#2,023,075,254.00).

“In the opinion of the panel, this level of funding will affect infrastructural and academic development. Furthermore, the Panel found instances of poor financial record keeping, inconsistencies in financial data supplied, little or partial adherence to due diligence, due process and procedure.

*Protesting LASU students

“It also noted that the University has very high prospect to generate funds internally but left the opportunities under-explored”.

Panel’s recommendation

In the light of its observations and findings, the panel recommended as follows: One, it should be mandatory that proper documentation be done while major disbursements should only be effected after due diligence, due process and approval of the Governing Council. Two, the Bursar should be held accountable for all unretired Staff Advances amounting to twenty-nine million, eight hundred and fifty-three thousand, one hundred and seventeen Naira, eighteen Kobo (#29,853,177, 18) as at 22nd February, 2010.

Three, in view of the enormous financial commitment required to run a University vis-à-vis other competing demands in Public Sector Governance, Government was advised to review the subsidy on tuition from 12% to 35% of actual tuition which ranges from One hundred and twenty-five thousand naira (#125,000.00) to Four hundred thousand Naira (#400,000.00) respectively per session. Four, Bursary and Scholarship awards to students should be paid to the University Bursary, for deduction of the tuition component and disbursement of the balance to respective beneficiaries.

Five, a reputable firm of Auditors should be engaged to carryout a comprehensive external audit of the Books of Accounts of the University, including the External System and the School of Part-Time Studies. This exercise should cover January 1999 to December 2009. Six, income generated from the External System should be prudently applied or utilized towards physical and academic development of the University.

Seven, increase in the Budgetary Allocation to the University using the UNESCO benchmark of a minimum of 25% of Annual Budget of the State to be expended on Education. Eight, approval limit of the Vice Chancellor should be reviewed upward to two million Naira (#2.0m) and all approvals below two million (#2.0m) made by the Vice-Chancellor with cumulative total exceeding #2 million should be presented to the Governing Council for ratification…

Government’s decisions

Among other things, in view of the enormous financial commitment required to run a University vis-à-vis other competing demands in the public sector, Government accepts the recommendation to increase tuition fees and therefore directs the Governing Council and other authorities of the University to effect the following graduated tuition fees for the following courses: Arts/Education (#193,750), Social & Management Sciences (#223,750), Law (#248,750), Communication/Transport (#238,750), Science (#258,750), Engineering (#298,750), College of Medicine (#348,750).

Reactions

On the part of the students and some parents, the new regime of fees is outrageous and an act of insensitivity on government’s part of the plight of indigent citizens of the state. However, the government in its own view has held that LASU will be better with the new regime of fees, considering the infrastructural decadence, among other things that have bedeviled the institution since inception 27 years ago.

The Government

Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, Commissioner for Education, Lagos State, in one of her comments to newsmen urged aggrieved students to calm down in their protest actions, pending the report of the committee set up by LAHA to look into the on-going crises. She condemned the students’ recent actions, saying that the new regime of fees is inevitable, as it would add to the standard of education in the university.

In her words: “The members of House of Assembly, the Governor, we in the Ministry of Education are all working together to reach an amicable solution to LASU problems. “But let me re-iterate the fact that there is need for us to increase the tuition fees. To make LASU a university of first choice, we simply have to do that”.

Mr. Fatai Olukoga, Special Adviser to Gov. Babatunde Fashola on Education: “The State government believes in educating its people and that is why there is free education. But free education only covers the primary and junior secondary school level. Tertiary education is not compulsory and the government’s policy does not cover that one.

“Following the recommendation of the Visitation Panel, we had to increase the school fees so that we can build facilities in the school.

Mr. Lateef Raji, Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, while addressing newsmen said the new regime of fees recently introduced by authorities of the university was motivated by the need to frontally confront the university’s financial predicament.

He explained that government endorsed the new fee increment from N25, 000 to N250, 000, after considering realities on ground.

Meanwhile, Raji, urged parents and students to show understanding over the increment, assuring that LASU would be better for it.

The Management

Prof. Ibiyemi Bello, Former Acting Vice-Chancellor, LASU: “We got the information from the authorities that there would be an increase in tuition fees and we were told to implement these decisions immediately. The government accepted the recommendation of the Visitation Panel to increase school fees and directed that it be implemented retroactively to affect the incoming students for the 2011/2012 academic session.

*Prof. Obafunwa, VC, LASU

“We called the students and told them of the new development but they did not listen. If they are not ashamed of their unruly actions, the authorities and the government are ashamed”.

Dr. Oluwatoki, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, LASU Chapter in an interview with Education Vanguard said: “Our position as a Union in the University has been that that hike in school fees is exorbitant.

“UNESCO had said that government should implement the 26 per cent recommendation Annual Budgetary Allocation to education. We are fighting them over it”.

Responding to a recent release by the Students’ Union, Dr. Oluwatoki reiterated: “Whether this was said or not, our position as a union has been, that hike in school fees is exorbitant. Even with the realities on ground, there is no way students fees will not be increased, but one, it has to be gradual and there must be value for money immediately”.

Students

Comrade Akeem Durojaiye, President, Lagos State University Students’ Union, LASUSU: “When the government increased the school fees in 2004, it argued that it was to upgrade the facilities in the school. Then, the fee was hiked from #250 to #25,000.

“We all know that in Gov. Fashola’s manifesto, he promised to give qualitative education to the masses. But with the new regime of fees, it shows that Lagos State Government is not bothered by the plights of the less privileged people who are about 70 per cent across the metropolis”.

Comrade Olateju Azeez, Public Relations Officer, LASUSU: “The new regime of fees is detrimental to the academic pursuit of the students. The Fashola administration shouldn’t have approved the fees increment.

“After all, at no point were the representatives of the students’ union involved in the process that led to the recommendations by the Visitation Panel, even the amenities of the school are in a deplorable state.

“We are still making consultations with authorities in the State. We have met the Oba Akran of Badagry, Oba of Lagos, HRM, Oba Riliwanu Babatunde Aremu Akiolu I and other notable Lagosians to prevail on the State Government to reverse the exorbitant fees”.

A Unionist who pleaded anonymity: “Increment to me is not the solution to LASU’s inherent problems. I suggest that one the State Government should toe the line of Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who injected into his State’s education, a whooping #4.3 Billion of the over #6 Billion earned by his predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim, as security votes”, adding, “Instead of this exorbitant fee hike, the State in its bid to fund LASU should call for Private-Public partnership to assist in revamping the glaring infrastructural decadence bedeviling the University all these years”.

Parents

Mr. Saliu Karimu, whose ward at present studies Law at the University, has this to say: “LASU is a State government-owned school and not a private institution. I already have my daughter studying in the University, and the other one just got admitted. Where does the government want me to get that huge amount from? I don’t think they want the poor masses to study anymore”.

“Even if the government needed money for the progress of the institution, it should explore other sources instead of this huge increase in school fees”.

Mrs. Folakemi Jimoh, a single parent: “Most parents cannot afford the new fee in view of the prevailing economic situation in the country. “I do menial jobs to send my children to school; I don’t know what to do now because my second child is preparing to come into LASU.

“Most Nigerian leaders went to school for free, but now they want to make life miserable and hard for us who have children in the university”.

Dr. Oluwatoki, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, LASU Chapter in an interview with Education Vanguard said: “Our position as a Union in the University has been that that hike in school fees is exorbitant.

“UNESCO had said that government should implement the 26 per cent recommendation Annual Budgetary Allocation to education. We are fighting them over it”.

Responding to a recent release by the Students’ Union, Dr. Oluwatoki reiterated: “Whether this was said or not, our position as a union has been, that hike in school fees is exorbitant. Even with the realities on ground, there is no way students fees will not be increased, but one, it has to be gradual and there must be value for money immediately”.

Latest Development

Amidst recent rampages by students of the University, in their protest against the fee hike, the Senate of the school, in an emergency meeting, held Monday November 21, suspended the Students’ Union Government and its activities on campus.

Also, a recent Special Bulletin issued by the University Management, dated November 25, 2011, mandated new students offered Provisional Admission for 2011/2012 Academic Session to pay the new fees with immediate effect, based in two installments (first installments to be paid before the commencement of 1st Semester and last installment before the commencement of 2nd Semester).

Also, in the bulletin, returning students are to resume studies, Monday, December 5, 2011, and are to pay the old school fees of 25, 000 in two installments. On resumption of studies, Returning students were mandated to sign a Letter of Undertaking and Guarantor form in their respective faculties.

Situation in other institutions

The recent hike in tuition fees seemed to cut across all Lagos State-owned tertiary institutions.

In the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, AOCOED, Ijaniki, students recently reacted against the hike in their school fees by boycotting lectures.

As a result of their peaceful protest, academic activities for the National Certificate Education (NCE) programme were disrupted and students were sent home.

Speaking with Education Vanguard, Comrade Wale Adenuga, the President of the Students’ Union Government (SUG), condemned and also expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Lagos State government and management of the College are handling the matter.

Adenuga, who spoke on behalf of the students, alleged that the school fees were increased by 100 per cent (from #25,000 to #45, 000).

“This is absolutely inhuman, considering the fact that majority of the students came from poor background as their parents earn below minimum wage”.

Speaking further, he said that negotiation is a way of solving the matter, while at the same time appealing to the government to intervene, because “education is one of the basic necessities of every Nigerian citizen”.

Currently at the Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, MOCPED, Noforija-Epe, there is absolute peace and tranquility, as there have been no report of students’ rampage in the College.

Speaking with Education Vanguard, the Provost of the College, Prof. Olu Akeusola affirmed that MOCPED has been able to manage any suspecting mayhem resulting from the new fees, due to its approach to the new status quo.

According to Prof. Akeusola, “Considering the geographical location of the College, in Epe, a suburb area, and taking note of the fact that students are not many here, we begged government to increase by 10-20 per cent instead of 50 percent or more.

“It is not as if we did not implement government’s policy or that government did not consult us before proposing the new fees. But on our part, we called a Stakeholders’ Forum to inform parents and students of the government’s newly proposed fees. We showed them the available facts and figures, which they accepted”.

Efforts to reach the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) management on the hike were futile as the officers were too busy to respond to our enquiry.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.