BY LAJU ARENYEKA
Until 2011, Lagos State University, LASU was a place to get affordable tertiary education in Nigeria. Even then, mothers sold their wrappers, fathers took loans, and students did odd jobs to meet up with the N25, 000 average fee.
Emmanuel Gbesemehane hoped to be one of such students. After waiting years to get admission into the University, the twenty-eight year old finally had the opportunity to study Physics at LASU. His joy was short lived however, when he heard that he would pay N258, 000 per annum.
‘ Before I wrote my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, UTME,’ he told Saturday Vanguard, ‘the school fees stood at N25, 000. But after I got admission, the fees were increased. But I hoped that with all the noise students were making, the state government would revert to the former fees.’
LASU fees were increased by as much as 750 per cent with medical students being charged up to N345, 750. Because many could not afford it, admission in 2011/2012 session fell by about 30 per cent. In the 2011 post-UTME exercise, students seeking admission to LASU sharply dropped. The over 2,000 students who merited admission having passed post-UTME had to forfeit their admissions because they could not afford the fees.’
But Emmanuel did not forfeit the space he had waited so long to occupy, at least not immeiately. He said: ‘My father took a loan of N250, 000 from his cooperative society to pay for my first year, and I borrowed N8, 000 from my friends. But when we got into the 2013/2014 academic session, the situation remained the same.’
Emmanuel had resigned his job as a teacher in a small private school because he had to make a long commute from Badagry to LASU, Ojo every day to attend lectures. He couldn’t afford to live on campus. His father, a retired Local Government official had not finished paying back the first loan, when the second year came along. Emmanuel could not pay his fees and missed out on the entire 2013/2014 session.
‘I have been advised to withdraw from school,’ he said worriedly, ‘my counterparts are now in 300 level. But because the school management requires that anyone who misses exams in first and second semester must withdraw, I cannot continue my career here. I was not allowed to write any examinations because I had not paid my fees. I would like to plead with the state government to have mercy, and revert to the old fees.’
The LASU Chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, LASU-ASUU is currently on strike to demand, among other things, for a reversal of the fee hike.
This is not the first time the body is striking for that purpose. There have been a number of protests by students and other well meaning Nigerians to demand same from the state government. Despite all these, Emmanuel remains at home, unable to get the University degree he worked towards for so long.