- The measure a stop-gap mechanism, by mgt
- Hike not anti-student, says union
- Reduce the fee now, students urge
By Arogbonlo Israel
Some medical students of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Abakaliki, Ebonyi (AE-FUNAI) have expressed grievances with the recent hike in accommodation fee by the school management.
In a memo issued Monday, August 2 by the university to announce the new fee, the total school fees for medical students came to N513,500, while accommodation fees sky-rocketed from N70,000 to N300,000.
What informed the hike
By September 2021, 400 level medical students of the university were expected to have commenced their clinical studies at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.
More importantly, the concerned students were expected to be resident at the teaching hospital which is about 25 kilometers from the University campus at Ikwo.
However, the medical students’ hostel at the teaching hospital is still under construction and expected to be completed next year (2022).
Thus, the University had two options: one is to suspend the clinical training till the students’ hostel is completed. The second is to devise another means of accommodation for the students.
The University, to ensure students’ academic activities are not suspended, negotiated with a private estate owner to rent his fully furnished building, with 150 KVA stand-by power generating set for uninterrupted power supply, located about 200 meters from the hospital, as hostel for the student, Vanguard gathered.
One of the student leaders who don’t want to be mentioned, urged the management to look into the matter, especially with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “Well, this issue at hand is a critical one that needs critical reasoning and understanding.
“The university management over the years is doing their best to ensure that the students get the best in virtually everything.
“Meanwhile, the students of AE-FUNAI College of Medicine never expected the sudden increase in fees, but the school management has said that it was for the good of the students and we, the students unanimously are not against the tireless efforts of the university management.
“Our stance is that the school management should have a rethink considering the economic situation of the country.
“Also, not everyone in the department can afford the payment; all we ask for is a level playing ground and affordable fees for everyone.”
Another medical student who also spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that the past Students Union Governments had little or no interest in their affairs, not until recent when the present president met with the management to look into the matter.
“All through the previous years, the Students Union Government had little or no interest in the matter.
“This year, however, the SUG president scheduled a meeting with the Vice Chancellor to see if something can be done about it.
“But the outcome might not really favour us,” the source opined.
A 400-level clinical student of the school (name withheld), said the hostel fee has been going up for some time.
“In previous years we paid about N270,000 total. Although these amount is still exorbitant, it has received no complaints from us because as earlier stated the college needs to be developed.
“The fee has been going up for a while.
“It is also important to note that some students have dropped out of the college because they have not been able to afford these fees.
“For some of these people, they left on their own will and for others, they were not allowed to sit exams for complete two semesters which grossly affected them and has caused them to either repeat (join the class below) or withdraw completely.
“At this point, we’re doing our best though risky considering the economy of the nation and the fact that we believe we have paid enough to develop the college thus far,” the source alleged.
Below are screenshots of WhatsApp conversation extracted by Vanguard:
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Screenshots of the school fees breakdown for MBBS programmme (2017/18) as obtained by Vanguard below:
Screenshot showing a memo forwarded to the students’ WhatsApp group as obtained by Vanguard:
Student Union reacts
The President of AE-FUNAI Students Union, Ikechukwu Agbo, threw his weight behind the management.
He said: “This is a welcome development. The medicine and surgery programme in AE-FUNAI is licensed and it takes a lot of efforts for the management to have come to that feat.
“Just like other institutions that take years for them to achieve such feat, it is worthy to note that ours is exceptional as the management through its efforts, was able to achieve timely accreditation.
“Quite alright that the economic situation of the country is difficult, but this is an exceptional course that requires a lot and all hands must be on deck to ensure that the university meets up with the prerequisites for accreditation of its clinical programme
“Hence, this decision by the management is in the best interest of the students and should be embraced by all.”
Management: Hike is temporal, student-friendly
The Public Relations of AE-FUNAI, Elom Iyke Ubochi, has urged the students to be patient with the management as the decision was made in their (students) interest.
“This interim measure, which will cost each student N300,000, will ensure that their academic activities are not put on hold.
“It will also help in sustaining the accreditation of their programme by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, who are expected to come for another round of accreditation exercise by February 2022.
“It is also important to note that the hostel fees the students are paying are not even enough to offset the total cost of renting the building as the students are only 38 in number.
“Management will augment the shortfall.
“However, this is only a stop-gap mechanism, as the students are expected to move into the school hostel being constructed in the teaching hospital immediately it is completed next year.
“This will automatically normalise their hostel fees.”
Vanguard learned that a meeting had been scheduled to hold tentatively between the school management, parents and other stakeholders concerned, over the matter.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.