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School fees hike: No respite for Ondo students

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School fees hike: No respite for Ondo students
  • Govt: Disgruntled politicians infiltrating students’ ranks
  • ˜Mgt: Protest uncalled for, no new increment

 

PROTEST

There is no respite yet for students of Ondo State Government-owned tertiary institutions following the hike in the students’ school fees. While the students are pressing for downward review of the fees, the government and management of the institutions have denied any new increment

 

 

These are not the best of times for students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), and other Ondo State Governmentowned higher institutions, including Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUTECH), Okitipupa and Rufus Giwa Ploytechnic, Owo. This is as the dust raised by the increment in their school fees by the state government-led by Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), is yet to settle despite agitation by the students for further reduction in their fees.

The students’ ordeal reached a crescendo when the authorities of the Adekunle Ajasin University said that the students would not be allowed to write the mid-semester examination without evidence of payment of their school fees, while N10,000 fine was imposed for late registration. Miffed by the development, the students on Wednesday, April 29 went on rampage over the decision of the management of the university and to protest the N10.000 fine imposed on them for late registration. While the protest was yet to be doused, four days later, the students of the Ondo State University of Science and Technology trooped to the streets, protesting what they described as insensitivity of the government over the increase in the school fees.

Following the students’ protests, the two institution were forcefully shut down indefinitely by the university managements. Worried by the plight of the stu-dents of the Ondo State-owned institutions, the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS), led its President, Danielson-Akpan Bamidele led a delegation of the association to the Governor and Visitor to the universities, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to demand downward review of the school fees. Addressing newsmen shortly after what NANS described as “an unfruitful encounter” with the governor, the association accused Governor Akeredolu of turning the state’s education sector to a business venture.

Towards this end, the union vowed that the association would resist what he called Akeredolu’s draconian education policies to stranglelate the students and to deprive the children of the state access to university education. Akpan, however, alleged that the governor had threatened “I will close all the institutions and build another one if you should embark on any protest; there is no reversal on the tuition fees. You cannot compare what students pay in Ondo to Osun and other state universities in the federation.” But, NANS said: “If Akeredolu should increase tuition fees in Adekunle Ajasin University by over 500 per cent, and that of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo by over 300 per cent what is the percentage of the salary increase of our parents? Two years is too long to chase him, it is now upon us, parents, students, artisans and entire people of Ondo State to stop this tyranny.”

But, unexpectedly, the President of the National Association of Ondo State Students (NAOSS), Olanrewaju Akeredolu allegedly said that the leadership of NANS had disrupted plan of the state government to resolve the grievances of students in the state. Olanrewaju, however, rebutted the claim by NANS President that Governor Akeredolu threatened to close down tertiary institutions in the state to those who could not pay the new tuition fees, even as he accused the NANS President on demanding gratification from the governor during the visit. Similarly, the Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Youth and Students Affairs, Banji Adewumi alleged that the students’ leader demanded personal gratification from the governor rather than discussing issues pertaining to students in the state.

Adewumi, who alledged that the NANS President threatened to make the state ungovernable for the governor if he failed to accede to his demands, said: “Several times during the meeting even as the governor would be talking, Akpan would interrupt and insist that he be allowed to speak. Then, he threatened that he would make the state ungovernable for the governor with protests.”

He added: “It was at that stage that the governor said it was the right of the students to protest to press home their demands, but he advised that such protest should be organised peacefully without destruction of private and public property. The NANS President would not allow the governor to talk as he continued to shout obscenities and threats of war. All these happened right inside the office of the governor.

“He urged the governor to come downstairs to see the bus he came with, which he said was given to him by the Abia State Governor. He boasted about how many governors have presented him gifts.” But, NANS President (Akpan), who had since denied the allegation of demanding gratification from the governor, however, described such allegation as “frivolous, mischievous and calculated to smear his integrity. Akpan, who spoke on phone with New Telegraph said: “I never demanded for any gratification. I did not hold any secret meeting with the governor, even when they suggested such I insisted that other students’ union leaders should be at the meeting.

The allegation is to rubbish the main issue. The governor threatened to wipe us out, which I said he couldn’t. I visited him for what concerned my constituency and nothing more. He goofed at the meeting.” “The school fees are unbearable. Governor Akeredolu is running a bad government and everyone should rise against him. He came to Ondo State which was running almost free education and increased fees in all tertiary institutions in the state without negotiation with stakeholders.” Meanwhile, the situation got to its climax last week, when students of the two institutions trooped out to protest the refusal of the governor torevise the hike in their school fees.

During the three-day protest, the students blocked the popular Oba-Adesida Road in Akure, the state capital, thereby disrupting the free-flow of traffic in Akure metropolis with the students carrying placards with various inscription such as ‘No Reduction, No Resumption’; ‘Akeredolu Reduce or Resign’; Education Must Be Free’; ‘ Say No To N250,000.’

The President of the AAUA Students’ Union, Samuel Adesomoju, who spoke with newsmen said the protest would continue until the state government reduced the fees, insisting that the current fees regime of N250,000, which was increased, last year, had not brought any infrastructural development to institutions in the state, except untold hardship on the students and their parents. He said: “We are here to make our demands known once again.

We are telling Governor Akeredolu that our school fees must be reduced now because there will be no resumption unless the school fees are reduced. It is our right to have education, but the governor is gradually taking that right away from us with his administration’s obnoxious policies.

“If the governor wants to generate revenue he should look elsewhere not the institutions. We are sending him a clear message today that we will not leave this road until he reduced the fees and that he should not open the institutions without downward review of our school fees. We are going to resist it. You can see we are here, but not at the governor’s office because the governor (Akeredolu) has threatened that he would flush us out if we dare to protest.” While expressing dissatisfaction over the government action, the Concerned for Human Rights, led by Belele David Tamara urged the state government to reduce the school fees further in the interest of the poor masses of the state, who send their children and wards to the institutions.

Belele said: “It is an injustice to the students to increase their school fees. Education is a right and not a privileged. The government should subsidise the cost of education. The government must reduce the school fees in the interest of education and the people of the state. We are not saying university education should be totally free, but the increment is too high for the parents who are struggling to eke out a living.”

But, the state government and the managements of the institutions had denied increase in the school fees as alleged by the protesting students. In fact, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi accused some disgruntled politicians of infiltrating the ranks of students in the state. Olowolabi said: “Basically, reports indicated that students are protesting because of hike in tuition fee in our tertiary institutions, this is far from the truth because there has not been any increase in tuition fee in any of our tertiary institution.

“You recall that about a year ago, the Governing Council of AAUA, led by the Pro-Chancellor/ Chairman of Council, Dr. Tunji Abayomi reviewed the school fees in the university and the students took to the streets for days and the governor was not in town at that time but by the moment he returned, he called a meeting of all stakeholders, comprising members of the governing councils, students’ union leaders from the zone and national leadership of the students’ union, who were all at the meeting.

“The governor pleaded with the Governing Council at the meeting to review the school fees downward and not only that, he pleaded for the students to pay twice. For instance, those who are paying N50,000 per session, are allowed to pay N25,000 per semester in a bid to make it easy for the parents to pay. “The highest school fees payable in all our institutions is N150,000. The fees range between N80,000 and N150,000.

Those studying Law and Sciences are the ones paying N150,000; those in Humanities are paying about N80,000 or a little above. At that meeting, all the parties agreed that the fees should be reviewed and they were given the opportunity to pay twice and the move was applauded by all the stakeholders “But, is it not curious that barely a year and half later, that the students are protesting as if there is a new increase in the school fees of recent. It looks more than students protest, but a move being sponsored by some people. It is apparent that the students rank had been infiltrated.”

Similarly, the management of AAUA said the protest was unnecessary, stressing that it had not increased school fees payable by the students of the institution. This was as the Registrar of the institution, Mr. Opeoluwa Akinfemiwa, said the school fees were still between N80,000 and N150,000 and payable twice in a session.

Akinfemiwa, in a statement, added that it was not true that the university had again increased the students’ school fees to N200,000 and N250,000. The statement reads in part: “While we do not want to speculate on why they are toeing this path of lies and infamy, the management wishes to state firmly and unequivocally that there is no new increase of school fees at AAUA.

The current school fees range between N80,000 and N150,000, and the students are allowed to pay twice between N40,000 and N75,000 per semester. “The demand during the recent protest of students was for the university to allow those who have not paid their school fees to write tests/examinations while they pay their school fees later. Parents and guardians are advised to ensure that their children and wards pay their school fees without delay, especially since they have the option of paying twice over two semesters. “For the avoidance of doubt, the schedule of school fees charged in AAUA, with effect from April 2018 range between N80,000 and N150,000 per academic session, depending on the courses offered and level of study. The above figures were negotiated with relevant stakeholders, including the students and their parents, and was finalised in April, last year. It is instructive to note that almost a session has passed since then and students have paid without any issue.

“It is, therefore, surprising that some people are now coming up with an issue of reduction in school fees (an issue that was negotiated, agreed upon and finalized in 2018, a period of over a year ago). Also, the management of OSUSTECH said it had not increased the students’ school fees of lately. The management in a statement signed by the Registrar, Mr. F.O. Akinusi, noted that the university had not increased the students’ school fees and had no intention to do so at least this session. “It should be noted that the current school fees regime being paid in OSUSTECH had been on since the beginning of the 2017/2018 academic session.

Fees payable by the current 200-Level non-indigene Engineering Students is N200,000 per session and for indigenes of the state studying Engineering is N150,000 payable in two installments. The non-indigenes offering courses in Faculties of Agriculture and Science have been paying N150,000, while indigenes are paying N100,000, which are all payable in two installments.”

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