James Sowole in Akure
The increase in fees to be paid by returning and new students of the Ondo State owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) by more than 500 per cent has heightened tension among stakeholders in the state.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu had at every opportunity announced that fees increase has become inevitable as the current fee regime was unsustainable.
Last week, the government made good its threat by increasing the fees of the institution that was known to charge the least fees among state universities in the country.
Though there were several rumours on the actual figures, the new fees regime was finally released by the institution’s Head of Information and Public Relations, Mr Sola Imoru.
Giving a breakdown of the fees schedule, Imoru disclosed that fresh students in the Faculties of Arts and Education are to pay N150,000 while returning students are to pay N120,000.
For Faculties of Science, Agriculture, Social and Management Sciences, fresh students are to pay N180,000, while returning students are to pay N150,000. The statement also revealed that fresh students in the Faculty of Law are to pay N200,000, while returning students are to pay N180,000.
Before the increment, students had been paying between N25,000 and N35,000 per session. Imoru enjoined all students to access the university portal for fees payable and mode of payment.
Irked by new fees schedule, students under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Joint Campus Committee (JCC) said students rejected the universityâ€™s decision.
NANS JCC in a statement signed by the Ondo Axis Chairman, Adewunmi Adebowale, directed all students to shun any form of compliance with the new fees regime.
“As we all know, the new school fee regime has been announced. It is in total disregard to our long agitations and a shocking alliance of our state government and the school management to pile more hardship on indigent Nigerian students.
“AAUA students are strongly advised not to go ahead with any payment. In furtherance to our agitation, all students should kindly boycott April 9, 2018 resumption date as our agitations continue.
“We seek your patience and maximum cooperation as we face this callous decision head on. Stay at alert and await further direction,” Adebowale stated.
The position of the students was shared by some parents, who accused Akeredolu of not being sensitive to the plight of parents and the students. Some parents, who spoke with journalists, said the increase was too sharp considering the economic reality and the fact that the tuition was the only thing that an average citizen had been benefiting from the state.
A parent, whose three children attend the university, lamented that the new fees regime has automatically sent his children out of school.
“What can I do now, I have three students in the institution, I have one in the Faculty of Law and two in other faculties. How can I meet up as a civil servant?
“This is callous and unexpected at this time. This is a bad omen. If care is not taken, the problem will have multiplier effects on the society at large because many students would drop out of school.”
Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement alleged that Akeredolu is not governing with a human face. In a statement signed by officers of the party’s group known as PDP Grassroots Mobilizers, Ondo State chapter, Kunle Ajibogun and Femi Ogunleye, the Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator, said: “We noticed that pleasant news has not been coming from Ondo State in the past couple of months. We therefore feel that continued silence in the face of the degeneration that has been witnessed by the state since Akeredolu mounted the saddle of leadership is a disservice to our dear state.
“Pregnant women with their protruding stomachs had to protest last week before forcing the state government to reverse the outrageous hike in the cost of medical services in the state.
“The state government also last week came out with its decision to increase tuition in the state-owned university by between 500 and 800 per cent.
“The government had earlier stopped payment of WAEC fees for senior secondary school students. Fe education has also been cancelled at the secondary school level.
“It is our opinion that the burden is too heavy for the poor people of Ondo State. We therefore urge Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to give human face to the way he governs the state.
“It is a lamentable irony that a governor elected on the platform of a supposedly progressive political party is destroying the much cherished legacies of free and affordable education and health in the state.
“If the government is hard pressed and finds it unavoidable to raise cost of its services, it must not do it in a way that will take education and health services beyond ordinary people of Ondo State.”
The group therefore called on traditional rulers and prominent indigenes of the state to prevail on Akeredolu to stop introducing policies that will add to the burden of the people and make life miserable for them.