Written by Ayo Ayodeji Saturday, 17 December 2011 04:15
Since the LASU authorities declared in October the draconian increment in school fees, LASU students have embarked on a heroic struggle against this grand assault on education. They have not only boycotted lectures they have embarked on exam boycott and mass protests.
The over 725% fee increment was authorized by the Fasola led ACN government in Lagos. The fees were quite outrageous to say the least and it exposed the true nature of the ACN for what it really is – an anti-people party making pretension to be ‘progressive’.
From the new fee table, the least paying student would pay N198,750.00 per session, while as much as N348,750.00 per session will be paid by medical students. Students are currently paying about N25,000.00. It wasn’t long ago that school fees were hiked from N250.00 to the current N25,000.00 by the CAN regime of Tinubu.
No doubt this is another major step towards making education an exclusive reserve of the rich as there is no way the children of the working class can such huge sums of money.
Currently, the Lagos State government says it is paying N18,700.00 to the least paid worker in Lagos but has not implemented the 140% wage increase across the board in line with the new minimum wage. How can an average worker of the Lagos state government afford to send his kid to LASU?
How can the overwhelming majority of citizens of Lagos afford LASU, with factories closing down daily, businesses folding up, with the available jobs paying peanuts as wages with terrible working conditions, etc. Unemployment and poverty is indeed widespread.
Education normally gives an edge to the individual no matter from which background. However, with these fees, the children of the working masses cannot have access to higher education; therefore they are sentenced to life of permanent poverty.
Is Hike in Fees Justifiable?
The irony of the situation is that those spearheading the imposition of these outrageous fees all paid next to nothing for their own higher education in the past, thanks to the struggles of the Nigerian students and masses that made tertiary level education almost free in the past.
For instance, the governor of Lagos state, Fasola also from a humble background paid no tuition fee in University of Benin in the 80s to study law. Had this not been the case, had tuitions been imposed in UNIBEN then he and millions of Nigerians would not have had access to education.
The fees, said to be the recommendation of a university panel, is supposed to make the university financially independent from the state government. The question begging for an answer is why? Why should a government social agency set up with public funds, maintained with public funds all of a sudden now be made financially independent from government? Who owns the public fund? Whose responsibility is it to fund social services?
Education remains a top social service in human society that is why it is universally declared as a right not a privilege.
Social services are to be funded with public funds, which are the collective wealth of the society created by the working masses.
Lagos state claims to make more than N18 billion per month from internally generated revenue, IGR, and more billions per month come from the Federal Government from proceeds from oil, and from sale of land and land related charges. Land is precious in Lagos the way oil is precious in the Niger Delta. The list of funds coming to Lagos remains endless. However, in spite of the fact that civil service has agencies assigned to collecting government funds, the tasks had been contracted out to private interests in Lagos.
The amount required to provide free and qualitative education in Lagos is quite insignificant when compared to the huge income coming into the state and the huge waste pipes they go into. The state’s overall income runs into several tens of billions of naira per month and hundreds of billions per year.
The impression always given is that there is no money; however, they never open the books to the masses. They maintain a high level of secrecy over the income and expenses.
In addition, Lagosians are the most taxed people in Nigeria; the state is plagued with multiple taxes that target the poor and less privileged. Most of these taxes are paid by the poor and low middle classes; to the extent that the slogan of the state’s private tax collectors is, if you stay in Lagos you must pay taxes even if you don’t have a job! The rich and top politicians and officials pay next to nothing if they pay at all.
In spite of these, there is practically nothing to show for the huge funds being extorted from the masses. Terrible roads plague most parts of Lagos with the exception of the areas where the rich live and do business. There is no water, no health care, no sanitation. Primary and secondary education have collapsed; most people have to send their wards to private schools, etc.
Hike unjustifiable in anyway
Currently, an average LASU students on the main campus pays at least N25,000.00 per session excluding money for imposed handouts, bribe, etc. Fee increment is quite regular in LASU and students have waged several battles against this assault. LASU also operates fleet of campuses, where students there pay through their noses for low quality education. LASU is currently said to be the university with the largest students’ population, about 90,000 students in all.
LASU is said to currently generate billions from current student fees but with nothing to show for it as most of these funds go directly to private pockets. How can students now be forced to pay much more?
The funds available to the bourgeois populist regime of Jakande who set up the university in the early 1980s is chicken feed when compared with the funds available to the current Fasola ACN government which is actually in billions of dollars equivalent. Even under the military, when oil was being sold at less than $19.00 per barrel, the regime could not even think of the current scale of fee increment.
Oil is currently going for over $100.00 per barrel average. A major part of funds for Lagos State comes from oil proceeds.
Corruption, Mismanagement & Waste
As stated earlier, even in the midst of plenty, the government always says there is nothing. They are never ready to spend on anything that will be of benefit to the masses and move the society forward.
On wages, they say there is no money, on roads, health, education, social infrastructure the answer is the same. On industry, they say government has no business doing business. What then does government want to spend money on?
There is money to pay top government officials and assembly men huge wages. The Lagos State top officials’ wages are as huge as their federal counterparts. They too are earning more than the president of the United States!
Billions of state funds are going directly into private pockets.
A councilor of a ward in Lagos earns more than a professor in the federal university and much more than a professor in LASU.
Currently, hundreds of billions of Naira is being spent on areas where the high and mighty lives at the expense of the working class areas. It is on record that Lagos state is currently building an artificial city on the Atlantic Ocean called the Atlantic City. A loan of over N500 billion has been acquired by the state for this purpose.
Fee imposition will kill, not save!
The current attempt to impose these draconian fees would accelerate the death of education rather than save it contrary to what some of the proponents of fee imposition are saying.
For one, the overwhelming majority don’t have the money and those with this kind of disposable funds would rather send their wards to luxury private universities or to institutions abroad. The Central Bank governor recently disclosed that over 71,000 Nigerian students are in Ghana and over N155 billion is being spent by their Nigerian parents or sponsors on them.
Currently, the total budget for Nigerian universities is put at N122 billion, according to the CBN governor.
The hike in fees is actually the first step towards killing off LASU as the agenda of the ACN government in Lagos is to totally hands off funding of the university. This would mean that the university would be funded by school fees completely. That wages and pensions would come from school fees. This would end up in a disaster.
National Students’ Action Needed
Nationally, school fees are being hiked to unprecedented levels. The story is the same north, east, west or south; all tertiary institutions in Lagos have had their fees hiked. There have been several students’ protests and some campuses have been closed as a result of students’ agitation against school fees hike. Several students have been victimized as a result of these movement and several arrested.
What is needed is a series of coordinated national action against this major attack on education.
This is the time for students to rebuild their organizations from the local students’ unions to the national students’ union. This is the time to transform the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, to an organization relevant to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerian students.
However, this anti-fee struggle will be strengthened with the direct support of the staff on campus. This is why all effort must be made to link up with the workers who also have a stake in this struggle.
Support the demands:
Make Education a RIGHT not a Privilege!
Oppose school fees hike
For free and qualitative education at all levels.
For independent students’ unionism without any form of authority control and imposition.
For the reinstatement of all victimized students’ union activists.