Parents and students of some universities across the country have cried out over the hike in school fees, saying the development could worsen their current economic pains and lead to mass students’ withdrawals, Daily Trust reports.
Many universities, both federal and state-owned, have issued releases on upward adjustments of registration fees for courses being offered with some of the increment spiking as high as 300%.
The development coupled with the harsh economic realities exacerbated by the recent removal of fuel subsidy and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) devaluation of naira, has compounded the woes for ordinary Nigerians in the pursuit of university education, parents and students said.
While the Students’ Loan Scheme provided for by the recently signed Students’ Loan Bill was seen as a trigger for this upward review of registration fees, educationists and other stakeholders have said the lack of clarity on how the scheme would benefit Nigerians has further complicated the process with wider implications.
Some parents who spoke to Daily Trust said they were already overburdened by the cost of feeding, transportation, energy, among others. Specifically, civil servants said their take home pay, which barely lasts a week, would not in any way cover the cost of funding the higher education of their children even if they dedicated everything.
Some students who sponsor themselves in schools by engaging in SMEs or menial jobs said from what they have seen so far in respect to students’ loan scheme, it would be extremely difficult for some of them to access the facility.
They, therefore, called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to first provide mitigating factors, revamp the economy before removing subsidy in the education sector to avert mass drop out by those who could not pay the fees prescribed by the schools they attend.
Ekpoma varsity students protest
Daily Trust reports that students of the state-owned Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, Edo State, recently staged a protest against the nearly 300 per cent increment in the school’s registration fees, which they said now makes some courses in the school more expensive than what is obtainable in some private universities. According to them, law students are now expected to pay as high as N741, 500 as against N185, 000 paid in the previous year.
Similarly, they said medical students were now expected to pay N638, 000 as against N216, 000 based on the new increment. The students lamented the development, saying the state government had made it impossible for the indigent to go to school.
“What the management is telling us is that before a salary earner in Edo State could send his child to study law, he would have to work for 23 months before he can pay one level school fees for his child,” one of the protesters said.
Vice President, Inter-campus Affairs, Vanessa Egheahie, had said that should the state government refuse to revert to the old fees, NANS would move its headquarters to AAU to enforce the reversal.
Since the announcement, the school authorities have not spoken on the matter.
In Borno, a cross-section of students and parents who spoke with our correspondents expressed concerns over the development while calling on school management to rethink considering the current harsh economic realities in the country.
For instance, when the University of Maiduguri introduced the new tuition fees earlier this year, some underprivileged students and parents raised concerns saying they could no longer cope.
Malam Yusuf, a student of the chemistry department in the institution said after several weeks of resumption, many of his classmates were yet to resume due to the hike in fees.
“It is sad that many of us couldn’t afford what the institution charges. In fact, I stopped calling some of my classmates because, what they always told me is mind boggling and you cannot help,” he said. He called on the federal government to prevail on universities to review the fees so that all returning students can complete their studies.
Another student who wouldn’t want to be identified corroborated, saying: “Despite the fact that the students union government called on students to be patient that negotiation was ongoing to see how the institution would review the fees, most of the students could not come back because their confidence had waned.
“We used to pay N39, 000 for registration but it is now N150, 000. It is incredible, who will give you this money in addition to the cost of accommodation, feeding, books and others? Many students would resort to fate and withdraw,” he said.
A concerned parent, Gwamna Mshelia, described the hike as unbearable while calling on the institution to reconsider its decision.
“Most of these students are from poor family backgrounds. So the university is just saying that education is not for the children of the poor in Nigeria,” he said.
Tanko Ahmad, the Public Relations Officer of the university had said that the management of the institution had done everything possible to simplify the registration procedure and easy payment.
“The Students Union Government (SUG) has contacted the institution that students couldn’t resume due to the hike. To ease the situation for them, the management asked them to pay in instalments, 60 per cent in the first semester and the remaining 40 in the second semester.”
‘There would be many dropouts in Kano’
In Kano, many parents and students fear the development could lead to an increase in the number of school dropouts, saying university education might have gone out of reach for ordinary Nigerians.
The Bayero University Kano last week announced in a special bulletin the increase in central registration fees and administrative and hostel maintenance charges for undergraduate and postgraduate students.
According to the new school fees, students of Nursing would pay the highest among undergraduates with N220, 500 (fresh) and N197,500 (returning) followed by those of the Faculty of Clinical Sciences (MBBS) and Dentistry who will now pay N170,000 (fresh) and N160, 000 (returning) and all students of education courses will pay between N137, 500 and N138, 500 for fresh students while returning students will pay between N132, 500 and N138, 500 depending on their course.
The least in the category are students from Faculties of Arts and Islamic Studies, Law, Management Sciences and Social Sciences who will pay N97,000 as returning while fresh students will pay N105, 000. Students from Faculties of Computer Science, Communications, Earth and Environmental Sciences will also pay N100, 000 as returning while fresh students will pay N110, 000 respectively.
Muhammad Suleiman, a recent graduate from Bayero University, Kano (BUK) said while he considered himself “lucky” to have graduated, the development meant that his friend and course mate, who had a spill over may end up without a university degree after over five years when months wasted through strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are factored in.
“If this had happened even in my final year, I do not think I would have been able to complete my studies because even with the last N38, 000 registration fees I paid, I knew what my parents went through to get it. For my younger ones that are still in secondary school now, we don’t even know what will happen to them.”
Similarly, Aminu Idris, a 200 level student, said three of them from the same father are now studying in the BUK and that he does not think their parents can afford to pay for them.
“No one would like to drop out of school for the other. The increment will make many of us dropout of school and the student loan that might be of help is till October, so there will be a massive drop-out. It is really sad.”
A guardian, Bilya Yaro Dawakin-Tofa said he may have to start looking for alternatives for his sister who is currently in 200 level in BUK.
“I found this increment as unfortunate. I can’t imagine paying for her and at the same time taking care of the rest of the family with my meagre income. “
Panic mood in Plateau, Taraba, Benue
Our correspondents report that there are strong signals over school fees increment by the next session at the universities in Plateau, Taraba, Benue, among others. For instance, at the University of Jos, what happened in other places has created anxiety among students and parents.
Although yet to be officially announced, information to that effect has been spreading recently, especially when the students were already in their last examination for the current session.
A 300-level Economic student who simply identified herself as Victoria, said she saw information shared on Twitter by a student, and that it was purportedly from the school’s Twitter account.
She said the message purportedly indicated that fees in their department had been increased from N45, 000 to over N100,000.
A parent, Ocean Omekpa, said he hoped that the proposed increment should just be mere speculation as things are just difficult.
Another student of Archaeology, Favour Achor, said she heard as well that in their department, the fee had been hiked from N45, 000 to N96, 000 from next session.
The Deputy Registrar, Information and Publications of University of Jos, Abdullahi Abdullahi, did not immediately respond to questions on the issue before press time, saying he was in a meeting and would revert.
In Benue, Gideon Ogaba, a 200 level Chemistry student at the Joseph Sarwuaan Tarka University Makurdi (JOSTUM) formerly known as the Federal University of Agriculture said his parents would find it difficult to cope with any increase in fees.
“Already, the economic hardship is taking a toll on families. My father’s salary has not increased so if they go ahead to hike fees, it would be difficult for me to continue.”
Similarly, a 400-level student of Benue State University (BSU), Nancy Ornguga, opined that any further increase of tuition fee would impact negatively on undergraduates.
A parent, Peter Duru, said angrily: “They want to kill us; that is what they are out to do. How can they start increasing fees at this time? How do they want us to cope? I have three children in the university; how do they expect somebody like me to cope? Is this government meant to kill us or to help us to grow as individuals or people?”
Similarly, students at Federal University, Wukari and Taraba State University, have expressed concern over planned tuition fee increase in universities.
A 200 level student of Federal University, Wukari, Gabriel James told Daily Trust that many students were already facing problems of feeding and accommodation, adding that if there is any increase in school fees, most students would not be able to afford it.
Similarly, a 300 level student at Taraba State University, Abubakar Dauda, said it was unfair for the federal and state governments to increase university tuition fees at this time when most families were unable to meet their daily needs.
But a vice chancellor of a federal university who spoke off the record said while they empathise with parents and students, they were also constrained.
“Running the universities is extremely expensive. Do you know that diesel alone guzzles over 70 per cent of the subvention coming from the centre? Do you know how much it costs to pay salaries of academic and non-academic staff? Do you know how expensive it is to ensure security on campus, logistics and others?
“I think while there is the need for the federal government to have other ways of easing the pressure on parents, universities should also learn some lessons on how to diversify so that we can collectively salvage the situation,” he said.