Monday, April 11, 2016 1:03 pm
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Students of the University of Port Harcourt this morning shut down academic activities as they demonstrated over the increase in school fees by the school authorities. They blocked all entrances into and exits out of the institution.
The protest caused traffic jam on the East-West road as it spilled over to the Express road.
It was learnt the institution jacked up the fees to N47,000 since November 2015. Students were given up to 4 April , to pay up or be de-registered .
However students of the institution are saying the deadline given them to pay up is too short and should be extended.
At the time of this report, the students were marching towards Abuja campus while access roads to the campuses have been barricaded.
Dr. Williams Wodi, a Deputy Registrar and spokesman of the institution said:”What’s going on is that less than 2 percent of our students are protesting and are refusing to allow workers and other students to come into the campus to start their Exams or do their legitimate duties.
“We sensitized our students as far back as November 2015,that we are going to change the perception of University where students come school free and carry over all school fees from year one to the final year and they should pay what we gave as outstanding charges because we do charge school fees.
“We told them that all returning students are to pay N45,000.That has been communicated through the school website,circular and the school bulletins and others. When we wanted to enforce the payment at the beginning of the session we saw that the compliance was very low. The first deadline was 21 February 2016.
“We extended it to March 11,2016. We made it lecture free for all students to pay.
“We recorded some mileages.Then we extended it to March 30,2016.We still had some students who have not paid. So we opened our portal on April 5 and for them to pay, we still had problems with a couple of them and reopened it on April 6 and closed it on midnight of April 7.
“You can see that from November last year to February 12,March 11,March 30,April 5 and finally April 7 , 98 percent of students complied.
“About 2 percent of the students have not complied and they are the ones making heaven and earth meet”.
On the penalty for not paying, Wodi said “My position is the position of the Senate of the institution.All those who are yet to pay by midnight of April 7,2016,will automatically carry over the semester.”
Asked if the UNIPORT would be ready to allow the defaulting students to write their examinations and pay later,Wodi said : “No.The same Federal Government insisted,based on the negotiations between Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and other unions that if lecturers invigilate for exams they need to be paid.Where will the institution have money to pay invigilators?
“Over the years parents and students have had the notion that students can pass through the institution without paying and after graduation they would pay.The decision of the institution is a recent development.”
Wodi argued that Nigerian parents had been spending N86 Billion as fees for their children and wards in Ghanaian Universities that cannot compare with some state Universities.
But Andrew Ajayi, a former student Union leader who commented on the face-off accused the school authorities of insensitivity. He argued that it was insensitive on the part of UNIPORT authorities to have increased the fees in January and expect parents to pay in the month of January when parents and guardians have scarce resources after Christmas festivities.
Andrew Ajayi did not spare students who are protesting when they carry smart phones worth thrice the fees.