Wednesday, April 11, 2018 9:46 am
It was a stormy session today at the Trenchard Hall of the University of Ibadan, UI, as parents, guardians and stakeholders met with the authorities of the institution to brainstorm on the recent hike in the accommodation, utilities and fee regimes for the incoming academic session.
The authorities had last week published a new fee regime for the new session which many of the students, especially medical students of the Alexander Brown Hall in the University College Hospital, UCH, vehemently kicked against as they staged protest against the hike.
Consequently, the university administration announced the immediate closure of the hall directing students to immediately vacate the premises.
A statement titled, “Notice of Closure of Alexander Brown Hall”, which was signed by the immediate past Registrar of the institution, O.I. Olujimi said, “At its meeting of Friday, 06 April, 2018, the Academic Board of College of Medicine, University of Ibadan considered the situation report with respect to students’ agitation regarding an upward review of the Professional Training/Accommodation Fees as approved by the Senate. In view of the security threat that the student action may pose, the Board therefore recommended an immediate closure of the Alexander Brown Hall until further notice with a review of the situation in two (2) weeks. Consequently, the Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of Senate has approved the recommendation of the Academic Board of the College. Students resident in the Alexander Brown Hall are therefore directed to vacate the hall on or before 12 noon of Saturday 7 April, 2018”.
At the forum attended by over two thousand participants including students who intermittently shouted down anyone that supported the hike, the chairman of the occasion, Professor Omoniyi Adewoye, the institution’s eighth Vice Chancellor and a former Federal Commissioner for Economic Planning, setting the tone for the meeting, urged all the stakeholders to see the need to sustain standard quality education which has distinguished the university as one of the world’s best learning institutions in the world in the almost seven decades of the university.
He added that at this material time in the annals of Nigeria, the reality of today is that university education could no longer be free if it must be qualitative and of international standard.
Explaining the logic behind the hike, the institution’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka painted an abysmal picture of the state of the education sector stressing, “The purpose of the forum is primarily to intimate all stakeholders on the rationale that informed the decision of the authority to increase accommodation fee with a view to engendering general understanding and cooperation”.
Olayinka further intimated the gathering that poor funding of the university education is responsible for problems being encountered in the tertiary institutions. Seeking for the change of attitude to education, Olayinka said, “Poor funding of education by the Federal Government is responsible for the abysmal decay of the Nigeria educational system. If we need three naira, government will give one naira. In universities’ ranking, universities in South Africa always lead, followed by Egypt. And Nigeria is languishing behind”.
The Vice Chancellor lamented that after 38 years of the existence of the Faculty of Pharmacy, the faculty was denied accreditation and has just been re-accredited by the National Universities Commission, NUC, which was a fall out of inadequate infrastructure.
He further pointed out that most of the hostels are infested with bed bugs and water does not flow on the ground floor of the hostels.
Olayinka categorically stated that the issue at stake involves hostel accommodation; Laboratory and studio (Science & Arts) maintenance fees; Fieldwork (logistics & accommodation); Fees for professional training- Medical students (non-clinical & clinical), Education (300L & 400L), for professional teaching practice levy, Pharmacy Practice Experience Levy, and Science laboratory levy, upward review of the practical year levy of students of Faculties of Agriculture, and Renewable Natural Resources, and Information Technology and Media Services (ITeMS) upward review of access fee for undergraduates.
Olainka gave a sequence of increase in the accommodation fee since 1970s saying, between 1970s to 2001, accommodation fee rose from N90 to N3, 500, between 2005 to 2007, accommodation fee rose to N10, 000, and between 2007 to 2017, accommodation rose to N14, 000 and now N30,000 for hostels on campus and N40,000 for Alexander Brown. The current increment is 114 percent increment.
He stated “the University spends about N100 million over what is collected as accommodation fees, for the running of the Halls. The University is no longer in a capacity to continue to provide this subvention. The import of this is that fees payable by students in the Faculties of the Social Sciences, Law, Education, Sciences, and Technology have not been adjusted for the coming session.
“The University is at a point where it is difficult to continue to subside the running of the halls of residence and carry out some academic functions without a slight adjustment in accommodation charges and in some fee items payable by students in some faculties.
“In adjusting the fees, members of the public are to note that it is only the increase in accommodation fees that cuts across students who desire to stay in the halls of residence. It should also be noted that residency in the halls of residence is optional, and indeed, only about 30 percent of our students can find accommodation in the halls of residence. It is also important to note that the Federal Government, many years back, had stopped providing funds for the running of the halls”.
While further analysing reasons for the increment in the hall accommodation fee and professional fee, Olayinka said “cost of training each medical student is N1.5m per year excluding salaries of staff. University of Ibadan students currently pay N32, 000 per year”, noting that the “Senate approved N75, 000 for Non-Clinical and N100,000 for Clinical Students as chargeable fees for professional training”.
The VC who revealed that the institution is not a fully residential university and has a student population of about 27,000 with only 8,222 bed spaces, about 30 percent of the total added that “Today it is as high as N75,000 per bed space, per academic session; Students currently pay N14,000:00, only, per bed space and per academic session. The University has been subsidising the utilities bills for electricity, water, general and environmental cleaning, etc., from other sources which, unfortunately, are no longer existent”.
Olayinka noted the plight of indigent students.
He said, “Management is aware of the financial handicap of some of the students of the University. Such category of students still would be unable to pay fees even if the tariffs remained as they are. To alleviate the plight of such students, the University will put in place an aggressive Indigent Students Scheme and an affirmative action in the Student Work-Study Programme in favour of such students. To prevent the scheme from insolvency, funds will be sourced from three sources: University Annual Subvention, Staff Voluntary Check-off and Donations from other Individuals and Organisations”.
Olayinka appealed for the cooperation, understanding and assistance of all stakeholders in order for the institution to continue to train high quality and employable graduates who are fit for purpose.
After the speech of the Vice Chancellor, discussion was opened to the parents and stakeholders to make their contributions. While some saw reason for the increment, many of them felt the increase was too much and too sudden.
Some felt that it could have been increased by a token, while some felt it could have been a gradual increment. Those against the increment felt there was no way most of the parents could afford the increment.
One of the parents, Mr. Fasina Olusegun said, “We parents know that the authority has been coping with hard situation. As the Vice Chancellor pointed out, our common adversary is the federal government. There is a need for increment, no doubt. I suggest low increase like N8, 000 because 70 percent of the students are indigents”.
Another parent, Mrs Olukemi Koleowo, whose first child graduated from the university and her last born is currently in the university and Mr. Ayo Akinyemi noted that the parents should be realistic because the increment in the accommodation fee is necessary if their children would be exposed to quality education.
Koleowo said, “We have to be realistic. The only error from the school authority is that they should have carried the parents along in their step to increase the fee. The only option that we have to reverse the school decision is to call on the federal government to fund education properly because it is a worrisome situation that six students stay in a room”.
Another parent who did not mention his name said, “We cannot train our children in private universities and that is why we have opted for public university. The minimum wage in Nigeria is N18, 000. I am a federal government worker and I know how much I earn. This meeting should have been called before the school decided to increase the fee. The increment should be gradual. The parents are not comfortable with the increase. The increment is not fair. This forum should reverse the increment and another meeting should be summoned to decide on what the appropriate charge should be”.
Another parent, Mr. Robert Obiorah, who described himself as a Senior Applicant of Nigeria, SAN, said, “After dressing up at home, I put on this slippers and my wife said that I should not wear slippers to this kind of forum because it is an official forum. She said that I should wear good shoes but I told her that I will wear slippers just to show the world the state of Nigeria. I represent the state of the nation. I know that there is a need for the increment of accommodation but the university authority should do it gradually”.
Closing the forum, Omoniyi appealed, “There is a process in everything. Let us allow this Premier University to continue to remain great”.
Meanwhile, while the forum was in session, some students protested within the premises of Trenchard Hall carrying placards with different inscriptions, including “No Reversal, No Resumption”, “Say No Increment”, “Say No to the Commercialisation of Education in Nigeria”, “ No to Attacks on Students Rights’’, “Nigerian Leaders Have Killed Education”.