STUDENTS of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State, recently began public protests over the hike in tuition fees announced by the state government. The hike in fees ranging from N25,000 and N35,000 to N120,000 and N200,000, respectively, has been very contentious. The students argued that a 500 per cent increase in tuition fees was excessive and unbearable. In response, the state governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said that the old fees of N20, 000 and N30,000 were grossly lower than the fees being paid by students in the other two state-owned universities. The state had operated a differential Fee regime between AAUA and its counterparts, namely the Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUTECH), Okitipupa and the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo (UNIMED).
The position of the government was that operating these fee differential was not fair given the fact that AAUA had more facilities than the latter two universities. In other words, the increase was the result of a change in the policy of differential fees. The governor further explained that the university’s Governing Council reviewed the tuition fees on the basis of the report of the Educational Summit recently held in the state. The decision, he noted, was also informed by a comparison with the tuition fee regimes in the state universities in the South-West geopolitical zone, including the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) and the Osun State University (OSU). He insisted that the new fee regime was less than what obtained in these universities. He added that students must be prepared to pay if they desired excellent and standard education.
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However, while we think that there is some basis for the government’s action, it is our view that the 500 percentage increment is astronomical and insensitive. We also find fault with the government’s failure to consult with stakeholders before taking such a policy step. The absence of consultation was responsible for the protests and contentions that attended the fee increment. Instructively, the Ondo State House of Assembly has declared that the state governor acted alone on the 500 per cent increase in tuition fees. Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Honourable Fatai Olotu, who spoke on behalf of the assembly, declared that the action of the state government was at variance with the submissions made at a meeting with the management of the institution.
We call on the government to immediately engage stakeholders and work out a common ground on the new policy. There are several options that the government can consider. These include scaling the increment across time and across levels. The increment should have been made to affect only the new intakes while a measured increment is introduced for older students. We recall that the Education Summit had recommended that the government should fund education at the primary school level while parents should be responsible for the education of their children at the secondary and tertiary levels. According to the communiqué issued by the summit, “there should be a review of chargeable fees in the state’s tertiary institutions in line with the needs of each school and current economic realities.” But the summit also recommended “further engagement amongst stakeholders in order to arrive at an amicable and workable solution.”
The government should invite stakeholders, including the students’ union of AAUA, for dialogue in order to resolve the conflict. The stakeholders should not allow the situation to deteriorate. They must avoid a situation where the university is closed down.
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