The National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, has urged the federal government to review the hike in fees in its schools.
He urged the government to do so and find a safe landing for the nation’s future leaders.
Osodeke was speaking against the backdrop of the recent hike in fess of Unity Colleges and some first generation public tertiary institutions in the country.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in an interview on Sunday in Lagos that the hike in fees could be counter-productive.
Recall that the University of Lagos was the latest of the public universities to increase its fees from N25,000 to almost N200,000, depending on programme.
The university had announced an adjustment in the obligatory fees for both returning and new students of the institution, with effect from September 1, for the 2023/2024 academic session.
A breakdown of the fees by the institution showed that the mandatory charges for one academic session for new undergraduate students are N126, 325, for courses without laboratory/studio.
It also approved N176,325 as mandatory charges for one academic session for courses with laboratory and studio.
A further breakdown of the approved mandatory charges for one academic year for returning students showed N100,750 for courses without laboratory and studio, while approved mandatory charges for courses with laboratory and studio was N140,250.
Approved charges for Medical students was put at N190,250.
The institution also fixed N20,000 as utility charge to be paid by all undergraduate students, while a total of N30,000 was to be paid by all final year students.
According to the university, the review came after careful deliberations with its stakeholders (students, parents/guardians, staff unions, alumni among others).
It had explained that the adjustment in fees was in view of the prevailing economic realities, for it to be able to meet its obligations to its students, staff and municipal service providers among others.
Osodeke said that the best way out to issues was to adopt holistic approach, noting that policies should be people-centred.
“I think the whole thing now boils down to the parents. These have been part of our agitations. We were fighting on the need to right some wrongs, but rather than get support, we were attacked.
“It may interest you to know that UNILAG is not the only tertiary institution that has hiked fees in recent times.
“The likes of Bayero University Kano, Benin and Abuja among others, have all done the same. What this will translate to, is for children of the poor to withdraw from school.
“However, we should be mindful of the inherent danger that may accompany such development, when it comes to vices, especially among youth. It could become a willing pool to recruit from. It is indeed sad.
“We hope the current administration will review the whole situation and find a safe landing for these our future leaders.
“Government could set up a high-powered commission, made up of people of integrity and brain, to review all the issues, as it concerns the country’s education sector. And like I said, it has been done in the past,” the unionist said.
Also reacting, one of the students of the institution who pleaded anonymity, called on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on President Bola Tinubu to urgently intervene on the situation.
The 400-level student of the Faculty of Engineering said the hike in fees could mean the end of his academic pursuit as he was responsible for his education.
“I used to do menial jobs to see myself through school, especially during vacation. Sometimes I do night guard in some establishments around.
“My parents are both not too strong and hence I took up the challenge to do something for myself, so that at the end, I will be able to take care of my siblings and my parents too.
“Even before now, it has not been easy. With the current increase, what do I do, where do I start from, who do I run to? Should I just allow all I have been able to achieve getting to this level go down the drain? I may not be able to stand this,” he said.
A prospective student, who gave her name simply as Mercy, said her parents were already having a second thought concerning her joining the institution, following the increase in fees.
According to her, the situation has thrown the family into confusion, as it is becoming increasingly clear that her parents might not be able to meet up with such demands, considering the current economic realities in the country.
Mercy, who had been given placement in the institution to study Pharmacy, noted that she might lose the opportunity and opt for skills acquisition.
“My parents had supported me to this stage and were positive about seeing me through the university, even from their meagre resources but with this current hike in fees, it is clear that my dreams for academic progression may no longer materialise,” she said.
Another student who also pleaded anonymity appealed to the federal government to reconsider the fees, as the development could have unintended consequences.
The final year student of Accounting urged government to plough back recovered government funds into the education sector, to bring relief to parents, especially in the face of the ripple effect of the subsidy removal.