29 June 2014

Nigeria: Contending With Cupidity in Our 'Ivory Towers'

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights advocate free compulsory education, especially at the primary level. Certainly, the need for the elimination of illiteracy, which is an encumbrance to the socio-economic development of a nation, culminated in the right to education. But, with the current spate of hike in tuition fees and students' protests bedeviling Nigerian public universities, do university managements act in accordance with the four A's attached to the right to education--Availability, Accessibility, Affordability and Adaptability? Does the Nigerian Government act in compliance with UNESCO's benchmark for education in budgetary allocations? No! Certainly not.

Day in day out, reports of students' remonstrances and schools' closures are aired on television and radio stations. Also, pictures of students carrying placards and chanting 'Aluta' songs inundate our newspapers and the social media. These students' protests are staged over inadequate learning, insalubrious living conditions and the soaring tuition fees. The last, in fact, appears to be the chief reason for students' remonstrance nowadays. It is indisputable yet lugubrious that Nigeria's education system has gone to the dogs since the current administration took over. Federal polytechnics across the country have been plunged into academic quiescence since last year, and the two parties--the Federal Government and ASUP--have been unable to reach an accord. Nigerian public universities, on the other hand, have adopted a rather iniquitous practice of increasing tuition fees exorbitantly, to sate their rapacious desires. The recent shut-down of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife, over the increment of tuition fees and the many protests that were staged by the students of the Lagos State University over the same issue of a hike in tuition fee epitomize the cupidity of university managements and the government's insouciance to the education sector.

In addition, students of the University of Lagos and Tai Solarin University of Education, a good few weeks ago, remonstrated about arbitrary hike in fees. However, this plague does not seem restricted to universities in the west, for it has also caught on public universities in the south. For instance, the University of Calabar, in rolling out the welcome mat to its freshers, mandated them to pay N10, 000 as acceptance fee before commencing school registration. This stands in total contrast to the N2,500, which, before now, was paid as acceptance fee and which was included in the school fee, and not paid severally. When questioned on the reason for the fee hike, these universities' managements invariably reply that the increment of fee is the only option for the universities to survive. Then, I ask: what about the Federal Government's allocation to universities every year? It would be recalled that Nigerian public universities, under the aegis of ASUU, went on a six-month strike because of the Government's low funding of tertiary education. The long-drawn-out strike was eventually cancelled when the government caved in to their demands. So, whatever happens to the yearly allocation?

Evidently, Nigerian universities' authorities have been bitten by the bug of avarice and rapacity, and Nigerian parents and students are suffering the consequence of the bite. One would think that the supervising Minister of Education would find a panacea to the epidemic of fee hike, but, alack and alas, the barrister-cum-Education Minister is much more concerned about his political ambition in his state than about the plight of the education section.

Hence, isn't our ailing education system an omen of a failed future for Nigeria? Doesn't this portend doom for Nigeria? How does the bowler-hatted man, who is striving to win Nigerians' votes in the 2015 general election, intend to achieve a better Nigeria when our higher institutions are in a shambles? Nigerian universities which were once citadels of excellence have now been transmogrified into cesspits of corruption and extortion, with their glory being overwhelmed by their private counterparts. Nigerian students are now the hapless victims of academic extortionists because of the

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