PRO – masses groups, under the aegis of Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), have jointly criticized the proposed fees increment in the accommodation and training fees of medical students by the Senate of University of Ibadan, describing it as another tactic to worsen the economic condition of poor parents and students in the country.
The bodies stated this on Friday in a statement signed by Mr Samuel Ochoga, ERC Branch Secretary.
Ochoga who condemned the decision of the University of Ibadan, UI adminstration noted that the development will compound the economic hardship of students and parents from working class background.
“Workers, parents and students must be united in a struggle to force immediate and unconditional reversal”, he charged.
Further describing the purported fees hike as a “wicked” and an attempt to deprive poor students of quality education, Ochoga, however called for a probe panel that will comprised of the representative of Parents, Students and workers Unions ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT) to investigate how money realized from the accommodation fees paid by students in the last ten years was spent.
“It was gathered that the university administration in its new schedule of payable fees for the 2017/ 2018 academic session has increased the accommodation fees expected to be paid by undergraduate students from N14, 000 to N30, 000. The accommodation fee for postgraduate students undertaking master programme has also been hiked from N20, 000 to N40, 000 while that of those undergoing Ph.D. programme has also been increased from N40, 000 to N120, 000 per bed space. To mass of students in basic medical and clinical sciences, this new schedule of fees represents a double tragedy to them. This is because an amount range from N75, 000 to N100, 000 is added to their payable fees. The implication of this is that medical and clinical science students in the University of Ibadan will be paying close to N122, 650”, he submitted.
Worried by this development, Ochoga said the two groups joined parents and students to strongly condemn the increment.
“The DSM and ERC strongly condemn this increment in accommodation levies and introduction of the so called health professional training levies. Both the increment in the accommodation fees and the introduction of a new fee will no doubt compound the economic hardship under which mass of the Nigeria students especially those from the working class background and their parent groan. Despite the claim that Nigeria’s economy has exited recession; the socio-economic condition of virtually all working class parents in the country has gone from bad to worse.
“It is an astounding paradox that when various data continue to give an impression of a decline in inflation rate, the prices of goods and services across the country continue to be high. The minimum wage of N18, 000 which is less than $50 per month has been due for an upward review since 2016. Yet, there is no guarantee that this will be implemented even if it is eventually approved especially now that the 2019 general election is at the corner. Over 27 states across the country continued to owe workers salary arrears that range from 5 to 15 months.
“It is in the light of this pathetic economic condition under which most working class parents across the country groan at this present moment that DSM and ERC describe the decision to hike the accommodation fees and introduction of a new fee particularly for students in medical and clinical sciences as unfair and wicked. Therefore, we call on students, parents (especially from the working class background) and workers within and outside the university to be united in a struggle to demand for immediate and unconditional reversal of this unfair decision.
“DSM and ERC fault the attempt to use the argument around poor funding as a basis to justify both the increment in the accommodation fees and introduction of health professional training levies. This is because beyond the question of underfunding is the issue around the continous maintance of outrageously high salaries and allowances as well as opulent lifestyle often enjoyed by the Vice-chancellor and other appointees like Bursar and Registrar among others who preside over the resources at the disposal of the university, in spite the crisis of underfunding.
“It have been reported severally that the monthly salary often received by the Vice-chancellor asides other privileges and allowances hovers around N2 million. This kind of outrageous privileges side by side the official wastage of the university resources must be largely blamed for why the limited resources that is often released into the university has not translated into appreciable improvement in both the living and working condition of workers and students in the university. Example of official wastage of the university resources include the huge amount of the university money that are often wasted on many frivolities like sitting allowance for principal officers of the university each time they attend official meeting within the university.”
Ochoga who appealed to parents and students to reject the proposed increment also demanded immediate cut in the salary and allowances of all principal officers in the institution.
He said “It in the light of this that we call on parents and students including the existing workers union in the university to reject both the increment and the introduction of fresh fees while also demand for immediate cut in the salary and allowances of all the principal officers presiding over the resources of the university. This demand must also be linked with the question of a democratic management and control of the resources of the university by a committee of elected representative of workers, students and parents. This is very important especially when past experiences had shown that the absence of democracy in term of the process of taken decision on issues around how to utilise the resources at the disposal of the university has also formed the background for various cases of corruption and misappropriation of funds of the university.
“Take for instance, in 2015, a huge sum of N3 billion was allegedly released by the regime of the former President Goodluck Jonathan into the university as the Special Intervention fund to carry out some refurbishment across the university including the hall of residence.
“Unfortunately, because of the absence of a committee of democratically elected representative of workers and students including the representative of the university administration to decide on how the fund could have been spent, the funds ended up being spent without no single hostel being refurbished let alone a single hostel built. It is in the light of this, we demand for a probe panel that will comprise of representatives of workers, students and parents to investigate how the amount realised in the last ten years from the accommodation fee has been spent.
“Beyond all of these demands, is also the need to take note of the fact that the recent decision of the Professor Olayinka-led administration of the university to hike the accommodation fees and introduce health professional training fees for students in basic and clinical sciences has further shown that the continuous refusal of the administration to restore the proscribed students union is a deliberate and calculated agenda to continue to deny and deprive the mass of students in the university of a democratic platform through which they can always be strengthened to collectively defend and advance their democratic right. The university administration is quite conscious of the fact that it would be difficult to force on students its array of anti-poor policies without resistance if the proscribed students’ union which was enjoying a semblance of democratic involvement and participation of mass of students as at of the time it was proscribed is restored.
“This is why side by side with a stout resistance to the fee hike, we urge students to intensify the campaign for the immediate and unconditional restoration of their proscribed student union, otherwise they should be prepared to receive more attacks in the coming period. This possibility was experimented on the evening of Sunday, April 8, 2018 when the university security outfit at the instance of the university administration forcefully evicted medical Students in the ABH simply because they protested against the introduction of the so called Health professional training levies.
“ERC and DSM condemn this forceful eviction while at the same urge the leadership currently co-ordinating the resistance of the medical students against the introduction of the so called fees not to see the struggle as that of medical students alone. Therefore they should begin to open up discussion with other layers of radical students’ activists, socialists on campus towards initiating a broader discussion over how to prosecute the struggle side by side the struggle for the reversal of the hiked accommodation fees and restoration of the proscribed student union.
“Ultimately, the only way to put a permanent end to the increasing spate of fee hike and introduction of other anti-poor policies is for students to build a nationwide mass struggle involving days of actions of lecture boycotts and mass protests to fight for improved funding of public education. Nigeria has enough resources not only to fund education adequately but also to make education free at all levels. Why this is not the case is because of capitalism and attendant wanton corruption. This is why our struggle can only be fully victorious when we overthrow the capitalism and enthrone in its place a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies. For this purpose, the DSM has registered the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN).”
“We therefore urge all students angry at the anti-poor policies of the UI administration to join us in the DSM and ERC in order to deepen the fight for a socialist transformation of Nigeria under which the key levers of the economy will be placed under public democratic control and management in order to free resources for investment in public education and other vital social services”, he concluded.
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