When western education was first introduced in Nigeria decades ago, the intention was for every Nigerian to be educated at no cost.
Notably, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to realise this laudable objective in the old western Nigeria with his ‘free education policy’ when he was the governor of the region.
The late Awolowo’s actualisation of the free education policy during his tenure enabled many great men of today to acquire formal education for free or at most, at a minimal cost.
But this trend seems to have suffered a serious setback as education in Nigeria has become almost limited to children of the ‘privileged’ in the society.
The poor standard of learning in Nigeria has also contributed in no small measure to lowered people’s motivation to seek formal education especially in rural areas across the country.
In Nigeria today, most institutions of learning have been proliferated in such a way that parents would have to pay through their noses to pay their child/children or wards’ tuition fees for them to acquire formal knowledge.
This is almost the case with Lagos State University, LASU, which is being managed by the Lagos State government, as undergraduates tuition fees have generated a lot of controversies lately.
The students of the institution have been protesting over the more than 200% increment on their school fees since the present Lagos State government came into existence in 2007.
According to Nurudeen Yusuf, President of the Student Union Government, SUG in LASU, “this issue started since the regime of our former governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who moved our school fees from its initial N250 to N25,000.
“And in 2011, the present Governor, Bababtunde Fashola, without prior notice increased our tuition fees to about N198,000 and N350,000 for medical students.
“We have staged series of protests over the unjust increment and also had a meeting with the governor but yet the issue is far from being resolved.
“The Governor asked us to come up with a proposal, which we did and we asked him to reduce it to N46, 500 for returning students and N65,000 for freshers but as we speak, the Lagos State Government is yet to revert to the old amount nor agree with our proposal.”
While LASU students believe that they are being over charged, investigation revealed that students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, Ago- Iwoye, Ogun State are also facing similar situation.
Findings revealed that the lowest amount being paid by any student in OOU is about N144,050 while the medical students are said to be paying almost double of that amount.
Moreso, a visit to Ekiti State University, EKSU, Ekiti State, showed that students of the institution pay as much as N150,000 as tuition fee.
It is noteworthy to state that neither of both institutions has taken to the streets to protest the amount (although sources at OOU revealed that their fees had to be reduced to what it is presently).
* LASU students demonstrating in front of Lagos State Government House in Lagos
In spite of these findings, however, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, the National Co-ordinator of Education Rights Campaign, ERC, believes it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that funding of education of its citizens is affordable most especially the masses.
Soweto noted that it seems the Lagos State Government is deliberately shying away from its responsibility and the plights of LASU students.
“What the students are saying is that if it was possible during Awolowo’s reign to have a free education, it is equally possible to have it now.
“The meeting held with the students recently has not bore any credible results, rather, policemen teargassed the students during one of their protests on Lagos streets.
“If an end must come to this struggle, the State Government must be alive to its responsibilities and see the students’ protests and demonstrations as positive moves in solving societal issues.
“A decision has to be made as soon as possible to salvage the future of this students before it is too late,” Soweto opined.
Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, governor of Lagos State, had informed the LASU students during one of their protests that full reversal of the tuition fees was not possible and urged the students to agree to a reduction.
With the occupation of the Lagos state government seat of power in Alausa, Ikeja by the LASU students on Friday, 6 June, 2014, one can only hope all parties involved in this crisis would come together and reach a truce before the issue degenerates.