A 300-level student of History and International Studies at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Jamiu Opeyemi, has been struggling for many years to sponsor himself in school.
He had been paying his school fees by himself from the proceeds from selling pepper and tomatoes, assisting colleagues with assignments, engaging in mobile data sales, and doing PoS business.
He told that he was devastated when he logged into his school’s portal to discover that the N26,000 tuition fee had increased to N50,000.
Opeyemi told our correspondent that it was tough paying N26,000 and afraid of how to raise the new N50,000 tuition fee.
He said that upon discovery of the increment, he sent a message to the student union president asking what would be done but he told him to hold on for about 72 hours after which he could proceed with payment.
He added, “From my findings, I discovered that the president wasn’t present at the committee meeting where the increment was deliberated upon. The school fees were increased and only communicated to him.”
Opeyemi said the student representative, himself and other students were helpless, hence the directive to proceed with payment. He said that he planned to spend approximately N30,000 for his fees but had no option than to reach out to his benefactor for the balance.
He said, “When I ran out of options, I had to meet my benefactor to give me the balance to complete the payment. Before now, I paid between N26,000 to N29,000 depending on the time I register but now it’s between N50,550 to N51,550. There’s no form of empathy from my school, especially towards us who are indigent students.
“The increment has been made and the school has extended the deadline for payment twice. I was told there would be additional charges when next the portal is open for payment and that would be the last time. Apart from this, hostel accommodation and transport to campus are other issues. We are just struggling to survive.”
Undergraduates heaved a sigh of relief on October 18, 2022, when the eight-month-long strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities on February 14, 2022, came to an end. It was regarded as one of the longest in the history of ASUU strikes since 1999.
Surprisingly, when students were preparing to resume for a new session and began logging into their portals, they saw new increments in terms of tuition, registration fee among other fees. This prompted students of some varsities and polytechnics to embark on peaceful protests threatening imminent strikes if a reversal of the increments was not done.
Bearing placards with several inscriptions and chanting anti-government songs, the students of the University of Abuja, on January 9, converged on the school gate, requesting a reversal of the tuition hike.
During a similar protest at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, on January 5, the National Vice President, Special Duties, National Association of Nigerian Students, Suleiman Sarki, said the tuition hike would increase the number of dropouts in the country due to inability to pay and force a huge number of Nigerian students into insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping.
“I, for example, paid N29,830 last year at the University of Maiduguri, but this year it has been increased to about N74,000. I don’t have the money to pay for this. I may have to quit my studies,” the NANS leader said.
At the University of Taraba, students took to the streets to protest the tuition hike. The students were surprised that amid the current economic hardship, some universities could come up with such a decision which they described as insensitive.
Also, students of The Polytechnic Ibadan, Oyo State, on January 9, a day their exams were to commence, protested the increase in their hostel refusal fee.
They blocked the school gate and Sango-Poly Junction causing gridlock after which they proceeded to the state’s secretariat. The fee which was previously not compulsory was made compulsory for those who lived off-campus.
One of the students, Feyisayo said, “We weren’t meant to pay the hostel refusal fee but the school authorities have now made it compulsory. Hostel accommodation is N30,000 but most of us don’t stay there because of the dilapidated condition. When they came up with the refusal fee, it was initially N5,000 then they increased it to N15,000. But after the protest, it was reduced to N5,000.”
Several other universities across the country including the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Michael Okpara University, Umudike, Abia State and National Open Unibversity of Nigeria, Lagos State have protested against tuition hikes. Meanwhile, Nigerian students in the 19 northern states have also threatened to embark on protests following the recent increments in their fees in some universities in the region.
Shortly after the suspension of the strike by ASUU and demands by lecturers and other stakeholders for better funding of the tertiary education in Nigeria, some federal universities across the country announced over 200 per cent hike in registration and tuition fees for students, citing the country’s economic situation and increase in the cost of providing services.
Some universities such as the Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State, offered payment in instalments and a discount for members of staff.
During the strike, some of the issues raised by the union bordered on the release of revitalisation funds for universities, and increment in the salaries and allowances of university lecturers.
Earlier, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) regime disclosed that it had disbursed over N1tn to the tertiary education sector.
Also, during the strike, a former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, revealed plans for sustainable funding of the universities, including fee hike, but ASUU kicked against the proposal.
In the constitution, education is on the concurrent list, indicating that it’s run by both the state and federal governments.
According to the National Universities Commission, the country has 220 universities–50 federal, 59 states, and 111 private. Besides, the National Board for Technical Education accredits 165 polytechnics comprising 40 federal, 49 states, and 76 private.
According to United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisations, there are around 235 million students enrolled in universities around the world. Yet, despite the situation, the overall enrolment ratio is 40 per cent with large differences between countries and regions.
UNESCO’s mandate is in higher education and works with countries to ensure high-quality higher education opportunities are available to everyone. It places a special focus on inclusion, the recognition of qualifications, and quality assurance, particularly in developing countries.
This is why the body in the Education For All Report for 2000 to 2015 tagged, ‘The Dakar Framework for Action,’ called for a significant increase in the financial commitment by national governments and donors to the education sector to accelerate progress towards the EFA goals.
But reports show that the Federal Government barely allocated up to 15 per cent of its budget to education in the last six years.
In 2016, the Federal Government allocated N369.6bn which amounted to 6.7 per cent of the national budget of N6.06tn to education, while in 2017, N550.5bn; 7.38 per cent of the N7.29tn budget was allocated to the sector.
In 2018, N605.8bn, out of N9.12tn budget, representing 7.04 per cent was allocated to education; in 2019, it was N620.5bn, representing 7.05 per cent of the N 8.92tn budget. In 2020, N671.07bn of N10.33tn which amounted to 6.7 per cent was allocated to the sector; while in 2021 the sector got N742.5bn of N13.6tn budget, representing 5.6 per cent.
Frustrated by the tuition hike and pleading, a 200-level student of Polymer and Textile Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, Pauly Solomon, told that the increase was almost double what he paid before.
He said though his school might have reasons for increasing the school fees, the management should have made it easier for students to pay by accepting part payment or allowing them to pay in the second semester.
Solomon said, “Officials of our Students’ Union Government had meetings with the school management and they decided to reduce the fees from N70,000 to N62,500. I was meant to pay between N35,000 and N36,000 though some departments paid as high as N42,000 before now. It’s even worse for the new students; they paid N108,000 whereas I paid N52,500 when I resumed at 100 level. We are tired; something should be done about it.’’
A postgraduate student of Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, Etoh Kenni, said he gave up on hope but awaited the coming general elections for a positive change in Nigeria. Kenni said, “Currently, I don’t think the students or union has a say regarding the increments. We watched the fight between ASUU and the government. We hope the forthcoming general elections would push Nigeria to a better level.’’
A law student studying at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Taiwo Dada, said that he could drop out if there was an increment in tuition next session.
He said if there was a hike, he was sure that some of his colleagues in school would also drop out, adding, “Some students wouldn’t be able to continue the next session if the tuition fee is increased because they are not capable and I am part of them too. Many of them are self-sponsored students, how do they cope with this? The current fee is N35,400 and people struggle to pay. I wonder what will happen if it is increased; we cannot cope with it.”
In his view, 400-level student of Electrical/Electronics Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Sodiq Eniola, noted that the burden of the increments would be largely on their sponsors.
He told our correspondent that some students were involved in part-time jobs to cater to their needs and meet financial demands.
Eniola stated, “If there is an increase in school fees now, of which we are not sure of the percentage; it could be 100, 200 per cent or higher, a lot of students will be affected. Imagine someone who pays N30,000 will have to source for N60,000 to N90,000 per session excluding other expenses such as hostel accommodation and feeding. Most of my colleagues don’t have any financial support from home. They take care of their school fees and other expenses themselves. Others whose parents sponsor them fend for themselves in some areas.”
He noted that the situation would bring untold hardship on students and make the dropouts engage in illegal businesses such as the cyber fraud ‘yahoo yahoo’, stating, “Parents will also feel the hit. There is clearly no increase in the salary of workers, how will parents meet up with the increment?”
With tireless daily work as a procurement officer in a supermarket, Toyin Dorcas, a mass communication student at the National Open University of Nigeria, Lagos State, sponsors herself in school with her salary.
She noted that the school wasn’t considerate of those who were self-sponsored and working tirelessly to earn a living to go to school.
She added, “We will pay for each course, handouts, and use of the library but in the end, we do not get to enjoy the facilities. Most times, we loiter around areas to read because the library is under lock and key. Why increase the fees when they cannot ensure we enjoy the facilities?”
Faith Ebhodaghe, studying linguistics at the University of Benin, Edo State, said she accepted her fate when there was a tuition hike in the institution last year.
She said that some of her colleagues were unable to complete the payment or pay at all before the exams but were allowed to sit the exams.
Ebhodaghe stated, “Some of my coursemates still owe the school but they wouldn’t get their results until they pay in full. We tried to do crowd-funding for them but we couldn’t.”
Asked about the addition to the tuition fee, Ebhodaghe said before the increment, students in her department paid less than N20,000 but were currently paying about N42,000 while those in other departments paid as high as N60,000.
“It’s telling on many students, some were struggling to pay the previous amount. It’s worse now, we are out of options,” she said.
On her part, a final year student studying theatre and film studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Chioma Love, said she paid N80,000 but used to pay N45,000.
She added, “It’s either one pays the fees or drops out of school. But I have to find my way around it because I’m in my final year. UNN won’t allow you to write the CBT exam without paying the school fees. The SUG had meetings and we protested but it amounted to nothing. The school gave reasons for the hike. In fact, when I got into the 100 level, I paid about N70,000 but the new students paid N120,000.”
Reacting to the situation, SUG President, FUTA, Jesunifemi Tenten, said the institution’s management had yet to inform them of any increment.
He stressed that Nigerian students should enjoy some benefits and privileges, noting that the clamour for the benefits was what had delayed them for years in school.
Tenten explained, “We are in our second semester so we have paid school fees already at the beginning of the session. Let’s be realistic, we wasted years as students, starting from COVID-19 to the eight-month strike. Our government has crippled the system. My stance is that when the proposal for increment comes, it has to be justifiable. As the student union president, I wouldn’t accept something I cannot justify.
“If there is increment, then there should be a timeline for the completion of the projects the increment is meant for. We are open-minded regarding what is to come and would hold talks with the school’s committee on whatever decision they resort to. Look at ABU Zaria for instance, they lost extra three months because they didn’t accede to the increment. We would try to negotiate rather than say a blatant no which would waste our time the most.”
In his response, SUG President, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Oluwatobi Faji, said he was tired of the many talks about the increment and had acceded to the new fees, stating that registrations were almost closed.
He said, “We have granted interviews to explain our position. In fact, we are at the phase of concluding registration, so we have gone past that. As the student union, we engaged the university authorities together with other critical stakeholders but there was no positive outcome.”
On its part, the National Association of Nigerian Students stated that they were against the increment of tuition fees in tertiary institutions in the country, describing tuition hike as an addition to the recent challenges that had befallen the masses of this country.
Speaking through its senate president, Felix Attah, the body noted that the cumbersome increase in school fees was unnecessary and a committee had been set up to go across the country to interface with various school management, investigate universities that had increased the tuition fees to find out their reasons and intimate them that the association disagreed with the decision.
He said that NANS believed that in most learning environments in Nigeria, students could barely derive comfort in lecture halls and hostels, and the management increased school fees without proper rehabilitation of the facilities.
Attah noted, “We are in dissonance with that decision and we say a total no to it. NANS frowns at the increment and the government on the matter. In most European nations, much money is spent on education but we cannot compare ourselves with them. If this decision to increase school fees holds, we would have a triple index number of the out-of-school children in tertiary institutions.
“The leadership of NANS under my watch, in charge of over 420 student union presidents, have called for a senate meeting where this issue will be deliberated upon this month. The student union presidents will converge on the University of Abuja where we would come to a resolution on this issue of school fees increment.”
He disclosed that NANS was aware that no circular had been released by the ministry of education and the NUC regarding the increase in tuition fees. However, he noted that from the information obtained by NANS, it was merely a verbal decision given to the committee of vice-chancellors that they could increase their individual institution’s school fees because the government could no longer sustain funding of universities.
Attah added, “We also gathered that they have gone ahead to give immunity to children of lecturers and vice chancellors leaving children of the common man to the fate of what would befall them tomorrow.”
He further said that if a positive response was not achieved then the members directly affected would listen to the clarion call and come out so the world would know the students’ predicament.
Contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Mrs Joke Akinpelu, said that whatever steps the institution takes would be facilitated by the Federal Government because the university is government-owned.
On whether the school was contemplating an increase in tuition fees, she said, “We cannot do anything beyond the Federal Government. It is a government-owned institution. We would only follow the Federal Government’s directive.”
On his part, the spokesperson for the University of Abuja, Dr Habib Yakoob, stated that a committee had been set up by the university to deliberate on the matter, noting that the committee had not met to take a position on the issue.
He said, “The committee will deliberate on the review of the fees to determine whether there will be an upward review or not. The committee is to ensure whether it is necessary to review the fee or not. What is key is that they are to handle it and until the report is out, we cannot say anything.”
Similarly, the PRO, FUTA, Adegbenro Adebanjo, said that he had no information about an increase in tuition fees in the institution, adding, “Nothing of such has come up. I have no information whatsoever relating to that development.”
In his comment on the issue, the National Chairman of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said that the issue of hike in tuition fees was one that had been for several years especially since 2017 during the era of Dr Wale Babalakin when the Federal Government tried to suggest an increment, of which ASUU turned down.
This he said resulted in incessant strikes with the government bent on refusing to meet their demands.
He disclosed that the reason they couldn’t reach an agreement with the Federal Government was because it tried to introduce an increase in tuition fees as a part of the negotiation, which he said the union didn’t support, adding that the strikes were to prevent the government from introducing “tuition fee hike approach” to the issue.
The reason ASUU refused the offer, Osodeke said, was due to the meagre minimum wage of N30,000 which parents barely survived on.
Osodeke stated, “How can someone earning N30,000 monthly be paying school fees of almost N300,000? That is what we are fighting against. But while the strike was ongoing, students and parents who were meant to support us were abusing us. Now they have seen the reality of what we were clamouring for and speaking against. ASUU was ordered by the court to end the strike. If parents and students had worked in synergy with us, we wouldn’t be here talking about fee hikes. Maybe the parents can now get up themselves to fight.
“We are not in support of the increase in tuition fee, rather the government should do the needful by allocating the statutory 20 per cent of its budget to education, that’s all. Check how much other countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa allocate to education. The government allocates barely 5.8 per cent, of this percentage, the government doesn’t release up to half of the total amount.”
He urged the government to play its part since the students and their parents were already doing so by paying the fees.