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25 October 2018
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns in strong terms the decision by the authorities of Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, to jack up the tuition fees of the institution. Under the new fee regime imposed on working class parents and students, students of LAUTECH who are indigenes of either Osun or Oyo are to pay N200, 000; while non-indigenes are to cough up a whopping N250, 000. This is an outrageous increase from the old fee regime, which required that indigenes and non-indigenes pay the sums of N63, 000 and N72, 500 respectively.
This increment coming up just after the Osun State gubernatorial elections had been won by hook or crook by the ruling APC show that the ruling party cannot be trusted by the people. But we also must make clear the fact that if the PDP had won the Osun elections, a similar increment would still have been introduced because both political parties are anti-poor and pro-capitalist. The neo-liberal agenda which both parties subscribe to is that government has no responsibility in the funding of education. The incessant increase of fees apart from shifting the responsibility of funding to working class parents is equally a deliberate plan by government to gradually destroy public education and pave way for a takeover by the private sector at some point. There is a danger that LAUTECH could be put up for sale as part of a process of testing this agenda. Ultimately, the fate of LAUTECH is actually something that would soon be suffered by all public tertiary institutions so far this capitalist government is not challenged by a mass movement of workers and students.
It is crucial to note that the governments of Oyo and Osun states, who are joint owners of LAUTECH, are serial defaulters in the obligation of regular payment of workers' salaries and provision of subvention for the running of the institution; both governments have also publicly expressed their opposition to the demands of the organised labour for a decent minimum wage that corresponds to the current realities of inflation and soaring cost of living. The action of the authorities of LAUTECH, enacted with the full-backing of the governments of Oyo and Osun, is nothing short of a moral outrage.
Not only the students of LAUTECH, but every conscientious person and interest group including both teaching and non-teaching staffs in the education sector, must reject this attempt to label education as the exclusive right of the privileged and rich few!
The LAUTECH's students' union must prepare to undertake organised and sustained mass actions against the oppressive decision of the institution's authorities. Behind this increment is a principle shared similarly among all shades of governments in Nigeria that it is not the responsibility of government to fund education. A paltry sum of between 6-10% of the nation's budget is appropriated by federal and state government to the education sector annually; falling short of the UNESCO's recommendation to developing countries like Nigeria to spend the minimum of 26% of budgetary allocation on the education sector annually. Therefore the chief-enemies of public education are as much the President, Governors, Lawmakers, Ministers and Commissioners as the Governing Council that is enacting this outrageous increment.
This time around, students must take their struggle beyond the campus to the communities, in order to build popular support for this struggle among the populace at a time the politicians are so desperately seeking re-election. They may back down if they see an existential threat to their political interests, and this is the reason why this struggle must be built around the demand for upward funding of education from public purse.
The ERC welcomes the supportive statement of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that opposes this attempt of the Oyo and Osun state governments to commercialise education and price it out of the reach of the common people. However, staff and students of LAUTECH should mutually see this increment as an existential threat that would affect both interest groups in the nearest future. For instance, about five years ago when a similar outrageously high increment was implemented in Lagos State University (LASU), a drop in enrolment of students was immediately accompanied by steps towards retrenchment of workers. However, a spirited struggle of students with support of ERC and the staff unions led to the reversal of the fee regime years after students and staff saw the existential threat in the outrageous fee regime that was imposed by the Fashola-regime.
For us in the ERC, fee hike has become a national threat to Nigerian students. And it requires a national plan of action that unites Nigerian students and workers in the education sector against governments' concerted efforts to commercialise education. We fully support and encourage the struggle of LAUTECH students to reverse the current astronomic increment of huge consequences that is about to take effect on that campus!