The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has condemned the recent hike in school fees across public universities in Nigeria, saying they are outrageous and unconscionable.
In a statement issued in Lagos, the group said that this disheartening trend is not just a knife in the back of poor students and their families struggling amid grim economic conditions but also a direct assault on the fundamental right to education as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Highlighting the arbitrary and recent increments in school fees by the administrations of the University of Lagos, University of Maiduguri, and the Obafemi Awolowo University, among others, CAPPA expressed dismay that these increases persist despite directives from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Ministry of Education to public tertiary institutions to refrain from imposing additional financial strains on students.
According to the organization’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, ‘‘These astronomical fee increases have wrought devastating consequences already, with countless students being pushed out of the system, forced to watch their dreams crumble or resort to back-breaking, often perilous and mentally draining menial jobs to keep their academic hopes on life support.’’
‘‘At a time when Nigerians are still grappling with the debilitating shockwaves of fuel subsidy removal—a policy shift that has engendered high inflation rates, skyrocketed transport costs, and increased the prices of basic commodities—it is nothing short of grotesque insensitivity for public universities in the country to further compound the woes of the poor with exorbitant school fees.’’
Worse still, the government has failed to fulfil its commitment to alleviate the plight of impoverished Nigerian workers. The current minimum wage remains a pittance, yet to be increased despite repeated promises from state authorities. This sad situation has further worsened the hardships of austerities and soaring living costs. To then expect already battered Nigerians to make additional sacrifices for their children’s education is to rub salt on an open wound,’’ the statement noted.
Continuing, the organization decried the blatant commercialization of tertiary education, evidenced by the fee increments. It contended that the steep hikes have failed to translate into tangible improvements in the educational milieu. Students continue to navigate decayed lecture halls and living quarters and lack adequate academic infrastructure, consequently facing a steady decline in the quality of their academic experiences.
CAPPA noted that while university authorities offer flimsy excuses, alleging that the fee hikes are inevitable due to current economic realities, it categorically rejects the warped narrative.
‘‘Students and their families should not be made the scapegoats for dismal economic conditions spurred by ineffective government policies and a chronic underfunding of the education sector. It is a glaring indictment on the nation that, despite Nigeria’s abundant wealth and potential, our budgetary allocation to education lingers shamefully below global recommendations.’’ Said Zikora Ibeh, CAPPA’s Policy and Research Officer.
Ms. Zikora further berated the distasteful actions of the Lagos State Police and the management of the University of Lagos on September 6, 2023. ‘‘The victimization, use of tear gas, and arrests of young students for peacefully protesting the fee hike is both a moral and democratic travesty. Such strong-arm tactics betray the very principles that an institution of higher learning should uphold,’’ she remarked.
CAPPA called for unity among stakeholders and pro-education groups in the country, urging them to stand in firm resolution against the fee hikes. The organization also urged the President Tinubu-led administration to not merely pay lip service in asking universities to halt the increments but take decisive action to enforce the directive and ensure the full protection of Nigerian students.
‘‘We reiterate that genuine solutions to Nigeria’s educational challenges reside in raising budgetary allocations to the sector and taking dedicated steps to enhance the quality of learning experiences and infrastructure in line with global standards. Commercializing education and restricting access for many Nigerians is neither the answer nor the way forward. Such measures would only impede our nation’s progress and further pauperize our society.’’ The statement concluded.