The management of Obafemi Awolowo University has concluded plans to paste a poster with the caption “No Poor Student Allowed Here” in bold print on the entrance of the institution. Or how do we explain the astronomical rise in both school and hostel accommodation fees which pundits have calculated to be to a tune of about 300 percent! The fact that this unwarranted increase is targeted at the fresh unsuspecting students (at least for now) many of who made the institution their choice because of the pocket-friendly fee it charges makes it totally unacceptable. These same students have been forced to sit back at home for almost a full year because of the ASUU/FG impasse which we were all made to believe was necessary to address the decay and other challenges facing our universities.
An average OAU student if woken from sleep will be able to tell the tales of the good old days which our dear lecturers often brag about during classes, recounting their experiences with relish. These are days of free meals balanced either with half chicken or a whole fish, when two people live in rooms that now accommodates between 6 and 12, days when their clothes were washed and ironed for them such that all they actually had to worry about was their books. All these were the norm in the not too distant past and it is so sad that the right under the watch of the beneficiaries of this system everything is collapsing. Were it not for the solid free education program of those days, majority of those who are now bent on increasing fees would probably have ended up in one village or the other.
The fact still remains that the fees paid by students in the federal government owned institutions is without a tuition fee, so it is a basically supposed to be the addition of some levies and this should not by any means add up to what we have been asked to pay. In a society like ours where going to school and having a certificate is a really big deal, this increment may become a clog in the wheel of progress of many who though brilliant and ambitious cannot by any means afford this neck breaking charges. A lot of things don’t flow in this country, just a select few keep sapping the juicy part of the chunk while the majority battle for the bones that left. Hitherto, this access to affordable tertiary education is probably the only noteworthy dividend that some can boast of enjoying in this country, it brings this tiny ray of hope that they’ve got a shot at a better tomorrow. Right now, everything seems to be working together to deprive them and snatch this future that they have envisioned.
In all fairness, the times have changed, but all the same, this neck-breaking increment is not the way forward. Over the years student bodies have been fighting for the statutory 26% budgetary allocation benchmark for education set by UNESCO, more people should join that train. If this is implemented, there will be funds to settle the needs of our institutions and students will not have to be at the receiving end all the time. But for now, we must advocate for a reversal to normal as per the school fees in Obafemi Awolowo University which hitherto has been the cheapest school in the country. If we fold our hands, then we might be about to witness marathon increase in fees in our national universities because OAU has always been and will always be a point of reference.