Demola Rewaju: In LASU, the chickens have come home to roost

by Demola Rewaju

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Despite its Awoist pretensions, the AD/AC/ACN/APC governments in Lagos have made no secret of their desire to commercialise education as much as possible as far as the tertiary schools are concerned. First it was the government of Bola Tinubu that decided the fees of N250 was too cheap for students of LASU and decided to hike it by a multiplier of 100 to N25,000.

It was the late Chief Bola Ige in his popular column in the Sunday Tribune of those days who used to say that chickens will always come home to roost. The phrase is an old adage trying to say that bad deeds or words will always return to discomfort their perpetrator. If Governor Raji Fashola thought that he had successfully carried out the agenda of school fees price hike then he was made to have a rethink quite early this year as a students’ protest turned violent and the school had to be shut down.

Despite its Awoist pretensions, the AD/AC/ACN/APC governments in Lagos have made no secret of their desire to commercialise education as much as possible as far as the tertiary schools are concerned. First it was the government of Bola Tinubu that decided the fees of N250 was too cheap for students of LASU and decided to hike it by a multiplier of 100 to N25,000. The wily former governor however balanced it by increasing bursary to Lagos state students and indigents so the crisis was well managed and danger averted.

As the 2011/2012 session was about to commence, the management of LASU again announced a 725 percent increase in the school fees to be paid by incoming students. With fees ranging from N193,750 to N348,750, the stage was set for a showdown but the evil day was postponed.

While we concede that the cost of education is not easily borne by any government that wants to develop a state, we also assert that more creative solutions to education funding can be found and in the case of LASU, a system had evolved that was yielding results already. While regular fulltime students were paying N250, part-time students were paying as high as N50,000 which guaranteed much funds for the school. The school had various satellite campuses before they were abolished and then turned to mainstream part-time campuses. Apart from the school fees, students still have to pay for handouts, various faculty and departmental dues, field trips, practical, laboratory use, projects etc.

The strategy used was that while old students (staylites) paid the same school fees, fresh intakes were the ones who had to pay the exorbitant fees. The deadline for payment was extended but many students could still not meet up and unwilling to lose the chance of writing their exams, the students went on a wild protest in January this year. From the statistics: 9,217 returning students had paid their fees and completed their registration process which only 1,150 of the 4,568 incoming students had been able to pay.

Following the protest, LASU was shut, the state house of assembly waded into the crisis and the students hit at the root of the problem: it wasn’t whether the portal for registration was shut too early but that they simply could not afford to pay the exorbitant school fees. The governor reopened the school on the recommendation of the House but only for final year students which begs the question of how those of them who have carryovers or re-sits will be able to write the examination in time for mobilisation to the youth service corps.

As of now, the Abiodun Aremu led Joint Action Front, the Hassan Soweto inspired Education Rights Campaign as well as ASUU’s national chairman Dr. Nasir Fagge have joined the protesting students and the struggle has assumed a national dimension.

The chickens have clearly come home to roost.

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Demola Rewaju blogs at www.demolarewajudaily.com

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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