One of the campaign promises of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is free education at all levels. Of course, this campaign mantra is catchy and will attract voters to the party but with APC controlled Lagos state government increasing fees at Lagos state University, LASU, it appears this promise is a deceit after all. It was the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory who laid, supported the strong educational foundation in the South West far and above all other regions in the country that necessitated many of the leaders in the SW today to have gone to school, without which it may have been difficult for very many of them to pass through a college. Yet, they find it difficult to sustain or bequeath it to their children. What is there excuse?
In Nigeria, there is a trend by our leaders and that is, to enjoy and benefit all social-economic facilities and then shut the door against the next generation from benefiting from such facility. This is partly the reason why poverty is on the rise. Again, I have argued that Nigeria’s poverty or the callous destruction of the middle class is a result of the non-fixing of the social-economic facilities to the advantage of Nigerians, certainly not because of the meager monthly wages workers receive. It is sad that in Nigeria with all the petrodollar, billions and trillions voted yearly for the budget, parents are made to withdraw their children from school because of high school fees they cannot pay. What then do the government especially at the states do with the money they get from the federation account every month? It has been revealed that one of the major pipes drilling the state funds is the retirement benefits usually paid past leaders of the state. It is then desirable for the states to look inward and discover where to make adjustments and channel such into state infrastructural development.
In a recent meeting with civil society organisations, CSOs, the state government led by Gov. Babatunde Fashola, was that the new fee of N250,000 from N45,000 was outrageous, insensitive and lacks human face. There is no justification whatsoever for such an increase, no hardworking and responsible father will destroy the children’s education for any other interest as that would amount to killing their future. The argument by the government that the amount is justified because of several developmental achievements going on in the education sector and Lagos generally is too weak to present. We had expected the state government to immediately call for a meeting with the students, possibly with parents, CSOs, labour, ASUU, NASU and other stakeholders to agree on a particular fee favourable to all rather than resort to unnecessary display of arrogance.
Education is the key to the future of human and physical development of the state and, as such no government policy must make nonsense of it. The state governor, Gov. Babatunde Fashola, has always postured himself as a listening leader, as a man who reasons with his people for the better development of the state. He must truly listen now, allowing this new school fees of N250,000 per student will shut the door against many brilliant and intelligent youths from receiving education due to their poor background. It is equally against every principle of free education as promoted by Gov. Fashola’s party, APC and late Chief Awolowo. Government must care for both the haves and haves-not, every citizen is the responsibility of the state.
Education is expensive no doubt but the government must find a way at cushioning the effect to help encourage mass literacy of its people. Agreed, students must pay but it must not be something astronomical and wicked. Nigerians are already frustrated, traumatized, dehumanized and impoverished by its own elected government, there is nothing the people are benefitting from its government thereby, making every family a local government of its own.
Our religious bodies are already not helping matters as they have all gone capitalist in the area of education. This has contributed negatively and robbed very brilliant youths from obtaining education. No Christian or Islamic formal school can be afforded by the lowly members of its congregation except the wealthy. Fashola must look at the reality on ground and reduce the school fees to what it was, N45,000. The government must also direct the police to discontinue the case with the about 8 students arrested forthwith, for it was the state and police who provoked the students to act unruly. The government refused every appeal by the students and other stakeholders to reduce the fees to its original fee while, the police as usual do not understand how to use civilized means to manage the peoples’ right of expression. Ordinarily, the Police would have used their intelligence to understand that the students are aggrieved young men and women, provide them with security and, prevent miscreants from cashing in on the protest. The police must be told that it is the constitutional right of the people to engage in peaceful protests.
The APC leadership, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Oba of Lagos, and other distinguished leaders of Lagos must not look the other way while all these are going on, they should step into this crisis now to arrest the situation. There are so many crises in LASU; student unrests, ASUU and NASU strikes, so these leaders must not fold their arms simply because their children are not in such schools.
Uzodinma Nwaogbe is on linkedIn