By Jérôme-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Even though previous opinion pieces, comments and interventions by this author have favoured/supported the policies and decisions of the Delta State Government, however, it will be for reasons considered very logical, rational and practical to say that the same state government will certainly feel hesitant as to why they should read this article or accept the contents of the solution it proposes as beneficial and useful for the real development of the education sector because the article fiercely opposes the state government’s reckless decision and describes recent tuition hikes at virtually all public institutions of higher learning as untimely.
Aside from the belief that in Nigeria, once a direction is chosen by an average Nigerian leader, instead of meticulously reviewing the process and setting the right course, many stubbornly persist in executing such plans regardless of a minor or major change in circumstances.
Over the past few weeks, I have also read with dismay so many articles, commentaries and analyzes that barely suggest why the Delta State Government should not be blamed for the reckless hike in tuition fees in tertiary institutions belonging to Delta State.
Synoptically, while some have argued that now is not the time to hold our state government accountable for tuition hikes because there are bigger issues facing the state, to others have argued that the only remedy for this problem is simply to encourage parents to accept fate as everywhere in the world, education is neither easy nor cheap.
Indeed, though this thin and biased reasoning may have flew into the faces of the Deltans, the truth must be told that the rulers of the state are bound to face confusion in their minds if they allow these new fee regimes to continue.
Before proceeding to a critical analysis, it is important to highlight some unpleasant actions that have recently spread their wings in the public education sector and have, therefore, worried students and demotivated parents.
The management of Ogwuashi Uku Polytechnic, one of the public tertiary institutions, in a statement issued on January 10, 2022, said that all incoming students from Delta State undertaking the Ordinary National Diploma ( OND) have to pay the sum of N75,500, while non-Deltans have to pay N99,180.
In addition, new Delta State Higher National Diploma (HND) students would pay N80,500 while non-Deltans would pay N99,180. Additionally, former OND students would pay N60,400 for Deltans, while non-Deltans would pay N72,900. As for the HND, non-Deltans would pay N71,650, while Deltans would pay N60,400.
Alarmingly, before the dust raised by such a reckless increase in fees could settle, that of Delta State University, Abraka, another public university, was in place. A peek into the structure of university fees reveals that a new admission to law school has to pay N242,000 among others.
As if that wasn’t enough for the knowledge-hungry students and their parents, Delta State University of Science and Technology (DSUST), Ozoro, has come up with another fee scheme that requires the natives of the state to pay N185,000 as a school. fees while non-natives would have to pay N225,000.
Looking above, it is evident in my view that the state has defined learning too narrowly in a manner devoid of fairness of process and outcome by preoccupying itself with income generation without regard to comfort or of student well-being.
From the shocking phenomenon of the degradation of physical infrastructure standards and the almost total collapse of the basic equipment that should be functional in a higher education institution, to the thoughtless demand for higher or lower tuition fees offered by school authorities ahead of logic – a development that is financially crushing the lives of innocent students and their parents.
At this point, this piece will take a look at the chilling consequences of the current tuition hike if allowed.
Basically, there are a large number of young people in the state who are thirsty for knowledge/education and who are living and openly projecting their potential, nature, character, behavior, performance skills on a daily basis and their talent, which must be nurtured in a favorable environment and at the fairest cost.
As we know, any development plan in the state without youth education delivered in a well-structured learning environment and fair fees will amount to mere waste of time and effort.
The second point/concern is that with this increase, Deltans and the world at large are bound to feel and validate as true that education in the state is crumbling simply because of the progressive non-recognition by the government of the right to education as a human being. although Nigeria is a party to a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, where this right is upheld.
It also illustrates that the administration headed by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has not taken a different, practical, factual, grassroots and offbeat approach to this very important and sensitive sector.
More than anything else, the development projects a realistic picture, a different scenario and exposes the factual situation which is the ground level reality of the poor education sector in the state.
This piece is not alone in this belief system.
Recently, a highly respected community newspaper in the state, in one of its weekly editorial comments, described/regarded as untimely, ill-considered and a decision taken in a bad light the recent upward revision of student tuition fees by the management/authority of Ogwuashi-Uku Polytechnic.
A development, the newspaper added, has fueled an uneasy relationship between students and school management, with students threatening mass protests if school management insists on implementing the new tuition regime/ recently introduced service charge.
While the news agency called on the school management to stop the current move, especially as their argument that the increase was necessitated by the need to maintain quality education and an environment conducive to learning to the best global standards can no longer hold water when faced with the embarrassing fact he basically urged the Delta State Government to immediately call the Rector and of course the Institution’s Board of Trustees to reverse this ill-considered decision/increase in tuition fees.
Likewise, this final grade article points out that if providing quality education is the interest of the state government, the state should make efforts to increase the state budget allocation to education and not by taxing students or their parents, the majority of whom are either unemployed or are pensioners whose pensions are not paid promptly.
The administration headed by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa must also not forget that education is the right of our children and the foundation of development. That “with strong educational institutions, society is as good as made – for institutions will produce a complete workforce to continue the development of society guided by well thought out ideas, policies, programs and projects” .
The state governor urgently needs to come up with a new approach to demonstrate that he truly loves education via a reduction in tuition fees for these students. In the opinion of this piece, taking such steps will give him an advantage over others in the lane of leadership.
This is the way to go.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Program Coordinator (Media and Public Policy) of Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based non-governmental organization (NGO) and can be contacted via [email protected]/08032725374