We Must Resist the Commercialisation of Tertiary Education

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The APC government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has put in place several policies with significant impact on the education sector since it came into office in May. From the signing of the student loan bill into law to the upward review of fees in Unity schools in the federation, the programs of the government become clearer as much as the intentions behind them. These policies must be critically analysed to identify the implications for the working class and poor in Nigeria, particularly in a period of global and national economic crisis. 

In our November 2022 article titled “Students Loans Will Enslave Us: Resist It!” we put forward a clear perspective on the content of the student loan bill. As predicted in the article, federally-owned tertiary institutions are beginning to hike school fees in preparation for full-fledged commercialization of public tertiary education in Nigeria. The University of Lagos (UNILAG) recently increased payable fees from N21,000 to N126,325 for non-laboratory-using students and N176,325 for students whose courses require the use of laboratories. In a similar vein, the management of the University of Ibadan also released a proposed upward review of tuition fees to N38,850, N65,850 and N95,850 for non-laboratory/studio users, studio users and laboratory users respectively. Whereas fresh students’ fees have been upwardly reviewed to N125,500, N175,500 and N230,500 corresponding to their usage of laboratories or studios as applicable to the returning students. Presently, there are speculations that the Obafemi Awolowo University’s management is ‘cooking’ something for a similar review of the payable fees by students of the University. 

Not to project doom but to prepare us for what lies ahead, the reviewed fees are said to exclude tuition fees as the management of these institutions claim. When protested against by a coalition of students from the University of Lagos and other student bodies, the Vice Chancellor informed them that no student would be paying less than N300,000  if fees in the school were still not being subsidised. This is to envisage what is to come when the student loan policy is fully implemented with the removal of education “subsidy.”

In the poverty capital of the world where approximately 20 million children are out of school according to UNESCO data of September 2022, it would be expected that policies and programs that would make education more qualitative and affordable to the masses would be prioritised by this regime. Rather than mobilise resources into the education sector for this purpose, the government of Tinubu with the Students’ Loan Act would further take education away from the reach of the masses with stringent conditions associated with assessing the loan to pay the bogus tuition fees that are being increased daily by managements of tertiary institutions. This is not to mention the perpetual debts the loans would plunge students into. 

As austerity measures by the regime deepen amidst hardship created for the people with the removal of fuel subsidy, Nigerians must organise to resist the move by the regime to privatise and commercialise public tertiary education, which is the only hope for children and wards of working-class people to acquire higher education. 

Working-class people and their organisations need to fight back and put a stop to the student loan policy as well as the full introduction of tuition fees in Nigerian public institutions, through the backend of associated fees. 

Nigeria has both the material and human resources required for qualitative free education to be funded at all levels.  We must begin to demand that rather than cut down on the provision of social services such as education, the government must cut down the cost of governance which includes bogus remunerations for political office holders and the largesse of irresponsible expenditure. 

We must learn from the aftermath of the removal of the fuel subsidy which this same government propagated and implemented claiming that the subsidy is a scam. In the national address of President Tinubu on 31 July, he claimed that N1 trillion has been saved in the last two months as a result of the fuel subsidy removal. 

This is almost equivalent to the N1.3 trillion naira the federal government committee on tertiary education recommended as funds needed to revitalise the education system. The question Nigerians should be asking is where does the Tinubu government want to get the funds for the students ’loans from? And why is this fund not injected directly into the public provision of education as the social service it is? We must ask questions and the only answer we should take is the repeal of the student loan law and adequate funding for the provision of qualitative education for all as a fundamental human right. 

by Lekan Abdul-Azeez SONEYE

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