Campus Watch

Students kick as UI hikes fees

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The University of Ibadan (UI) is no longer at ease after its management announced an increase in accommodation fees and faculty levies. Medical students have kicked against the new fee regime ahead of the school’s resumption next Monday. However, the management in response ordered the ejection of the protesters from their hostels. MERCY ADEDIGBA and YUSUF AKINPELU report.

• Medical students ejected from hostel after protest

What started as a “mischievous speculation” in the social media has become a reality the University of Ibadan (UI) students must deal with. Its management has increased accommodation fee and faculty levies as the school prepares to resume for session next week.

The reality dawned on the students last Thursday when the school management announced the fee increment, bringing the school into a tempest of protest as the students rose in demonstration against the new fee regime.

From N14,000,  Halls of Residence for undergraduates rose to N30,000, a 114 per cent increase. Also, medical students, who stay in Alexandra Brown Hall of the University Teaching Hospital (UCH) will now pay N40,000 as against N14,000 they paid last session.

Some faculties and departments also had their levies jacked up. The school’s Medical College is worst hit.

Students of the faculties of Clinical Sciences, Dentistry, Basic Medical Sciences and Public Health will pay between N75,000 and N100,000 as the newly-introduced Health Professional Pre-Clinical and Clinical Training Levies, depending on their level.

This development has met with criticism from the students. Last week, medical students staged a peaceful protest to reject the new fees. In response, the management ejected them from their hostels last Sunday.

CAMPUSLIFE gathered that there could be more protests when majority of the students resume next week.

But, the school does not want the development to delay resumption. The management, last Thursday, invited students’ leaders and chairmen of Halls of Residence, faculties and departments to a meeting at the Senate Chambers. The meeting was attended by top management members of the staff, Deans of Faculties, Dean of Student Affairs (DSA), Provost and Deputy Provost, College of Medicine and hall wardens.

According to the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Idowu Olayinka, the meeting is necessary to ensure that the session takes off without protests.

As soon as the meeting began, the VC addressed the rationale behind the new fee regime. He said new accommodation fees were introduced because of the high cost of maintenance of the Halls of Residence, which the management had been subsidising.

According to him, the management can no longer subsidise hostel accommodation because there is no support from the government for hostels maintenance.

The VC said the school had spent huge resources to renovate the hostels and make them conducive, noting that increasing the accommodation fee was in order to maintain the facilities.

Olayinka, however, maintained that taking up accommodation in the school halls was optional. He said the school halls were only reserved for freshers and final year students.

He said: “We have admitted 3,960 students, who will resume in the coming session. And we have just 8,300 bed spaces in the school halls, in which 7,000 are reserved for the undergraduates. All students cannot be accommodated and I don’t think we have to worry about bed spaces, because they are only reserved for fresh and graduating students.”

Pointing out some of the activities carried out by the school to make the hostels habitable, the DSA, Prof Abdulrasak Alada, said all rooms in the undergraduate halls had been fumigated, except Mellanby Hall, post-graduate halls and ABH, which are currently undergoing fumigation to rid them of bed bugs.

Also, the Bursar, Mr Michael Alatise, urged the students to accept the increment in good faith, saying: “Nothing can be free again in any Nigerian tertiary institutions.”

The bursar said the school spent about N45 million monthly on electricity supply to the hostels whenever the school is in session, adding that about N20 million is paid in electricity bill during holiday. He also gave an analysis of the money spent on water supply to the Halls of Residence, sanitation and cleaning.

He said: “The university is not making any profit from the accommodation fee. The money goes to individual hall’s accounts managed by the wardens. We plead with students to cooperate and partner the management to run the school smoothly.”

Provost of the College of Medicine Prof Olubunmi Olapade-Olaopa explained why the increment was inevitable. He said the management would have introduced the increment three years ago when a committee, comprising management staff and students,  compared the fees of some selected Federal institutions.

The committee, he said, came back with a proposal to increase the accommodation fee to N46,000. He said the school could not go ahead because students’ representatives failed to sign the recommendation.

Prof Olapade-Olaopa said: “Without increasing the fees, there is no way the school could adequately provide materials and facilities needed for medical training. There is a need to renovate our departments in the College of Medicine so as not to lose accreditation. Apart from upgrading the facilities, all medical courses are assessed regularly by the professional bodies. There is a need for more teachers in the college. The little increment on the fee is not even enough to run the college; the school still has to support.”

But, the management’s explanation did not convince the students, who described the increment as an “insensitive decision”.

Olanrewaju Olanshile, a 400-Level Animal Science student and chairman, Kenneth Mellanby Hall, stood up to inform the management that the students rejected the increment.

Gbenga Ojo, chairman of Azikiwe Hall, caused uproar at the meeting when he said: “It (the fees) is too much on students to bear.”

Omotayo Alagbe,  a 400-Level Statistics student, said: “While we are yet to understand their reason for increasing levies and accommodation fee, the management must know that majority of students cannot afford to pay these exorbitant fees. Maybe they can have a rethink and revert to the old fees. This might lead to some students dropping out of school.”

“I think the decision was made in bad faith without considering the students. What the provost of the medical college said is condemnable. He spoke like he did not pass through College of Medicine. How much did he pay when he was a student?” said a medical student, who pleaded anonymity.

Linda Okuowulu, a 300-Level Medicine and Surgery, said the school’s plan was to take the fees to N380,000. “If we pay N100,000 as school fees and N85,000 for clinical levies and N40,000 for accommodation, the fees would keep increasing until medical training in UI becomes expensive and out of the reach of the children of the poor,” she said.

Elijah Ibikunle, a 300-Level Agricultural Economics student, described the fees as “outrageous and insensitive”.  “I feel the management is highly insensitive to have introduced the outrageous fees, especially at the time the country is experiencing economic hardship. Increment in school fees won’t even change anything in the school, rather it would make public schools unaffordable for the poor. This is why we must reject the increment,”he said.

A 400-Level Veterinary Medicine student, Olarinde Olokuntoye, said the decision of the Senate to approve the fee increment was unreasonable. He said it was unjustifiable for the school to increase fees when there had been no change in the facilities.

“With the current harsh economy, I can confidently say that the management wants to keep us out school for no reason. Many of us are struggling to survive, yet the management wants our parents to pay the new fees through their nose. I will not cease to imagine that they are just killing our passion to get education and become useful to this country,” he said.

A 300-Level English student, Wisdom Ighodalo, said the new fees are unrealistic. He said the development would lead to increase in squatting because many students would not pay the new accommodation fee.

He said: “The porters should get ready to fight squatters because students, who cannot afford the new accommodation fee will squat with their colleagues. People may have to share bed spaces. Quite a lot of people may likely not stay in the hostel. After all, VC said hostel is optional, which means that lecturers should not complain when students come late for lectures. The management should be ready for a fight with students if there is no sign of renovations or whatever the excuse for the hike is not then seen. Nobody wants to pay for services not rendered.”

It would be recalled that the VC, in his Easter message to students, posted on his Facebook timeline, wrote: “The university is at a point where it is difficult to continue to subsidise the running cost of the Halls of Residence and carry out some academic functions without a slight adjustment in accommodation charges and in some fee items payable by students in some faculties.

“In adjusting the fees, members of the public are to note that it is only the increase in accommodation fees that cuts across students, who desire to stay in the Halls of Residence. It should also be noted that residency in the Halls of Residence is optional and indeed, only about 30 per cent of our students can find accommodation in the Halls of Residence.”

Source: The Nation Newspaper

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