We Will Give You Scholarship if You Cannot Pay Fees – Fashola
National Association of Nigerian Students(NANS) on Thursday besieged office of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola in Alausa, Ikeja, protesting what they described as arbitrary hike in school fees at the Lagos State University (LASU).
Led by South-West Coordinator, NANS, Mr. Sunday Ashefun, the students barricaded entrance to the governor’s office with vehicles, calling on him to immediately reverse the hiked school fees in LASU by reducing it to the barest minimum.
They also called on the Federal Government to honour 2010 agreements entered with Academic Staff Union of Colleges of Education (COASU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic(ASUP), stressing that students in the nation’s institutions of higher learning must go back to school.
They called on management of institutions of higher learning to reinstate all banned unions in the University of Lagos, College of Education, Ikere, Ekiti and Tai Solarin College of Education(TASCE) and others and conversion of the Higher National Diploma(HND) certificate to Bachelor of Science degree(B.Tech) in Technology.
The students called on the Federal Government to implement 26 percent budgetary allocation proposed by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and remove with immediate effect supervising minister for ministry of education before it is too late.
The students who said they are against victimization of student union leaders in LASU said they are against plans by federal and state governments to introduce new tuition fee in the various campuses.
All those already in the governor’s office were later diverted to the exit gate of the Governor’s sole exit to prevent confrontation with the students.
While addressing the students, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said apart from raising the budget, his administration also put a N200 million grant in place for LASU students adding, “Our resolution is that no student will be left behind as a result of inability to pay the school fees. We have raised the fees but we have also provided a cushion”.
“Get admission to that school and if you cannot pay we will give you scholarship to cover the course you got admission for. The debate is access. If there are children who cannot get in as a result let me have their list and the list of those who have dropped out as a result. We will give scholarship. So in a sense, what we have taken with one hand we have given back with the other hand”, he said.
Fashola, who recalled that the decision to increase the fees was part of the recommendations of Visitation Panel set up by his government in line with the demand of the students of the school added, “You came to the House of Assembly and asked the House to pass a resolution compelling me as Visitors to the School to set up a Visitation Panel. It was your decision that the school be upgraded.
“We didn’t jump into LASU, you came here to the House of Assembly asking the House to pass a resolution that I should set up a Panel as Visitor of the School. The House passed the Resolution and I set up the Panel and the consequent decisions are what we are implementing, upgrade of Infrastructure, building new classrooms, new library, a Senate Building and so on” the Governor said.
Noting that the government’s intervention in the school has been yielding results , Fashola explained that almost all the courses in the school have been accredited by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) as against what it was pre-2011.
On the question of the number of students the university could admit at a time, Fashola explained that the State Government is limited by the National Universities Commission quota on the number of students to be admitted at every session adding that it is required for the purpose of accreditation of courses.
“Every University in this country has a limit of the students it should admit based on the spaces that we have and it is the NUC that allots that number as regulators of Universities Education. Often times you may hear that accreditation has been withdrawn; it is as a result of when schools are crowded”, the Governor explained.
He recalled that some Law graduates from the school could not go to Law School four years after graduation because NUC said the University exceeded the number of students to admit adding that he had to personally intervene last year to the Director of Education in the Law School to allow the graduates take their examination.
“If we continue to exceed our quota then we will continue to have the problem”, the Governor said adding that although Lagos State needs another university his administration has resolved that it would not build another university until LASU problem is sorted out and the institution repositioned “from what you call it to what it should be”.
He said the university was built to accommodate both children of the rich and the poor pointing out that building a university exclusively for children of the poor and another for children of the rich would tantamount to setting a time bomb for the future.
“A university must be a place where children of the poor and children of the rich can develop together as a generation. For me and for those who advise us it was a time bomb waiting to explode in future. When you develop a university and say it is for the poor I don’t think there is a chance there. That is my view”.
Commenting on disruption of academic activities in the school, the Governor who offered to meet with the student on Thursday to show them the facts behind the decision to increase fees, declared, “I want a solution in LASU. If you say disruption, it is not a one-way thing. This one is not your lecturers. We have had some measure of stability in LASU until this one. Even if the lecturers did anything to provoke you, you should have sought to reach us”.
Based on the agreement reached at Monday’s meeting, the Governor will meet with the students again on Thursday when the parties would evolve ways of moving the school forward.