Last week, a student delegation from the Kaduna State University met with Deputy Governor Dr Hadiza Balarabe and other senior officials of the el-Rufai administration for a review of the almost 500% increase recently approved for the university and other tertiary schools owned by the state.
Shockingly, the students were told to return to their colleagues and inform them that the new rates were in their interest. How does an increase in school fees from N26,000 to almost N150,000 be in the interest of the students when some of them were even finding it difficult to pay the old rate?
The reality is that many students who can’t pay the new rates may soon be forced to withdraw from the university or relocate to other schools with cheaper rates. With many state workers sacked and farmers deserting their farms as a result of banditry and kidnappings, it is obvious that students from poor homes can’t afford these fees. There’s no justification in increasing the registration fees because wealthy parents can pay N500,000 in some private primary schools.
It is inscrutable that our present leaders who enjoyed free education are now proponents of increased fees for public universities. If some rich parents are capable of paying N500k to send their children/wards to private primary schools, why should they waste their time sending their children to KASU?
The new KASU fees is an attempt to deny children of the poor university education. I am sure that if such exorbitant fees had been imposed during their time, most of these leaders now playing God and dictatorial would have been confined to the drudgery of farm work or some menial jobs.
I can bet with my life that with the new fees, less than 30 percent may return to register. If that happens, then the need to reduce the strength of both academic and non-academic staff may become inevitable. The same applies to both the polytechnic and college of education.
In attempting to defend the new fees, someone posted various registration of fees of different courses as obtained in a public university in the South-east. I think it is not sensible to compare the two as the contexts and capacities to bear the financial burdens by parents are different. If some parents can’t pay the old rate of N26,000, is it the N150k they will pay?
I think the biggest problem of the Kaduna State Government is misplacement of priorities. Against outcries of financial paucity, the government last week announced that it was embarking on providing free uniforms to 120, 552 students at a whopping cost of N441,000,000. (Nearly half a billion).
For a government that has not paid pensions and owing some workers salaries for the month of April, deploying such humongous amount cannot be justified. Creating a conducive atmosphere for parents to be responsible for the upkeep of their children should be the focus of government. It is a simplistic approach to provide free uniforms and food for students after sending their parents out of jobs and demolishing their makeshift stalls for daily businesses.
Before 2015, these students were not going to school naked and hungry. Having witnessed the foibles of the Kaduna State Government in the last six years, it is apparent that education does not confer on leaders competence in advancing the societies they govern. The continued silence of critical stakeholders is throwing Kaduna state into a quandary that will engulf us all.
Those who matter must stand up and speak as their silence is strengthening the arms of undemocratic forces foisting their tyranny on all of us. May God give us the strength to speak and not keep silent.
Simon Reef Musa writes from Kaduna