The Lagos State University (LASU) fee hike is the greatest challenge we have been faced with in the last decade. Calling for superior arguments and proposals for the reduction is a testament to the fact that the government of Lagos State is not inflexible to change.
Following the seemingly endless crisis in LASU in 2011, the Lagos State House of Assembly had passed a resolution subsequent to which Governor Babatunde Fashola set-up a visitation panel to look into all the issues that nearly tore LASU apart. In the report of the visitation panel, recommendations were made to the government on the way forward. Unfortunately, government was selective on those that favoured her alone. A classic example is in Section 4.0, Term of Reference (iii), particularly at Section 4.0.2 paragraph (g) where the panel recommended “increase in the budgetary allocation to the university using the UNESCO benchmark of a minimum of 25% of annual budget on education”.
In the law establishing LASU, Section 3 sets out the objectives thus: (f) “To provide ready access for citizens of the state in particular to higher education regardless of social origin or income”. In other words, LASU is meant for the people of the state without prejudice to their socio-economic status.
Thirty years ago, the Lagos State government under Chief Lateef Jakande established LASU. The party in government then was the Unity Party Nigeria (UPN). This was a party whose linear ideological ancestor was Action Group led by late Obafemi Awolowo. By the time of the Second Republic, the idea of the free education was no longer restricted to primary education, but also to secondary and tertiary education.
In a state where the per capita income of an average Lagosian is around $100 per month (approximately N16,700), how do we expect the wards of poor people to access tertiary education, when in reality, a degree is not nearly enough to earn good livelihood?
I will want to quickly digress a little to consider some of the items that were summed up in the fee of N193,750, N223,750, N248,750 and N348,750 for Arts/Education, Social and Management sciences, Law and College of Medicine respectively to show why the fees, going by the breakdown, cannot be justified. For instance in Faculty of Education, Teaching Practice is N15,000. You may wish to know that teaching practice is a service rendered by students to public secondary schools in Lagos. Like housemanship by medical students, we are meant to be paid for rendering these services and not pay for rendering it.
We make bold to aver that there is no correlation between price and quality of education. The University of Helsinki, Finland is first in Finland and 76th in the world and it is tuition free. In any case, if a private university can charge N 450,000 to include feeding and accommodation for a year, then LASU is costly compared to private schools for charging N350, 000 without accommodation and feeding.
We must constantly bear at the back of our minds that LASU is not a private university. It is a public entity meant to serve the people and not for profit making. Therefore, the fee hike is unjust for the reason that LASU was created to bridge the gaps between all classes in society.
Harvard is a private institution; let us stop comparing LASU with Harvard.
Nurudeen Yusuf Temilola,
President-elect, LASU Students’ Union