In getting involved in advisory advocacy on the issue (#NoTo100k) on the questionable hike of fees from N12, 000 to N100, 000 on medical students in the University College Hospital (UCH), I noticed a few issues I can’t but speak overtly on as a concerned UI Alum and a Nigerian.
But before I do, it must be clear that it is unacceptable for medical students to have been sent out to the streets with their bags like criminals, for speaking out against the increase of the fees. Where is freedom of speech as constitutionally guaranteed? Shouldn’t the University serve the role of ‘in loco parentis’ and act within humanity to qualify as one and not a detention camp? In fact, the “first University in the world” which was started in a mosque in Africa ‘University of Karueein’, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco, was referred to more as “guardian” in Arabic and Berber language.
Free education or affordable education is not a luxury, it is a strategic policy need for Nigerians, considering that 9 in 10 Nigerians live on less than a N500 per day. The sage Awolowo understood this logic – “get more brains equipped with skills through education and secure the next generation from poverty, so you break the cycle”. Even in nations were the standards of living are high (in Europe), they still run a free education scheme – there was a time Finland and Holland even ran free education for foreign students with brains. Quoting American University as expensive begs the question! Are we in America? Do we have the massive scholarship scheme or per capital income status or success probabilities that she has. Let’s all work to develop policy and policy options that works for our future as a nation.
To argue that there is a need to increase tuition to increase the standard of education is both illogical and lacks certain soundness here. Really, does increasing tuition increase the quality of education or accountability? Last year, it was revealed by the office of the Auditor General that over 5.1billion naira was mismanaged by the University of Ibadan, whereas the toilet where students live lack running water to flush – the last time I visited, it reminded me of when we were in University, with no water to flush, students resort to bush paths or even just flow along with the stench. I wish someone can do a documentary of student toilets and bathrooms for the world to see ― you will be shocked if it was for humans at all, whereas administrators buy cars and build edifices in their tenure. We must embrace leadership, and shun showmanship, infrastructure like Gates said, over humanity and human resource.
In fact, treating students badly is bad economics for any institution of learning. Logically, it results into negative nostalgic feelings about their ‘alma mater’, hence why Nigerian University can hardly pull a sizeable endowment fund from Alum. Smart universities leverage on their Alum’s goodwill and build enterprising ventures ― and Nigerian University should do so, but it begins with the human treatment of “future” Alumnus. For example, 10 years ago, Stanford University invested in two students for 1% of their company, and now ‘Luminous’ is now a multi-million dollar company. That’s just one of the many!
On this issue, our traditional media needs to be more proactive in setting agenda on these issues, beyond social media. Also, I expect representatives of the people, members of the Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives, and Nigerian Senate to serve as building blocs of negotiations between the management and the students, especially on the issue of throwing them out of hostels, but for these current crops, the students votes don’t seem to count. Look, it is time UCH, UI, the Polytechnic Ibadan, and other institutions across Nigeria prove their votes count and that their representatives, especially parliamentarians reflect their interests. Students and young Nigerians are consequential “if we work together”.
Lastly, if there was to be a considered increase, shouldn’t it be sensible and sound and consultative, but this isn’t.