4th October, 2012
Fifty-two years after independence, Nigeria’s education sector seems to be moving backward and plans by the Federal Government to hike tuition fees at public schools will make it even worse.
There was a time in Nigeria when illiterate and impoverished parents sent their children to public schools and proudly watched as they became literate and leaders in the society. The majority of our leaders today are sons and daughters of poor farmers and hunters who benefited from free quality education engineered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Sadly, the wheel of progress seems to have been reversed, and literate parents end up with illiterate children because of the collapse of our education sector and the inability to afford the high fees charged by public and private institutions. It is now estimated that over 12 million children are out of school in our country and most of them are girls. It is also estimated that Nigerian universities can only admit about 200, 000 students out of an annual demand of 1.5 million candidates.
Hundreds of thousands of applicants are excluded from tertiary education and millions of others never make it beyond Senior Secondary School level. This is unacceptable. For decades, quality education has been in sharp fall but the fees have continued to skyrocket beyond the parents’ means. In most universities in the country, school fees are hitting the roof and parents are paying for a total failure in leadership.
The leaders of today, who benefited from free and quality education in the past, have continued to increase school fees even as they continue to pay little attention to the development of our education sector.
Even politicians who claim to be the beneficiaries of Obafemi Awolowo’s free education in the southwest are leading the neo-liberal assault on public education today. As a result, students are worse off and the teachers who are often not well catered for, underperform and the entire education sector in the country is now in shambles.
In the southwest, fees at the Lagos State University, LASU, Ekiti State University, EKSU, and the Osun State University, UNIOSUN, are some of the highest in the country. Last year LASU fees were increased by as much as 750 percent. Medical students will now be paying about N345,750 per session for a six or seven year course. This is unsustainable to poor parents.
As a result, admission is said to have fallen by about 30 percent. The same thing is replicated all over the country. The Federal Government also intends to increase the fees as solution to boosting the education sector. A Federal Government Committee headed by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye has proposed the introduction of tuition fees of between N450,000 and N525,000 to restore quality education in public schools.
We agree with the Education Rights Campaign, ERC, that the increment in school fees, if implemented, is an attempt to make education the preserve of the few rich, politicians and treasury looters. Education is the inalienable right of all Nigerians. It is the duty and responsibility of the government to ensure that no one is denied access to quality education.
We believe that to blame the collapse of public education on the students and parents’ inability to afford the high fees is unreasonable. Nigeria is a rich country and our petrodollars should be used to educate more Nigerians instead of looting it and taking it to Swiss banks. It is only when our education sector is strong that Nigeria can begin to develop other sectors of the economy. Parents and their children should not be made to pay for the graft of a few through outrageous tuition fees.