By Hayatullahi Folorunsho Mudathir
Hakeem Aliyu, a 400-level student of English Language at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS), was supposed to pay a tuition fee of N44,900 for the 2022/2023 academic session. However, when the school released the registration fee list in its portal on 13 April 2023, he realised that he would be paying the sum of N68,300, a 52.12% increment in his tuition fee.
Mr Aliyu, who comes from a family barely making ends meet, sponsors himself to school and has to postpone resuming school to earn enough to pay the school fees.
Speaking to Campus Reporter five weeks after UDUS resumed, he said, “Lectures have commenced, and handouts have been given, but I can not resume because I have to work more to pay my school fees,” he said sadly.
Recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on an industrial action on 14 February 2022, and all federal tertiary institutions closed down due to the government’s poor funding of federal universities. The strike, which lingered for eight months, was suspended on Friday, 14 October 2022, in obedience to the order of the industrial court and the subsequent intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Troubles of Nigerian Students
Like Mr Aliyu, many Nigerian students in Federal universities have been affected by the increment in their school fees following the industrial action by ASUU.
The recent Students’ Loan Bill, believed to provide financial assistance to the concerned students, has also been met with scepticism and confusion by many stakeholders, who say the scheme is not transparent, accessible, or sustainable and might not be implemented by the set time in October 2023.
Meanwhile, students needing funding are already exhausting the deadline to pay their tuition fees.
According to an opinion piece published by Daily Trust in July 2023, the student loan bill has, in many dimensions, developed an initiative targeted at placing the burden of education funding on the shoulders of students and their poor parents to suffer the consequences at the time of repayment which is two short years after undergoing the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Meanwhile, Nigeria has a long history of unemployment issues, raising the question of how the beneficiary will afford to repay the loan if unemployed and struggling to survive, causing psychological trauma for the graduates by making them work enormously to repay the loan since there is little or no hope for them getting a job in the country.
According to the piece, if the government ends up withdrawing its support from public higher institutions, as many fear, then it is privatising the institutions, and no low-class citizens would have the zeal to further their education in the country. It will also increase the number of out-of-school citizens in the country and worsen poverty.
More Students Narrate Ordeals
Abdulraheem Karim, a 300-level Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Maiduguri, funds his education but now considers dropping out because of the 226.97% increment in his school fees.
“I was supposed to pay N38,230, but the school fee was increased to N125,000. The increment has affected me academically. I can’t concentrate in classes any longer; my heart beats faster whenever I remember the deadline for the payment. I work in my school workshop with some staff members, and I get just 5% from them every month; now I’m thinking of leaving the school,” Mr Karim bitterly said.
Adedeji Afeez Oladimeji, a 400-level student of Public Administration at Ahmadu Bello University, is also a victim affected by the increment as his school fees, which rose from N19,900 to N30,400, a 52.76% increment. Mr Oladimeji’s parents had to divert funds meant for other things to ensure he returned to school.
“I knew the increment would happen because of insufficient funds by the government for the smooth running of activities, but then I nearly missed this session before my parents could pay the fees,” he narrated.
Faizah (who refused to give her last name for fear of victimisation), a 300-level student of Linguistics at the University of Abuja, is yet to pay her school fees because of the increment from N49,000 to N87,000.
“My younger brother could not resume school last year because my parents could not afford to pay for school fees for the two of us simultaneously. We hoped he would resume this year, but our tuition fees have increased. I don’t know what will happen to his education now,” she lamented.
Salimah (who refused to give her last name for fear of victimisation), a 400-level Veterinary Medicine student at the University of Abuja, lamented the 145.07% increment in her tuition fee, which rose from N71,000 to N174,000.
“The increment is crippling. After my parents paid the school fees, they cannot provide many other basic amenities, and I am left to cater for them myself,” Salimah complained.
For Oluwatobi (who refused to give his last name for fear of victimisation), a 500-level student of Agriculture at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), the 113.3% increase from N15,000 to N32,000 is another burden added to his arrears of final year practical expenses.
“I’m counting on God to come through. In my second year, I lost my father, who was my sponsor, and since then, I have been supporting myself through freelancing jobs, but presently, there are no gigs,” he bitterly complained.
In the case of Suleiman Musa, a 300-level student of Microbiology at the University of Maiduguri, he has decided to drop out of school owing to his inability to afford the 263% increase from N27,000 to N98,000.
“I have engaged in menial work since I was in 100 level because I am sponsoring my education. I have also been doing well academically. Now, the tuition fees have been increased, I have tried my best to raise it, but all to no avail, despite the chance to pay twice,” he said.
School Management Speaks
A Vice Chancellor of one of the selected Federal Universities who pleaded anonymity said that while the schools empathise with concerned parents, guardians and students, they were also constrained.
“Do you know that diesel alone guzzles over 70% of the subvention from the centre? Do you know how expensive it is to ensure security on campus, logistics and others?
“I think while there is the need for the federal government to have other ways of easing the pressure on parents, universities should also learn some lessons on how to diversify so that we can collectively salvage the situation,” he said.
When contacted, Alao John, the Southwest Coordinator of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), said that the trend of school fees increment is sad.
“It is a known fact that the economic situation in Nigeria is unfriendly, and students are facing a lot already, yet, their school fees are being hiked.
“A school paying N25,000 increased their school fees to N175,000; where will vulnerable students get this in this bad economy?” he rhetorically questioned.
Alao added that NANS will not fold its hands and pretend all is well.
“We will never allow this to stand. We have set up a committee to act on it,” Alao said.
Education Expert Reacts
In his reaction, Dr Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose, a renowned lecturer at the Department of English Language, Lagos State University (LASU) and Columnist with BusinessDay Newspapers, said that the cause of the increment in school fees of Federal universities can be traced to the need to sustain the universities.
He said that Nigeria is one of the countries with the cheapest education in the world, and since the government subsidises education, the universities receive what is called subvention.
“The universities, too, must be able to generate money for themselves. The need for the university to sustain the internally generated revenue might be responsible for why there’s an increase in the school fees of different federal universities,” Dr Bamgose said.
He added that the increment might have some advantages for quality education because, with the money generated through school fees, institutions can provide essential educational needs, better facilities and newer technology for learning.
“But, for the vulnerable parents and struggling students, the sad situation is that this increment might lead to many students dropping out, which will be an unfortunate experience. We have been experiencing that already.
“We assume that the government should increase the minimum wage as promised. By doing so, the cost of living might become fair again for the general public and make it easy for parents to sponsor their wards conveniently,” he added.
Reacting to the Students’ Loan bill signed to lessen the burden of a hike in tuition fees, Dr GAB opined that students should go ahead and take the loan.
“The only problem would be if you get a job and decide not to pay. But until you get a job, the government, too, will have to bear with you, and the arrangement is that a certain percentage will be withdrawn from your monthly income until you have settled the loan. The government does not expect students to get the money anyway if you haven’t got a job,” he said.
He, however, urged the Nigerian government to provide more job opportunities.
This story is funded by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) under the Campus Reporter project.