It does not take rocket science to fully grasp the connecting chord between the rate of economic development of a country, via social security and industrial production with the focused funding on quality education delivery. In the light of the above-stated position are countries such as Sweden, Germany, Finland, Austria, Denmark and Norway, to name but a few, who offer free tuition fees to their students, including the international ones for sustainable human capacity development. Against this backdrop, it has become a crying shame that over the past eight years Nigeria has witnessed long-drawn faceoff between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government that has led to the gross deterioration of tertiary education delivery in the country.
That was under the infamous, institutional-disruptive, President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. But as if that obvious disregard for the value of education was not enough, the recent outrageous hike in tuition fees of Federal Government-owned unity schools and universities has stood logic on its head. Coming at a perilous time that the anti-people policy of the jumpy removal of fuel subsidy by the President Bola Tinubu-led government without palliatives in place has instantly escalated the costs of transportation, and led to hyperinflation of food items as well as other consumables, there is anger in the land! For instance, concerned Nigerian parents under the aegis of the National Parents Teachers of Nigeria (NAPTAN) have called on President Tinubu to apply the brake to the series of hikes in tuition fees by Federal Government-owned schools. And as the members rightly stated: “You cannot increase the prices of everything at the same time”. Indeed, the current economic dire strait of the country calls for utmost circumspection, particularly on the part of our policy makers. They should be guided more by the implications of their policies on the quality of life of the average Nigerian citizen than any form of self-aggrandizement.
That 12 per cent of the extremely poor people in the world currently live in Nigeria, according to the World Bank Report (2022) should serve as a wake-up call to the leaders to reverse the drift. Truth be told, the sudden hike in registration and tuition fees, escalating by over 100 to 200 per cent is scary! For instance, at the Federal University, Uyo (UniUyo), old students who used to pay N50, 000 are to gear up for N100, 000 as tuition fee.
That is a 100 per cent increase. But students in some other universities are to pay much more. At the Federal University, Maiduguri (UNIMAID) new students have to pay N252, 500 per semester. Similarly, for the Federal University, Dutse students have their tuition fee increased by 200 per cent. Recently, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Prof. Folasade Ogunsola openly lamented the compelling situation that has led to the tuition fees increasing from N19, 000, to as high as N190, 000 for medical students. And ahead of the 2023/2024 academic session the tuition fees will range from N120, 750 to N240, 250, depending on the courses being studied. One of the root causes of the increase in tuition fees is the failure of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to pressure the Federal Government to provide more funds for the running of the universities. Added to the payment of half salaries to ASUU members during the period of the strike, it is crystal clear why the education delivery in the country has worsened.
Yet, the Federal Ministry of Education under the President Tinubu-led administration has gone ahead to increase the fees of the Unity Colleges from N45, 000 to N100, 000. That equates to 122 per cent increase! What an absurdity. With such increases coming at a perilous period when UNESCO has raised alarm that the number of school-aged children currently out of school in Nigeria has hit 20 million, as at January, 2023 up from 10.2 million as at 2020, there is cause for the Federal Government to retrace its steps. We are therefore, of the same position with the House of Representatives that has called on the federal government to suspend the hike in tuition fees in its universities and unity schools. The motions were raised by Aliyu Madaki (NNPP, Kano), as well as the duo of Kama Nkemkanma (LP, Ebonyi) and Saidu Abdullahi (APC, Niger) respectively.
As they noted, such hikes will lead to some students dropping out of school. In fact, the lack of an enabling environment for quality education delivery here clearly explains why some Nigerian-born geniuses have excelled outside our shores. For instance, Prof. Philip Emeagwali, credited for (the world’s fastest computer), Otu Oviemo Ovadje for (Emergency Blood Transfusion System), Shehu Saleh Balami, (first solid fuel rocket) and Samuel Achilefu (Cancer Vision Goggle) would most likely have not have achieved these scientific feats within the country. This should therefore, serve as food-for-thought for our political leaders to take a sober reflection and do the needful. Quality education delivery is therefore the key to reversing the drift to mass ignorance.