Students of the University of Ibadan have embarked on a protest, following the management’s announcement of an increase in accommodation levies by at least 114%.
Information regarding the new levies,released on the university website on Wednesday, show an increase in accommodation levy generally from ₦14,000 to ₦30,000, and to ₦40,000 for medical students. A study of the document, titled ‘Undergraduate Students’ Schedule of Levies for 2017/2018 Academic Session’, revealed that school levies had also been slightly increased.
According to the revised schedule, students of the faculties of clinical sciences, dentistry, basic medical sciences and public health, are required to pay between ₦75,000 and ₦100,000, depending on their level, for a newly-introduced Health Professional Pre-Clinical and Clinical Training Levies.
In reaction to the release, students of the College of Medicine resolved at a meeting held on Wednesday evening to commence a sit-at-home movement and lock down Alexander Brown Hall, where most students of the College reside.
Gbenga Sadik, a witness and President of the University’s Literary and Debating Society, told the ICIR that “medical students are currently protesting this in their hall”.
This was confirmed by Bodunrin Ogeleyinbo, a medical student at the university, who said that the “ABH gate has been on lock for everyone to be in, and no one can come in”.
Gbenga described the levy increase as a direct attack on students of the university, especially the poor. “Over the years, the university management has argued that there is insufficient funding,” he said. “However, it has refused to be transparent about how much exactly it takes to run the university, and the direct impact of these unbearable levies on our learning experience. They want us to pay more for less.”
On his part, Bodunrin said this was the first time he had seen fellow medical students protest against the management. “Everyone here is surprised,” he said. “No one remembers when last medical students did this. It underscores the cruelty of the decision to hike the fee.”
Habeeb Yekeen, a Law student who resides in Tedder Hall, observed that while the university gave maintenance and renovation of halls as reason for the policy, nothing has been done so far.
“No move for renovations has begun in most halls and that was the reason for elongating resumption date initially,” he said. “I bet nothing much will change after payment. No matter how much we pay, if an ineffective management remains, it all amounts to nothing.”
Bello Onifade, former Speaker of the Students’ Union, told the ICIR that the increase in levy “shows that our academics have consciously alienated themselves from the sufferings caused by the economic downturn”.
“There’s too much emphasis on lack of funds. But no, there are other problems like insincerity in using the funds judiciously. The increase is a callous attempt and is unpleasant to students,” he said.
Also, in reaction to the fee hike, a graduate of Computer Science who identified himself simply as Spizo, said the root of the problems faced by federal universities is that the managements “feel they do not owe the student populace any explanation to whatever policies they make even when ti directly affects these students”.
“And this method is in stark contrast to how their counterparts in developed nations of the world operate,” he added.
He said the university should have engaged in a dialogue with the students and assessed their opinions before going ahead with its plans. Instead, he said, they “exhibited the highest level of hypocrisy by going ahead with the increment plan and thereafter calling a meeting”.
Kolade Ayobami, former Chairman of Kuti Hall, however, maintained that the change of fees was “long overdue”. “Students themselves know that the facilities are not close to being good or what is obtainable elsewhere. Hence, there is need for collaborative efforts in contributing towards better living environments for students.”
But he added that the management could have consulted the students and carried them along in the process of review. “Probably they could even agree at a much higher amount for higher quality improvement,” he said.
Likewise, a resident of Queen Idia Hall who prefers to remain anonymous told ICIR she believes the increase in fees was bound to happen.
“It is fair when we consider how the price of everything has skyrocketed over the past year,” she said.
“School fees remained constant and accommodation increased, meaning the school tried to be student-conscious and it is really not worth a protest or anything. Let’s not forget accommodation is optional. But what’s important is that they make the hostels better so our money is worth it.”
On Saturday, Professor Idowu Olayinka, the Vice Chancellor, released a statement to clarify “the cost of hostel accommodation as from the 2017/2018 session”. In trying to justify to potential increase in levies, he had explained that it is difficult for the university to continue subsidising running of the halls of residence. He argued that “a slight adjustment in accommodation charges” is therefore necessary.
“In adjusting the fees, members of the public are to note that it is only the increase in accommodation fees that cuts across students who desire to stay in the halls of residence. It should also be noted that residency in the halls of residence is optional, and indeed, only about 30% of our students can find accommodation in the halls of residence,” he said.
“It is also important to note that the Federal Government, many years back, had stopped providing funds for the running of the halls. As a result, the university spends about N100 million over what is collected as accommodation fees, for the running of the halls. The university is no longer in a position to continue to provide this subsidy.”
Reports say that the Vice Chancellor has scheduled a meeting with faculty presidents, hall chairmen and general secretaries, to be held by 6pm on Thursday at the university’s Senate Chambers.
Students presently have no union officials to represent them, as the University Senate suspended all Students’ Union activities in May, following a student demonstration that led to the shutdown of the school.