By Yusuf AKINPELU
THERE is a growing disquiet among students of the University of Ibadan over a number of fees they pay for items that were not provided, The ICIR can report.
The concerns raised by the students stem from the items that have always appeared on the breakdown of their school fees but have not always been provided by the university authorities.
The students who spoke anonymously for fear of being persecuted said undergraduates are made to pay Student Union Government fee, despite that the Union has been proscribed by the university since 2017.
Although they said the school’s Vice-Chancellor, Abel Idowu Olayinka, directed that the money should be refunded, the students told our correspondent they didn’t get a refund. And the following session, students were still compelled to pay SUG fee.
Another item students of the University Ibadan pay for is Faculty Prospectus, charged at ₦500. Graduates of the University confirmed they yearly pay for the booklet but not every student obtained a copy throughout their years in the college. Some students only got the prospectus only once or twice throughout their years.
Hassan Sanni, a former faculty president while an undergraduate, said he didn’t get the prospectus in his years at the university.
But he said, in a private chat with his faculty’s Dean last session, there was a plan to have an updated prospectus, which will contain a new syllabus for the faculty and would be distributed to students.
“It was not ready till I graduated,” he said. “Because they collected money for it, they [the university managemet] should have provided it before students graduate.”
Tomisin Odunmbaku, a 2016 graduate of Statistics, when asked if he ever got a copy of the prospectus, said, ‘“Not even once”.
“We were not even given the student ID cards in our final year.”
Students every session are charged ₦1, 350 for an identity card, but the university does not provide one until last year after the 2017 student protest. Nobody accounted for the I.D card levies collected in the years past.
A 300-level engineering student told The ICIR that the students were compelled to pay for I.D again in the 2018-2019 session, despite the fact there was no new identity card given to them.
He also criticised the management for collecting ₦1, 000 for Chemistry Practical Manual every session, whereas the manual was only given once when they were freshers.
His colleagues also confirmed that the less than 10-page manual was only given to students in their first year, though they are paid to pay for it every session.
At the start of the 2018-2019 session, the University introduced a new fee called Technology Fee, pegged at ₦6, 500. And the notification of the increase was so short that students complained bitterly.
“The notification for the imposition of the fee was quite short. A lot of students, including me, did not know about the technology fee until we resumed for this new session. In fact, I had to call home to send me additional money so as to pay my technology fee,” a student told The ICIR.
When the campus press, AFAS Press, asked the Vice-Chancellor the rationale for the increase, the VC said, it was to “provide fast, reliable and robust internet services to students.”
This is how he responded to the question of the student journalists:
“The University is opening up internet access to students on campus (to a capped volume per student per semester/session). As such there is an on-going investment on additional network infrastructure/ bandwidth.
“The bandwidth is projected to be increased in the first instance from the present 475 to 775 Mbps. It is worth mentioning that the bandwidth increase will be dedicated to the new student network.
“The bandwidth cost will grow from N64 million to about N100 million. This is excluding other required network infrastructural upgrades. I do hope this clarification helps in providing justification for the Technology Fee.”
But it’s two months into the academic calendar, the students said they are yet to see any improvement in the school’s internet service system.
“We are yet to hear of anything about it (technology fee),” Ojedele, a student said, adding, “Except we’d be given our Wi-Fi passwords tomorrow.”
He wondered how the leadership of the university can be trusted in the future when they fail to keep a simple promise.
Other students are uncertain of what purpose the technology fee will serve. Is it for internet services, as claimed in some quarters, or for portal maintenance, as others claimed?
“They said it is for portal maintenance. What are they maintaining?” a sophomore from the Faculty of Education queried.
“With the ₦6, 500, we should have access to the internet whenever we want to use it. We paid ₦6, 500, yet we can’t even access anything. It’s extortion. They are just extorting us,” she lamented.
Due to the difficulty in accessing the internet, some tech-savvy students have resorted to using passwords assigned to staff.
According to The Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking, University of Ibadan has a full-time student population of 25, 416. It also said undergraduate and postgraduate students are in the ratio 50:50. It, therefore, means that the undergraduate population estimate of the university stands at 12, 708 students. When the number of the undergraduates is multiplied with the technology fee of N6,500, it amounts to ₦82, 602, 000 per session.
No one is extorting anyone —University’s reaction
Speaking on the school’s plan on the utilisation of the technology fee, Tunji Oladejo, the university’s spokesperson, says “no one is extorting anyone.” He rather insisted that the ivory tower is underfunded.
But he declined to make further comment. “I am always misrepresented by the press. So, I may not pick your call anymore,” he said and hung up later. Also, messages sent to the Vice-Chancellor were not responded to.
Problem of poor funding
Public record shows that all federal universities in Nigeria are underfunded. In recent years, allocation to the education sector has ranged from five to seven percent of total budget. The 2019 figure stands at 7.05 percent of the total budget.
Muhammad Abba, a Gombe-based educationalist said institutions must work out ways with some bodies through grants and others to attract adequate funding. He said institutions must be innovative in seeking more funding. “Universities are primarily research-based institutions meant at solving problems,” Abba said.
On her part, Victoria Ibiwoye, the Director of OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning, also noted that institutions must use creative means to drive the education system forward. She, nonetheless, placed the major responsibility on the government.
“Government are duty bearers as far as funding education is concerned, but they can’t do it alone,” Ibiwoye said. “So, they need to create a friendly environment for partnerships with stakeholders like CSOs, local and international NGOs working in the education space. Even when the resources are available to these CSOs, if the environment is not conducive, they will be forced to take the aid elsewhere.”