By Jérôme-Mario Utomi
Regardless of the realization that the euphoria that announced the period appointments of Professor Lillian Imuetinyan Salami, home economist / nutritionist and former Dean of the Faculty of Education, as second vice-chancellor after Grace Alele Williams, and 10th substantive vice-president. Chancellor of the University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria, fainted and the taunts surpassed the applause of waiting as fears shifted reason, resulting in an entirely distinct set of consequences. , irrational hatred and division, I have to say recent information reports that UNIBEN students, on September 14, 2021, blocked the Lagos-Benin highway to protest the taxation, but have now waived the fees to The late registration of N 20,000 by the school administration came as no surprise.
On the contrary, like most Nigerians who previously believed that the appointment of a new VC a few years ago would also bring a new lease of life and save students and their parents from financial emasculation, the recent protest convinced everyone that nothing has changed in the university’s love for visiting their students with unfair laws / policies.
As we know, a just law is “a man-made code that fits with moral laws or laws and uplifts human personalities, while an unjust law on the other hand is a code that is not. in harmony with moral laws ”.
This assertion is based on two distinct but similar realities. First, a similar protest from the school’s students on Friday, November 1, 2019, to register their complaints about the poor condition of the infrastructure and the incessant fees billed by the school authorities.
The second reason relates to the first (the 2019 protest) but follows from the content of my previous intervention / reaction to the appointment of Professor Lillian Imuetinyan Salami as the school’s new VC; it was in 2019.
In addition to congratulating the new VC, the play, which was titled; The upcoming assignments of Professor Salami, the new VC of UNIBEN, have highlighted how, in recent times, the institution has defined learning too narrowly in a way devoid of fairness in process and outcome. ; was concerned with income generation without considering the comfort or well-being of students; identify errors among students without shedding a spotlight on internal occurrences.
He ended by reminding the new VC that if it doesn’t do anything about it, it just means our young people, and the nation by extension faces a bleak future.
Conversely, if it is able to correct the above challenges; it will be his most powerful achievement to gain new respect and emulation.
At present, the school’s impetus, especially the recent protest and the students’ description of the university leadership’s decision as harsh, because it does not take into consideration “the economic situation. unfavorable in the country, explains that the institution is still characterized as a neck-at the bottom of an inordinate circle of fees and should be ready to collect baskets of protest from the students.
More than anything else, the current event is emblematic proof that school management is still unaware that “if learning is to persist, teachers must also look within themselves, reflect on their own. critically examining their own behavior and identifying the ways in which they inadvertently contribute to the problems of the institution and then change the way they act, more than anything else indicates that nothing has changed.
Certainly Nigerians and of course the global community, especially development professionals, do not believe that what the federal government is doing regarding the permanent underfunding of public universities is the best way to encourage education. in the country, as such failures / failures and inadequacies daily hamper lecturers from conducting academic research, truncate the academic calendar with strike action, lacing Nigerian universities with dilapidated and overloaded learning facilities with universities producing graduates unrelated to labor demand by the country’s industrial sector. This partly explains the dilemma of administrators of public universities.
But when the above fact is juxtaposed with the current challenge in particular, the late registration fees now reversed; we will discover that if what is happening in other universities is a challenge, that of UNIBEN is a crisis.
To substantiate this claim, let’s listen to UNIBEN VC talk about waiving the late registration fee of N 20,000; “It is important to mention that this reversal of position will not break the University of Benin. I fundamentally believe that there are very few decisions that are irreversible and this is certainly not one of them. At this stage, the late fees of N 20,000 are waived and the case is closed.
“UNIBEN is resilient and we will continue to move forward with strong conviction to ensure that the university reaches its full potential as a leading academic institution,” she added.
The above comment naturally arouses the following posers; if the school administration knows that overthrowing such a position will not break the University of Benin, why did they propose it in the first place? If they (as they claim) are aware that UNIBEN is resilient and will continue to move forward with strong conviction to ensure that the university reaches its full potential as a leading academic institution, why are they overloading students with a circle of fees?
Is federal government underfunding of higher education institutions in Nigeria specific to UNIBEN? Otherwise, why are they in the habit of transferring such assault to innocent students and their parents?
As the students noted, why does the school management not take into consideration “the unfavorable economic situation in the country before imposing late registration fees of N 20,000 on students? Why can’t (management) look for more civil / creative ways to generate income for the school without overburdening students and their parents?
While the answer (s) to the above are expected from the leadership of UNIBEN, another argument of the CV which cannot stand up in the face of an embarrassing fact is its statement that; “Early enrollment is essential for the proper functioning of the university; it gives insight into student volume / demand and enables smarter planning to ensure we have enough staff, courses and funding to support our students accordingly. It is important to note that in the past other non-financial interventions to encourage early registration have failed.
If this is the true position, it may again require the question of the logic / reason for the outrageous and out of service acceptance fees charged by UNIBEN management?
Take as another illustration, currently new students pay around N63,000.00 for education, management and engineering faculties, while medical students are forced to shell out around N75,000 as admission fees. .
Comparatively, while UNIBEN charges the above, other federal universities such as; the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the Federal University of Petroleum and Resources (FUPRA), Warri, Delta State and the Federal University of Agriculture (FUUNAB), Abeokuta, Ogun State, receive very weak. These are verifiable facts.
Through this analysis, the awkward and uncomfortable attitude of UNIBEN towards new students is exposed. In this context, the question that requires one or more answers is; How did UNIBEN arrive at the above charges in the first place?
I am of the opinion that the university needs a new vision and student-friendly reforms and policies that will reorganize quality and affordable education.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Program Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Advocacy for Social and Economic Justice (SEJA), Lagos. He could be contacted via [email protected]/08032725374.