The ongoing challenges faced by students at Nigeria’s public universities have taken a dire turn as they grapple with the impact of persistent strikes and deteriorating infrastructure.
Now, they are also facing the daunting prospect of exorbitant tuition fee increases. Institutions such as the Tai Solarin University of Education, the University of Lagos, and Obafemi Awolowo University have significantly raised their fees, prompting student protests.
The universities argue that they are left with no choice due to reduced funding and escalating expenses. In a nation where the minimum wage is a mere N30,000 monthly, these hikes threaten to push many students, particularly those from less affluent backgrounds, out of higher education, which could have devastating consequences.
For instance, TASUED has increased its fees by an overwhelming 200 to 300 percent. UNILAG, citing the soaring costs of essential services like hostel upkeep, electricity (which alone costs N1.7 billion annually), internet connectivity, and other administrative expenses, has upped its tuition from N19,000 to N190,500.
Similarly, the University of Jos and Bayero University, Kano, have also announced fee increments. The University of Ibadan is considering raising its fees to N213,500 and N318,000, up from N121,000 and N173,850, for the 2022/2023 academic year.
These fee hikes do not even account for additional student expenses such as meals, textbooks, project work, and miscellaneous costs, making the financial burden even more overwhelming.This situation is a stark indication of the inadequate funding of education by Nigeria’s federal and state governments.
Despite owning 52 universities, the Federal Government fails to provide sufficient financial support. Moreover, it continues to establish new universities, often perceived as a means to gain political favor rather than to genuinely improve the education sector.
Over the past decade, despite the establishment of numerous specialized universities, the government has neglected to fulfill its financial commitments outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Academic Staff Union of Universities in 2009, which included N1.2 trillion for revitalization and salary increases.
This neglect has exacerbated the financial strain on the country’s higher education system, leading to the current crisis.
The administration led by Bola Tinubu recently initiated a policy to automatically withhold 40 percent of the internally generated revenues from federal universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education.
This move is expected to exacerbate the existing educational crisis.Nigeria holds the unfortunate position of having the world’s second-largest population of children not attending school, with 20.1 million children out of school, according to UNESCO.
The crisis spans from primary to tertiary education levels.Education is a cornerstone of societal development. The World Bank emphasizes that tertiary education is crucial for economic growth, poverty reduction, and the promotion of shared prosperity.
A workforce that is highly skilled and has continuous access to quality higher education is essential for innovation and economic growth in the current global knowledge economy. Therefore, it is imperative to prioritize the revival and strengthening of the education sector.
However, there are no simple solutions. A fundamental step is to halt the establishment of new public tertiary institutions to ensure adequate funding for the existing ones.
In fact, it may be necessary to discontinue some of the recently established institutions, integrating their students and faculty into other schools. The first to be eliminated should be the numerous new military and paramilitary universities, which are largely seen as unnecessary and extravagant projects by their founders.
The recent spikes in tuition fees are exorbitant and have been implemented too abruptly. Universities should significantly reduce these increases and instead implement gradual fee increments in smaller percentages.
Governments at the federal, state, and local levels should provide a variety of funding options for students, including grants, partial, and full scholarships. State governments should offer bursaries to students as a standard practice.
In addition to support from NGOs, philanthropists, and faith-based organizations, the Federal Government should expedite the availability of its loan scheme, with state and local governments encouraged to do the same.
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