Why I Support Fees Hike in Nigerian Universities
By: Deji Yesufu
Providence Reformed Baptist Church, the local church I pastor, meets at the University of Ibadan. So, quite naturally I hear a little about happenings within the university community. The latest challenge concerns hike in school fees for students – both graduate and postgraduate studies. It all started with rumours that the University authorities planned to increase fees by almost 300%. Eventually there was indeed an increase but it was not as much as students had expected. In other universities around the country, however, this was not the case: there were large increases in fees and the students are at the moment protesting the astronomical rise.
In this essay, I want to explain to students and parents alike the reason why fees in Nigerian universities will be increased ultimately if the country will need to sustain the whole idea of public tertiary education.
Education is not free anywhere in the world. The biggest challenge of the average Nigerian mind is our tendency to take things for granted. It is the reason the removal of fuel subsidy had such a shock on the nation’s economy. For a long time the price of fuel had been cushioned by the government, and the masses never felt its true weight. The moment it was removed, the hues and cries began. We forget also that public tertiary education is fully subsidised by the Nigerian government. Government pay lecturers and all staff of universities, including staff working in universities primary and secondary schools, and other university subsidiaries. Government also give them funds to run the schools. Most monies made by the universities from fees and other internally generated revenues cannot pay staff salaries. If you must have an idea of how much it will cost to run a university, ask your colleagues in private universities how much they pay. Education is not free anywhere on the face of the planet. If you must get good education, you will need to pay good money for it. This leads me to my next point.
Cheap education produces poorly trained professionals. An employer of labour in a Nigerian bank shared on Facebook some of the challenges they are having with graduates these days. The almost universal verdict is that Nigerian graduates are unemployable. He then adds that the ones that fair a bit better than the rest are those that finish from private universities. He said public university graduates are simply not what you want in your workplace. What has produced this is the cheap education that our students get from public schools. How? Simple. The best lecturers are employed by the government, yet why do they tend to produce the worst graduates? The reason is because there is no parent who will pay two million naira a year for the education of their child or ward, and then sit back and not ensure that those young people get worth for what is paid. In some of these private universities, students walk into the VCs office and report lecturers failing at their duties. What lecturer dare not come to class to teach there? And when students fail en-mass, the lecturer is called to question. Who questions public university teachers? They do and undo, then they produce unemployable graduates. Where you have cheap education, you get almost no education.
Students loan is a viable option. The Bola Tinubu government introduced the students loan facility because government knows that continual subsidy on education is not practical. In the near future, government will withdraw funding of public schools and these schools will then have to become self sustaining. The first step towards achieving this is students loans. Students will henceforth have an idea of how much it will cost them to go through school, they will obtain a loan from government (hopefully interest free), and pay the loan back so that others could use the facility in future. This way, all the funding government is putting in public schools, and that seem to be going down the drain, will be forced to circulate within the system, and be available for future generations. The only thing that threaten the loan option is the usual Nigerian administrative incompetence and corruption. But incompetence and corruption have thrived this long in this country because government has been funding it. The moment free funds are removed, every one will sit up, and the nation’s resources will be more productive.
Socialism is not sustainable. Let me apologise to this generation of students, especially when you consider that when we were in school in the 1990s, tuition was almost free. My fees all through university would not have exceeded N20,000 in total. The reality, however, is that free tuition is not sustainable. The lie that my generation and the one before me believed was a socialist worldview. The idea that the collective resources of a land should be shared to the people equally. While this is true in a sense, it is not practical in the long run. Ultimately we will have to understand that some people have been given more and others less. Everyone has a right to work and enjoy the fruit of his labour. The person who does not work, should not eat. So, the idea of a collective living off the resources of a land, will eventually give place to every man receiving his due. You may call it capitalism, but we must accept that it is the reality of our days. This will not stop charity or the support of the weak and poor, but it will end this entitlement mentality that pervade the Nigerian space. No one owes you anything – as long as they are not your parent.
Finally, understand that you are a generation reaping the results of bad leadership, so change the narrative. Children will reap the fruit of the ways of their fathers. The America and England our people are running to were built by a previous generation. The Nigeria we are running from, was ruined by a generation. A generation beat the drumbeat of war, another generation fight it. Our fathers ate sour grapes, the children’s teeth are set on edge. The good news is that adversity is good. Necessity is the mother of invention. When the fathers eat up the children’s inheritance, the children create wealth out of nothing. You are the generation that has seen a failing Nigerian state, so change the narrative. Do things differently to get a different result. Thankfully no matter how many people flee the country, there will still remain a remnant. And it takes only a few to save a failing system.
Conclusion. Many people envy the economy of Lagos, and there’s a continual exodus of people from everywhere in the country to that city. We forget that Lagos is what she is because of a thriving private sector there. The Lagos State government provide its people with functional infrastructures and the people get to work. Where there are no infrastructures, the people improvise. But no one is waiting on government in Lagos; everyone is moving. As long as government funds public universities, government will continue to fund people’s incompetence and entrenched corruption in these places. Ultimately, most government institutions in this country would have to be handed to the private sector if they will ever function properly. It has started with our universities.