By now, every Nigerian undergraduate especially those in Federal Government owned universities should have gotten the memo that the government is planning to increase tuition fee to N350,000.
Outrageous? That's what almost everybody has been saying since the news broke.
But the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) members across the country have been reacting to the proposed tuition increase asking Nigerians to reject the plan.
However, in case you haven't heard the whole gist, here are five things you should know about the tuition fee the Federal Government is reportedly planning to introduce.
1. What led to the controversial tuition
In 2017, the Academic Staff Union of Universities went on a nationwide strike for over a month. As usual, there was a talk between the union and the government and the strike was called off. But that didn't happen without some agreements between them.
According to Prof. Lawan Abubakar, the Bauchi Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, the union and the government agreed on the revitalisation of the universities and the payment of arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
They also agreed that the EAA be captured in 2018 universities budgets.
And lastly, the Federal Government and ASUU agreed on the need for adequate budgetary allocation to education in line with the UNESCO minimum standard of 26 per cent.
However, none of these have been met, instead, the government set up a negotiation team led by Dr Wale Babalakin to dialogue with the union.
2. Who is Wale Babalakin?
Dr Wale Babalakin is a Nigerian businessman, lawyer and philanthropist. He is the Pro-Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG). Babalakin is the Chairman of the Bi-Courtney Group of companies and he is an alumnus of UNILAG and the University of Cambridge.
Babalakin is very familiar with the Nigerian education system. He understands the challenges facing Nigerian Universities and he is one of the best analysts of the system. This no doubt explains why the FG considered him to lead the negotiating team on ASUU-FG agreements.
As a businessman, Babalakin has a capitalist view about funding education in Nigeria. He believes the government needs to create an enabling environment for private investors to provide the required infrastructure for tertiary institutions.
He once said: “There have been serious plans for education to be free at all levels. My position is that if there’s a choice between free education and good education at all levels, I choose the latter''.
Everyone knows good education costs a lot of money. And for Nigerian students to enjoy it, their parents have to pay because according to him, it costs $3000 to train one undergraduate properly in Nigeria.
3. Education Bank
In a country where the minimum wage is N18,000, paying N350,000 for tuition in Federal Universities will be difficult for most parents. The government is aware of this and that is why Education Bank is part of the package of the proposed school fee.
The Education Bank will provide indigent students with scholarship loans throughout their academic programs in the Universities. Hope that sounds interesting?
4. So, how much exactly is FG proposing?
You might have heard or read that the proposed tuition fee for undergraduates in Federal Universities would be N350,000. That is true, but some students may have to pay much more than that because N350k is just the minimum.
According to Prof Lawan Abubakar, the Bauchi ASUU Zonal Coordinator, undergraduates in Faculty of Sciences will up to N500,000.
He (Babalakin) proposed a minimum of N350, 000 as tuition fee for undergraduate students of Arts and Humanities, and N500,000, for those in Sciences, Abubakar said.
5. Why ASUU rejects the tuition proposal
The members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities all over the country have vehemently rejected both the tuition scheme and the education bank the government is introducing to ease the scheme.
The Union have some reasons for rejecting the scheme.
According to Prof Lawan Abubakar, the union turned down the idea because ''not all the students will have access to loan, and for those who will access the loan, it is the same parents who served as sureties and subsequently pay back the loan, considering the very high rate of unemployment in the country.
“Supposing that the student is able to secure a job after graduation, he cannot start a life while paying back a loan of 4 to 6 million Naira, as the case may be.
Another reason ASUU gave for rejecting is based on the fact that ''the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly states that funding education is the sole responsibility of Governments at various levels and not parents”.