Thirty-one-year old Ekiti State University, EKSU, Ado-Ekiti, is a university with a difference, especially in the aspect of students’ attitude to payment of school fees.
The erstwhile culture at inception in the university, which took off as Obafemi Awolowo University and later Ondo State University before adopting University of Ado Ekiti and its present EKSU, was that students paid their tuition fees immediately on resumption for a new academic session, But that has become history as the culture had undergone degeneration over time from payment as at when due to when the students felt it was convenient for them and consequently not paying at all.
There were cases of students, who gained admission to the university, spent four sessions, graduated and went for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme without paying a dime to the coffers of the university.
According to sources in the university bursary, many full-time and part-time students hate payment of school fees with passion.
As a matter of fact, many graduates paid for only one or two sessions and succeeded in getting necessary examination and clearance papers through the back door.
One of the participants at a stakeholders’ forum involving the principal officers of the university, staff, parents, sponsors and guardians held at the university on Saturday, who described himself as a parent, painted a clearer picture when he said he was amazed that a person celebrated his passing through EKSU without paying a kobo for four sessions.
The question is how such students got their way through the university? Sources said they colluded with some members of staff in relevant quarters for enabling papers to deceive the authorities that they had paid.
This is one of the issues that the current Vice- Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Patrick Aina, who assumed office one and half years ago, has to contend with as efforts to effect change appears to be meeting with resistance from the students, who appear to have preference for maintaining the status quo.
Aina, who said students owed over N2 billion tuition fees when he assumed office, vowed that his administration would ensure that EKSU was run in line with what obtained elsewhere in a bid to reposition the institution as a world-class university.
Consequently, he pressured the students to ensure their tuition fees for 2011/2012 session were paid before partaking in the second semester examination, asking them to bring a regulated clearance – a situation which saw some students having to pay tuition fees arrears.
The VC, who vowed that it would no longer be business as usual stressed that students had to pay their 2012/2013 tuition fees latest two weeks after resumption for the new academic session.
However, on resumption, the students chose to follow their own old ways by refusing to pay the school fees and taking the path of protest when the university authorities decided to apply “no school fees, no lecture policy” to compel them to pay.
As the protest, whereby the students locked the university gates to prevent entry into the campus, entered its second day on May 3, the authorities of the university announced a mid-semester break for the students “to enable them have time to pay up the tuition”.
The university later announced that its gates would not be opened to the students until at least 80 per cent of them had paid up. The vice chancellor said: “As of Wednesday, May 2, 2013 (five weeks into the current session), out of the 14,802 students in the regular programmes, only 1,227 students had paid their fees.
There are 124 students in the College of Medicine, only two had paid their fees. This is alarming in a College of Medicine.”
But the students, who were said to have gathered for the showdown as early as 5.30am chanted war songs against Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi and the school management and, as well made bonfire outside the locked gates of the institution.
Some students, who spoke with journalists had accused the university of insincerity over the ‘no fee no lecture’ stance, saying their fees were too high as students in some departments were being made to pay as high as N150,000 through various charges as against the N50,000 school fees being announced.
The students, who said the authorities should allow them to attend classes while they pay the school fees later by installment, challenged the university to disclose to the world the sundry fees they were being made to pay in addition, thus making their fees outrageous.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), coming to the aid of its members at EKSU, said it had held an exhaustive deliberation with the university management so that students could be allowed to pay bit by bit.
A statement by NANS National President, Comrade Yinka Gbadebo, said its position was informed by the fact that such would make life easier for the indigent ones among the students as they would not suffer being locked out of lectures.
But Aina said: “Payment of fees is a condition of studentship. That is the standard now in the university,” saying: “We will not encourage that situation whereby students do not pay school fees to continue.”
The VC clarified at the stakeholders’ forum that the university needed to look inwards to meet its financial commitments, saying: “The most credible source of generating fund is through tuition fees, which at the moment stand at N50, 000 flat rate”
According to Aina, who reeled out the approved tuition and service charges for undergraduates to the stakeholders, tuition is N50, 000 while other charges included payment for health services, registration, ICT, laboratory, field trip, identity cards, among others.
He described the fees as moderate and considerate, particularly when compared with what obtained in other sister universities like Lagos State University, Osun State University and Olabisi Onabanjo University, which he showed their school fees schedules.
Aina, who said the students were deliberately refusing to pay approved fees, said “they would rather deploy their fees already collected from their parents to other uses like purchase of state- of- the- art gadgets, phones and other mundane activities that are not beneficial to them as students.”