From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
One of the governorship aspirants during the 2019 election under the platform of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State, Shaibu Idris Miqati has noted that the recent increase in school fees for students of Kaduna State University (KASU) and other State owned higher institutions by the State government has pitched the students and their parents between the proverbial deep blue sea and the red devil.
Miqati said that the increase is “unwarranted, ill-timed and ill-advised particularly coming from a government that promised compulsory, qualitative, free at some levels and affordable education at other stages especially at the tertiary levels”.
In a statement made available to newsmen, the former governorship aspirant lamented that increase in school fees came on the heels of economic meltdown occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic as well as incessant kidnapping for ransom of which many parents were affected.
To this end, Miqati appealed to governor Nasir El-Rufai to have a rethink and review the fees increase downward to enable students acquire affordable education.
“A couple of weeks ago the government of our great state was reported to have announced a review of school fees payable by various students in the state government-owned tertiary Institutions by a significant proportion.
“It was reported that the said fees in Kaduna State University (KASU) for indigenous students were reviewed upward from about Twenty-seven thousand Naira to between One hundred and fifty thousand and Two Hundred thousand naira per student annually; depending on the programme of study. Indigene Medical Students as well as Students from other states are now to pay Three and Five Hundred thousand naira respectively annually per student. This is apart from hostel accommodation, feeding and other sundry expenses.
“While education cannot and shall never be said to be expensive, at times like this when and where citizens are facing serious excruciating economic challenges and other related hardships, various efforts of government to alleviate poverty are hardly making any positive impact, these increases are, to say the least; unwarranted, ill-timed and ill-advised particularly coming from a government that promised compulsory, qualitative, free at some levels and affordable education at other stages especially at the tertiary levels.
“Parents and children particularly of the less privileged citizens had welcomed this promise with enormous joy and happiness particularly when the saw one of the Governor’s son being enrolled in a state ran school.
“Citizens of the world are just coming out of the economic meltdown occasioned by the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of which Nigeria’s economy went into recession. Our State has been sadly ravaged by bandits and killer herdsmen activities. The source of livelihood of the citizens, which is majorly from farming, in recent years is badly affected due to the incessant security challenges, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, cattle rustling and thefts have been all-time high to the extent that a member of the State Executive Council in charge of Security and Home Affairs while doing well to inform citizens about development to avoid misinformation, has transformed into an obituary announcer!
“Trading which was another major source of income to many has been badly affected also either through payment of ransoms, which depletes the capital of traders or the urban renewal projects of the state capital and major towns, which have resulted in the demolition of several markets, corner shops and other places of businesses by the government without appropriate alternatives.
“With the above-mentioned scenario, one would have expected that the State Government would temper justice with mercy and delay the impending increase of the fees to a later date to assist parents most of whom either have fallen victims to the recent right sizing exercises by the government, lost their businesses from the modernisation project of the capital city, or have paid through the nose huge sums as ransom to kidnappers and or the economic crisis occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.
“Indeed some of these parents have become vulnerable and highly indebted with many already adjudged to have gone bankrupt. As a parent myself with children and wards in various schools, I feel the pains of parents and guardians in our state who have children in schools currently, affected by the economic hardship and the high cost of living in our society, and now burdened with ill-timed school fees increase.
“No doubts one may not fault the desire or the rationale for the increase in the fees. Yes, Two or Three Hundred thousand naira may seem too insignificant for those who depend on the government or work in the private sector but these amounts are huge sums of money for most of the vulnerable citizens in our society.
“Paradoxically, axiomatically, in the schemes of funding of and significance of tertiary education in national development and human capacity development and mobility, these amounts cannot be said to be too much and can not and never be said to be excessive or expensive irrespective of income levels of parents.
“Yet it is unaffordable in the reality of the economy of our time. Truly, teachers, lecturers and other staff must be paid, facilities for teaching and research have to be provided and above all, standards have to be maintained at all cost as required by regulatory bodies of tertiary education. Luckily, the schools have been doing well with the production of quality manpower comparable to any one can find around. To this I say Bravo to the students, the teachers and the Administrators of the schools.
“Government alone cannot and would never be able to single-handedly fund these costs and expenses if the truth must be told. Somehow, parents must augment government’s efforts in bearing the costs, particularly given the long term benefits to be derived from the qualifications to be obtained by the students. We are (His Excellency inclusive) evidences of such benefits of free education in the past somewhat at all levels, which unfortunately is not feasible now.
“Increases or review of fees by whatever name is not new at all. Massive or one-off increase at a time is the issue. Moreso looking at the current environment as stated earlier.
“Over the years, the government failed to implement a gradual increase in the school fees. I was once a Council Member of KASU and several efforts were made during our time to actualise an increase in the fees but due largely to political reasons such moves were blocked, bluffed and rejected by the government. Could this be blamed on parents who could have adjusted over the years had the fees being gradually reviewed in phases? To my mind no! Indeed, if in two years there was 100 percent increase, parents may not cry much, a further increase by another one hundred percent say in another three years and so on may have helped the situation.
“As always, it would be most unfair not to see reasons with the government’s actions but the scale of the increase needs to be reviewed urgently particularly in the light of our current challenges”
Miqati appealed to governor El-rufai to adopt gradual increase of the fees if he must increase the fees, “His Excellency the Governor of our dear state should have listening ears and see reasons to adopt a gradualist approach to the increase in the fees. Such action would engender trust and confidence by those being governed.
“Shock therapy or massive increase at once will exacerbate the already difficult and precarious situation we are in today. Its akin to one blow seven die! Many children may drop out of the schools as many may not be able to register to continue with their studies and the consequences of such unpalatable development may further worsen our already terrible security condition and poverty level.
“In the light of the foregoing, in my capacity as an ordinary citizen of the state, I wish to call on the Governor to kindly in the name God Almighty and with empathy to our teeming vulnerable citizens, to see reasons to review the position of government as regards the increase in fees recently announced. Let there be a gradual increase in the fees. The increase may be achieved over a period to ease the suffering of students and parents.
“Government should consider the immediate implementation of a workable student’s loans scheme which can augment parents’ efforts and serve as an alternative source of funds for the school fees of our children. Such a scheme will prevent children from dropping out of schools arising from this neo-liberal attitude at a time the government has not developed any recovery plan from the economic meltdown.
“Furthermore just as the school fees are being increased, the government should immediately review and announce new amounts to be given to students as Scholarship Grants to serve as usual government’s token contribution to low-income families.
“Government should also look into other avenues to allow the schools to generate more revenues and improve the processes of the schools accessing their Internally Generated Revenues(IGR) on a generate-and-spent basis than sweeping everything so generated into the TSA in which getting it is as easier as getting a camel passing into the eye of a needle. Am aware of the complaints today as regards the bureaucracy in the release of IGR generated by the schools occasioned from the implementation of Treasury Single Account policy”.
However, the former PDP governorship aspirant advised the embattled students to stop street protest, “To the protesting students, I call on each and everyone of you to get off the street as its dangerous for you to be on the road. Let’s hope that our Governor, Mallam Nasiru Ahmed elrufai will see reasons to review his position on the fees. I am sure other well meaning members of the society are also reaching out to him on this matter. You are the future! We want you alive, healthy and educated.
“I also wish to call on well-meaning people and organisations to help augment government efforts by donating funds to the schools, commencement of endowments schemes and providing scholarships to students. Our society would be better with such gestures”.