Following a drastic increment in tuition fees, the students of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University staged a protest clamouring for its reduction.
The protest began on Monday the 12th of July and continued the following day, prompting the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Okechukwu Esimone, to address the students.
In his address, he urged the students for a 24hr grace period to sort things out but this was met with stiff opposition from the students which eventually eased out as they suspended the protest threatening to hijack the matriculation ceremony on the 16th of July if their demands were not met.
During the course of the suspension, a series of meetings were held both between the school authorities and the student representatives as well as other meetings amongst the representatives themselves as they deliberated on a fair amount to be paid by students.
At the time of the meeting between the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Prof Joseph Ikechebelu, and the student representatives, various topics were deliberated on with the price of the school fees being the sticking point. After many negotiations, it was decided that 300 level to 600 level students were to pay N22,200 as school fees for Science courses, and N19,200 as school fees for Art courses in exclusion of other dues such as departmental dues: N6000 and SUG dues: N100. Totalling N28,300 for science students and N25,300 for Arts students.
Having decided on year 3 to year 6 fees, the fee to be paid by 200 level students became the bone of contention as it was still inconclusive. With a series of proposals made on the fee and both parties in disagreement, the meeting was adjourned to be continued the next day.
The final meeting was chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), the Student Union Vice President and the Head of the Students Representatives Council.
According to a member of the Student Representative Council who wishes to remain anonymous, the meeting commenced with the school’s proposal of N44,200 (other dues included) as the fee but it was met with the refusal of the students who proposed N34,250 (other dues included).
As there seemed to be no agreement, the DVC issued a warning that the school would be shut down the following week for two months if a conclusion was not reached that day.
The Student Representative stated it had left the table of negotiation as it was either to risk the students protesting during the matriculation ceremony or risk having the school shut down.
Following other proposals from the student’s representatives, the school insisted on N40,000 (other dues excluded), stating that their former deal of N44,200 was “off the table.”
Without much of a choice, the students consented to N40,000 being the fee for 200 level students in exclusion of other dues such as departmental dues: N6000 and SUG dues: N500. All totalling N46,500.
The reduction of fees was not the only outcome of the protest as the school also stated that N46,500 would be the new school fees as it will be paid from 200 Level until the final year in exclusion of other subsequent dues, unlike previous years in which the fees reduced as students ascended in level.
This development caused unrest among the 100 Level and 200 Level students as they expressed their grievances on not being properly represented.
Chineye, a 200 level student, stated: “They didn’t reduce our school fees they only compounded our problems and it is very terrible.”
She further stated that the problem was peculiar to the 200 and 100 level students due to lack of proper representation in the meeting. “The negotiations were done to appease the people representing the students and not the students and it is very unfair to us,” she lamented.
Anthonia said: “They didn’t reduce anything because I’m not seeing much difference between N46,000 and N55,000. My parents have to pay me and my brother’s fees and it’s a heavy load on them.”
Despite the fact that several students are opposed to the outcome of the meeting, some students seem to be in support of it. Nenye, a final year student, stated that the fee increment is justified as much more lecturers were employed and with the government’s inability to allocate adequate funds to the school, the university has to depend on the fees of students for its maintenance and development.
The unrest among students caused the Student Representatives to address them, explaining the reason for the sudden development.
The president of the Mass Communication Department, in his address to 200 level students of the department, stated that the era of N20,100 as school fees had passed, as a result of the state of things in the country.
He further explained that enacting it in higher levels was inappropriate as they had paid a lesser fee in their previous years and it was the 200 Level students that were most appropriate to start the payment.
He ended by urging the students to bear with them and adjust to the changes as they (students representatives) did the best they could.
Though the address by the student representatives to the students was not satisfactory, it played a key role in the clarification of things, thereby aiding the maintenance of peace and order.
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