When Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu okayed the reduction of tuition fee at the Adekunle Ajasin University (AAU), Akungba-Akoko, the move favoured some faculties and departments. However, Law students feel they have been ‘neglected’ as there was no reduction in their tuition fee, reports PHILIP ANJORIN (AAUA).
When speculations broke out that Ondo State Governor Arakunrin Olúwarótìmí Akérédolú was intending to reduce the tuition fee of students in Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, parents, students and stakeholders were jubilant.
Although some observers queried the motive behind the sudden change of mind, especially after the students had protested twice ( in 2018 and 2019) over increment in fees.
When the news of the reduction finally broke on August 26, in a circular signed by the Acting Registrar, Mr. Opeoluwa Akinfenwa, it caused a stir among many students whose hope had been raised.
It was observed that the move, which favoured returning students in other faculties except Law, was made after the management, Governing Council and and student leaders met with the governor. It was also established that the reduction was to cushion the economic effects of the lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
Faculty of Agriculture had luck on its side as students would pay N100,000 instead of N150,000. For Social/Management Sciences and Faculty of Science it is N120,000, down from N150,000. Faculty of Art and Education are to pay N80,000 as against N100, 000.
Law students protest
For Adeosun Francis, a 200-Level student of Law, the move should not be regarded as reduction. Citing it as a political action, he faulted the motive behind the exclusion of Law Faculty from the reduction. He criticised the governor for neglecting the faculty, despite being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
His words: “First, permit me to say that there is nothing like reduction in the AAUA tuition fee. It is crystal clear that this present government will give everything in its power to make sure that it retains its already faded popularity in the state.
“It is a political move. This same governor was begged back then to reduce the school fees, but he said he would rather lose his second term ambition than reduce it. Why is he now doing it now?
“How can the government exclude Law students from the reduction? The reason for the so-called reduction is the effect of COVID-19. There is a question to be asked: Are law students’ parents and or guardians immune to the effects of the pandemic? What other extra benefits are Law students enjoying that make them undeserving of a reduction if and when there is any?
“Again, you need to see the state of the lecture theatre in which Law students receive lectures. It is not only shameful but an act of total disgrace, especially knowing that the governor is a learned silk, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria! What can be more pathetic!”
Another student, Ikulajolu Adesola, bemoaned the rationale given for the reduction, stating that no faculty deserved to be neglected in the new payment plan.
“This is obviously not in the interest of the students and the governor should have considered this. However, no one can explain what brought about the sudden reduction, despite a two-time protest in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“The governor should have made the reduction cut across all faculties and levels of the institution. Reduction in tuition fee should not be a palliative for COVID-19. That must have been a way to just draw the emotions of the people.”
He urged the management to persist in engaging the Governing Council for the benefit of students.
“As for the students, they should accept this in good faith and continue to do their best. We all know it is not easy to pay close to N120,000. The management should continue to engage the Governing Council and see how more reduction can be effected. “On the part of the government, more can be done. Affordable education is what the people are clamouring for,” he added.
We’re neglected, says LSS president
Micheal Adetula, the President of the Law Students Society, AAUA Chapter; disclosed that the association is trying its best to convince the decision makers on why the Faculty also deserves to be included in the fee reduction.
He further bemoaned the neglect which the faculty has endured since the initial fee increment. He stated that the faculty deserves a better treatment. He mentioned that other faculties are favoured with new buildings and better attention than the faculty.
“We’re trying to liaise with the state government and give them reasons they need to reduce our fees too. N30,000 is still something. Law students also participated in the last protest. We’re still students of AAUA. So, we see no reason the governor will reduce the fees of the institution and we don’t benefit. “Besides that, there’s nothing special we’re enjoying as Law students and this is what we’re trying to make the government understand. Look at the state of things in our institution right now, it shows that they’re not really concerned about us and everything they’ve been doing.
“Other faculties get new buildings and gadgets and there’s nothing for us because they believe that law students are paying lower than what is paid in other private schools. Things are not done that way”, he added.
Adetula informed our reporter that his administration is not relenting in their efforts, as they’re taking steps to ensure that their target is achieved.
“From our end, we’ve submitted our letter to the Office of the Governor since Monday, last week. I also called some other stakeholders that are close to the Governor like Chief Olusola Oke and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education.
“We told them why they should reduce our fees too. The fact remains that law students are not different from any other student in the university and we deserve a reduction too. We’ll continue to agitate, God willing.”
Adetula,however assured the students and stakeholders that they were working tirelessly to resolve the matter.
“The battle is far from over. We’re pressure groups, we’ll keep pressurising because that’s what we can do, now. We’re happy with the stage we are now, so we’ll do more,” he said.
Pro-Chancellor: reduction not political
The Pro-Chancellor of the university, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, during a phone interview on what prompted the reduction, explained the factors put into consideration before the reduction was effected. He said the move didn’t have a political undertone.
His words: “We considered the impact of COVID-19 on parents, mainly because the business of most parents was literally halted, and in some cases almost extinguished. While it is true that we need funds to run the university and in reality, we’re charging the most minimum rate. We had to look into this with the government.
“So, we had a dialogue with government and put across the issues on the table. If we’re to reduce the school fees, there are some conditions attached to make it work, which we presented to the government. We were able to reach a good understanding that is beneficial to the students and also convenient for us. “To the best of my knowledge, Law Faculty was the only sector excluded. This year, alone, we had over a thousand applicants for the faculty and we’re only taking less than 100. That means that we’re taking less than 10 per ecrntw of the applicants. “It’s a question of demand and supply. And since the demand for Law Faculty is extensively high, there is no reason we need to reduce. In the case of Agriculture, you will realise that we reduced more than others because they don’t have enough students in the faculty and our major advancement as regards the income generation is in the area of agriculture.
“So, we need more students in Agriculture Faculty who can participate as workers in the Work-Study programme in the agriculture sector. The innovative plan made us reduce it from N100,000 to N150,000 because we don’t have enough students and we need them massively. Law is a different case; we have a lot of students and we only need few. “The reduction is not backed by a political intent. The decision was taken by us. The governor only directed us to look into the issue at the application of the students.
“NANS led the student leaders to meet with the governor and pleaded with him which made the governor serve the matter to us. We told him the condition on which it can be reduced. It had nothing to do with politics. When you consider the long term effect of COVID-19, it becomes paramount that the government make some moves to reduce it, at least for the parents.”