By Kennedy Ikantu Peretei
All over the world, there is consensus to the fact that, education is a critical element of development.
Nelson Mandela described education as “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. In the words of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “in order to attain the goals of economic freedom and posterity, Nigeria must do certain things as a matter of urgency and priority. It must provide free education at all levels and free health facilities for the masses of its citizens”.
As premier of the western region, the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced free education in all primary schools. There were scholarships for both undergraduate and post graduate students who excelled in their studies. But for the foresight of Chief Awolowo, it is quite possible that Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN and his likes could have been trapped in ignorance and poverty that come with lack of education.
Chief Adekunle Ajasin, who presided over the affairs of Ondo State (1979- 1983) introduced free education in all primary and secondary schools in the state including free books and uniforms. These were leaders who understood the rudimentary issues of governance and society.
In the last four years, education, especially tertiary education has gradually gotten out of the reach of the ordinary citizens of Ondo State, no thanks, to Governor Akeredolu, who cares about nothing as long as the palm wine tapper delivers fresh palm wine to him daily at the Government House, Alagbaka, Akure.
Shortly after Akeredolu’s inauguration, the school fees in Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), moved from thirty thousand naira (N30,000.00) per session to one hundred and fifty thousand naira (N150,000.00). The students protested in Akungba, the protests extended to Akure the state capital. Reacting to the plea by parents to review the fees downward, Akeredolu sarcastically asked the parents, if the N150,000.00 they were complaining about was up to the price of a pair of shoes? The Governor did not tell the parents, if he could afford such a pair of shoes before he became Governor.
The Registrar of AAUA, Olugbenga Arajulu, announced indefinite closure of the University yesterday, because of students protesting “No Examination for fees Defaulters” policy of the University. The students were instructed to vacate their halls of residence with immediate effect. Every year, students lose about six months of the academic session to either ASUU strikes or closure due to increment of fees.
In another development, a circular signed by Ezekiel Adeniran for the School’s Registrar, the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, postponed the resumption of the school indefinitely. All students were directed to vacate the University campus and their respective halls of residence within 48 hours (Thursday, 11th November, 2021). The University authorities assumed that, as a fall of the recently increased fees regime, the students may stage a protest. Unfortunately, Prof Adesegun Fatusi, the Vice Chancellor of the University declared unapologetically to parents during a stakeholders meeting that ” there is no going back on the fees regime”. According to the VC, the increment was to avoid the imminent collapse of the institution if not well funded. This kind of audacity and wickedness is unprecedented for managers of a public institution. The tuition being asked for by Fatusi and Akeredolu in UNIMED is higher than what even some private Universities charge. It is simply unbelievable that, a government can preside over a people’s helplessness in this manner. Many parents have resigned to fate as they see their children drop out of school. Their only hope of seeing their children graduate from medical school shattered into shreds.
The story is the same in Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa, where the students are most times at home. It is not clear what Akeredolu intends to gain by practically grounding all the tertiary institutions in the state. He has openly lamented the lack of capacity of his administration to fund three Universities. He probably did not remember when he Campaigned to be elected as Governor of Ondo State. Across the three Senatorial Districts, parents and students are agonising and gnashing their teeth as Akeredolu perfects his satanic plan to ruin tertiary institutions. He met these schools running, if he cannot improve on what he met, he should leave them the way he met them. That is more honourable than his present mission.
This series will continue shortly.