It is time for the relevant authorities in charge of academic matters in Nigeria to turn to the National Open University of Nigeria and ensure that the insupportable exploitation currently being executed at that institution with cynical disregard be brought to an immediate halt! It is no longer news to knowledgeable people that the National Open University of Nigeria has turned itself into a money-draining agency. That, in itself, is stale news to those who are conversant with the system. But it is inconceivable to believe that a people can be pushed to this humiliating extent and still decide to maintain grinning visages in the face of such alien oppression! It is this passive role championed by the University's students themselves that I have struggled so hard to decipher.
Although I have been very uncomfortable with the entire situation, I deliberately kept mum all along; I had done so hoping that this epidemic would die a natural death. But now, with its rapid growth, developing deep roots into our system like a vicious virus, I feel it is time to blow the whistle.
Firstly, it is not clear why the University charges a COMPULSORY registration fee for research project for final-year students. Last semester (2014/15 academic session), this fee was charged at N10,000. Now, the University has, for unknown reasons, and without any official notice to its students, decided to increase this fee to the sum of N15,000. I am unable to figure out the rationale for which students should pay the University for a research that will be carried out by the students themselves. The conclusion of my rumination over this matter is that the act is completely indefensible and a deliberate ploy to get money off students.
Secondly, depending on the course, students are sent out every semester for Industrial Training. The University also charges a COMPULSORY registration fee for this, and an additional N1,000 which must be paid separately into a Stanbic IBTC Bank account! Last semester, as in the academic session stated above, this fee was N3,000. At the moment, the University has catapulted it to N10,000! Again, without any viable reason and without any prior notification.
Thirdly, it is not clear why the University should charge a fee for what it termed 'Result Verification'. This fee is payable every year and it is charged at N5,000. Despite this fee being paid, students who have attempted to verify the authenticity of the controversial results awarded to them have largely collided on a rock. So, if results are not verifiable, how then can the National Open University of Nigeria justify the receipt of this money from students?
Fourthly, the University gets paid for course materials but it never provides these materials. Prices for each material depend on the credit units of the course. At the moment, a two credit unit course material is N2,000, however slim the material may be, whilst a three credit unit course is charged at N2,500. Payment for these materials is also COMPULSORY. Now, supposing a student runs ten courses in a single semester, the minimum payable amount for course materials alone stands at N20,000. This fee does not include fees for examination registration. Students must pay the sum of N1,000 per course if they are to participate in any semester examination. This, for a student running ten courses, brings the fee to N30,000 for a single semester! And do note that this analysis does not include compulsory fee, which maybe N28,000 or N13,000, depending on the semester.
After receiving payment for course materials from students across Study Centres nationwide, the University may issue one, two, or zero course materials out of a possible ten as illustrated above. Thereupon, the University advises students, without compunction, to get these materials in whatever way they deem fit. At this point, students are solely on their own to hunt for additional money in order to re-purchase these materials elsewhere. The University is unconcerned about what becomes of students who are unable to get materials afterwards. Such is the immensity of the insensitivity being inflicted on a people whose only offence is their decision to seek knowledge.
It is instructive to state here in plain terms that this article is not aimed at questioning the steady increase of these illegal fees, its aim is to challenge their existence and why they are being imposed on students. I blame this fully-fledged malady on the recreant attitude of the students, prime victims of this scheme. Their silence is not digestible to me. But it does represent the actions of a people who have been brought to total subjugation by mighty forces.
It is to continue with the ongoing scheme that the National Open University of Nigeria has, with unusual vigor, negated the several attempts made by some knowledgeable students to form a Student Union. I must warn the authorities of the National Open University of Nigeria to quickly remember that their tenacious disapproval of a Student Union is illegal and a violation of section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under 'right to peaceful assembly and association' which clearly states:
'Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.'
Consequently, I would like to invite relevant authorities to conduct a comprehensive review of the illicit activities of the National Open University of Nigeria.
Those running the University must understand that the objective for setting up the institution was to disseminate knowledge, not as a ploy to take advantage of a student community mainly dominated by those at the lowest level of our economic ladder. That will not be acceptable going forward!
Writer and activist