A rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP on Thursday called on the management of the University of Ibadan and Adekunle Ajasin University to reverse the recent hike in fees being paid by their students or be ready to face legal action.
The group, in a statement released by its deputy director, Timothy Adewale, argued that the hike in fees would take education out of the reach of children of the Nigerian masses.
The statement reads: “The universities ought to have carefully considered the effects of high fees on accessibility and the vision of education that they seek to achieve.
“The universities are advised to find solutions to their funding difficulties elsewhere. But if they fail to reverse these fees within seven days of the publication of this statement, SERAP would take appropriate legal action to compel them to do so.
“The dramatic increases would have the effect of discriminating against disadvantaged students who may be unable to pay the new fees, and who are not granted an exemption, thereby creating a classification based on the economic and social status of their parents. The increases would also undermine the students’ rights to education and equal protection guarantees.
“The inability of the students or their parents to pay these fees would result in an absolute deprivation of a meaningful opportunity for the students to enjoy the educational benefit. Increasing fees because the authorities are not adequately funding the two institutions is victimizing the students over an issue they have neither control nor responsibility.
“Students that are unable to pay these fees may become disillusioned, gradually disassociate from the universities, and eventually drop out entirely. When a student is excluded from gaining the full benefits available in public school because of inability to pay fees, the effect is exclusion which naturally imposes a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of students not accountable for their disabling status.”
SERAP further argued that the increment in fee was tantamount to punishing the students for the failure of the government to adequately fund public universities.
While the UI had recently increased accommodation and professional training fees for students, AAU increased its tuition fees.
UI reportedly hiked its accommodation fee from N14,000 to N40,000 per student, while the professional training fees were raised to between N75,000 to N100,000 per student, while AAU increased its tuition fees from about N35,000 to between N120,000 and N200,000 per session.
However, SERAP called on the National Assembly to come up with legislation that would end the arbitrary imposition of fees in public schools, and grant exemptions to students from the disadvantaged background.
The group also asked the National Assembly to ensure that universities are adequately funded on an equitable basis to ensure the proper exercise of the rights to equal protection of law and education and redress inequalities in education provision.