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Re-OAU Alumni Condemn Students’ Protest

March 15, 2011

My attention has been drawn to a news report in The Guardian newspaper of Tuesday March 15, 2011 with the caption: “OAU alumni condemn students protest”. In the said publication, the National Executive Council of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Alumni Association described the recent protest by the institution’s students’ union against the N20, 000 acceptance fees for the newly admitted students as ‘unwarranted’.

My attention has been drawn to a news report in The Guardian newspaper of Tuesday March 15, 2011 with the caption: “OAU alumni condemn students protest”. In the said publication, the National Executive Council of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Alumni Association described the recent protest by the institution’s students’ union against the N20, 000 acceptance fees for the newly admitted students as ‘unwarranted’.

According to the alumni association, the institution remains the cheapest institution in Nigeria till date. It also affirmed that “while the average tuition fees and accommodation in other first generation universities is N50, 000 and private universities is N300, 000 till date, accommodation fees for bed space per session in OAU is N3, 090 and the total fees payable per new student remains about N34, 500 per session…”

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As an undergraduate student of OAU, I find it imperative to respond to the above statement because as a student of history, I have learnt that if we do not live to tell our story, others who did not experience what we went through, who are not equipped with the fact of history, and who, therefore, would not situate actions properly in their context may do it for us. The result will still be history, but it will be incomplete, inadequate and ill-informed. Personally, I find it hard to believe that OAU alumni could come out with the above statement. To start with, may I ask these alumni, including their President, what they paid while they were undergraduates in OAU?  In fact, the statement credited to the alumni showed their high level of insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian students and parents. In a country where the living standard has fallen below expectation, in the environment where over 70% are living below $2 dollars per day, and in the nation where millions of students are roaming the streets simply because they cannot afford the astronomic fees that are being charged by the Nigerian institutions, and considering the fact that they pay almost to nothing when they were students, the OAU alumni who are supposed to be at the vanguard of campaign against fee hike are coming out boldly to say that they see nothing wrong in this obnoxious increment!

It is in record that OAU has a long tradition of affordability, this also explain the reason why the institution has the largest concentration of brilliant students from poor homes. Someone like me would not have been a university student if not for the affordability of OAU. Even when I was admitted, without anybody to foot my academic expenses, I found it very hard to pay the N13, 300 which were our school fees at that time. My experience with other colleagues also told a lot about the poverty level that is prevalent in OAU. I am also sure that some of these alumni would not have been university graduates today if they had not attended OAU or if they had been required to pay outrageous fees.

Hear the council, “No parents in his/her right senses would say that N20, 000 is too much as acceptance fees for his ward when that sum cannot see an apprentice through training as an artisan!” The above statement credited to OAU alumni is nothing but unfortunate. I am cocksure that this view represents just the position of the minority of ex-students who participate in alumni association for self-serving interests including patronage from the university management as contactors. Most of the alumni who appreciate the tradition of the institution which offers the children from poor background access to university education would denounce this seemingly shocking position of the executive.

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Personally, this “acceptance fee” remains bizarre to me as the authorities never for once offer the convincing explanation for it. Having gone through the rigors of obtaining and writing UME as well as being subjected to the hardship that accompanies Post UME and having eventually qualified to be admitted into higher institution, why then does such a student need to pay for accepting such admission which he/she labored for?

The alumni association also voiced out its reservation for the peaceful protests which led to the indefinite closure of OAU. To them, we may murmur but we must not express our grievances loudly. Unknown to the council, this will annoy any student that worth his salt and further ossify his resolve to advance the struggle. After all, from the time of Martin Luther, that great Professor of Theology who lived in the 16th century, University has been designed to create critical minds not simpleton or dogmatic species. This is why all over the world university is haven of resistance against oppression and exploitation in society. And in Ife, we perhaps represent this ideal better than any university in Nigeria; our tracks records are enviable and unbeatable. We have a rich history of progressive peaceful struggles in defense of our rights and interests as well as those of the working and the toiling masses one of which earned us the appellation: Great Ife.

No good alumni comprising good crisis managers will blame students for embarking on peaceful protest against fees increase in this contemporary democratic dispensation. Surely, the world had even seen the students of prestigious Oxford and Harvard University who protested against obnoxious fees increment. And in the case of the former, the struggle was led by Willy Straw, the son of Jack Straw, former British Foreign Secretary. Also recently students across Great Britain (including students of Greenwich University) embarked on a massive protest against attack on university education with introduction of outrageous fees. All the above protests took place without closure of these institutions or victimization of the student leadership.

Finally, rather than embarking on a campaign of denigration, I would love it better if the alumni executive would join people like me in appealing to the University Management to re-open our campus if they truly meant their words that they are concerned when the future of their children is being mortgaged.

Adewale Stephen
Dept of History,
Part IV
Obafemi Awolowo University,
Ile-Ife, Osun State
Nigeria
07090539424