Vehicular activities were paralyzed for hours on Tuesday afternoon on the ever busy Ilesha-Akure highway. Students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, in Osun State, took to the streets to protest against what they called the ‘outrageous incremental rise’ in their tuition fees.

Students numbering in the thousands chanted solidarity songs, as they blocked the highways, and local streets, to prevent a free flow of traffic, and easy passage of commuters on the road.

Several travelers plying the road were stranded for several hours, pleading with the students, and their leaders, to open the road for a free flow of traffic.

Sources told SaharaReporters that the students were led by the newly elected Students Union Government (SUG) president, Mr. Comrade Ibikunle Isaac.

Many of the students were armed with leaflets, and placards, bearing several inscriptions with a message to drive home their point. Some of the signs read as follows: “MY FATHER IS AN OKADA MAN NO MONEY;" "FG FUNDED EDUCATION WITH 26% ALLOCATIONS!;" While another read, "OAU STUDENTS SAY NO TO TUITION INCREMENT." Other signs were more pointed, such as: "OMOLE, BRING DOWN OUR SCHOOL FEE;” “OMOLE, YOU ENJOYED FREE EDUCATION WHY (are you) KILLING IT?" But the main messages shared by most taking part in the protests hit the point home, with:  “THE POOR DESERVES QUALITY EDUCATION TOO THERE IS GOD O” among others.

Many Post-Graduate students who were scheduled to have lectures at around 10:00 am, were barred from entering the institution by the protesting students.

The Post Graduate Degree students were later lured-in to join the protesters as most were convinced to fight for the same cause.

At the early hour of 7:30 am, the students trooped out from their various departments, faculties, and destinations, and converged at a car park inside the school. It was there that they discussed the rational of their protest and movement.

The Car park venue was also used to distribute placards before they moved-on and  outside of the Campus. Many had later stayed-put at the front of a private university the Oduduwa University, with the intent to close down the campus, which also runs along the Akure/Ilesha-Ibadan-Lagos road.

Security personnel manning the Oduduwa university grounds had ensured the school officials that the protesting students would not barricade the front gate of their institution. They delivered repeated warning to section-off the students for their gathering, and not engage in the disrupting of their own peace.

Handbills were distributed by the students to many stranded travelers, with a well coordinated write up on their plight over the tuition hike, and their agitation and frustration.

The Students allege that the management of the institution had indiscriminately hiked their tuition fee from N17, 000.00 (Seventeen Thousand Naira) to over N100, 000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira).

Addressing his school colleagues, the Student Union Government (SUG) president, Comrade Ibikunle Isaac, said the other student leaders had met several times with the management of the school over the issue. Ibikunle has a lot at stake in this struggle, he is a rising Law Student graduate with a level 500 rating.  

Isaac added that after several meeting with the Students Union leaders, and school representatives, the management stood strongly behind their call for the tuition hikes, which he said the students would not accept.

Ibikunle said the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Bamitale Omole, had promised to reverse the increase in tuition fees at the meeting, which was held at the school Senate Building.

"We have exhausted all peaceful means, and even met with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union University (ASUU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) as well the alumni body of the institution, to help us appeal to the management.

"But its unfortunate,” he said, “that there was no positive response and we deemed it fit to result into a protest to show our grievances."

He claimed that the institution’s vice chancellor had bluntly told them during a meeting that the directive to increase the tuition fee came directly from the federal government, who said they can't fund education again in the country (without a tuition hike.)

"It was the Vice Chancellor that told us during a meeting that the federal government directed them to increase the school (fees) because government cannot continue to fund education," Ibikunle stated. 

Security personnel also found it difficult to control the rage of the students. The students dared them to say, "Many of you have children in this school, and we hope you won't allow this (same) situation to (also) happen to them". One of the students told of a Police officer who had threatened to arrest any students caught at site.

Some Candidates of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), billed to write and work on the Computer Based Test Mode introduced by the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination body, were also affected by the protest. All buses, cars, and motorcycles moving candidates to the venue were stopped from passage.

Students of the institution have been at loggerheads with the management over the sudden increment in their acceptance fee, from N2. 000.00 (Two thousand Naira), to N20. 000.00 (Twenty thousand Naira). These new fees mostly affected the then newly admitted students, now in year One (100Level), which led to the massive protest, and had closed down of the institution for three months.

An analysis made by a SaharaReporters correspondent revealed that newly admitted students into the institution would be paying N74. 000.00 (Seventy Four Thousand Naira), against N17. 000.00 (Seventeen Thousand Naira), representing a steep increase.

The above fees exclude the acceptance fee of N20. 000.00 (Twenty Thousand Naira) payment, while the Old students, or returning students, would have to cough up N50. 000.00 (Fifty Thousand Naira), against the normal N7. 000. 00 (Seven Thousand Naira) fee.

Efforts by SaharaReporters to speak with the Information officer of the institution proved unsuccessful as mobile telephone lines were not connecting.

The high increase in school fees always sparks a protest among tertiary institution students across Nigeria.

The Students of the Lagos State University, the LASU, for example, are still battling with the rate hike in their own tuition fees.

Many of the students, SaharaReporters has learned, have refused to attend lectures in recent days over the proposed tuition rate hikes.

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