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LASU Tuition Fee Hike: Breach Of Social Contract By Hassan Mohammed

June 9, 2014

We, as a people, must never allow a government that will handicap citizens because of their socio-economic status.

The moment support transforms blind loyalty, then everyone is in trouble. And that is my greatest problem with supporters of PDP. Apparently, it is going to be so with APC supporters too. The debate on the education policy of one of the APC controlled states is still raging. While some argue that the state is right to jack up the tuition fees in its higher institution, ten-fold, some felt otherwise. 

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I, for one, have argued that it is an anti-people policy. I have argued that that Governor Fashola may be good for his state, performance-wise, and may be the fee-policy is good for the people of the state too. But if he is to ever get the chance to manage our national education, he will be a disaster for my people. It is no gain saying that the North is barely managing to catch on to other regions in educational development. It will be suicidal to support a policy that will clearly make the situation worst. 

The government position is that it needs to charge high fees to provide quality education. The problem with that argument is that if paying high fees equals quality education, those of us that paid next to nothing received poor quality education. We had that kind of education because Awolowo, Sardauna and Azikwe did not steal the money that is meant for management of education, or allocate a large chunk of it to themselves as pension. They did not design any golden parachute for themselves. 

The current crop will steal all the billions meant for development, then shout "no money" to run education. The poor must pay. To do that is to ask the poor to bear the burden of their stealing. But all that is by the way. I want to look at the politics of it all, in relation to what his party said it represents and will do, should Nigerians hand power to it. 

You will all recall that about few months ago, APC released its manifesto, which it tagged "Road Map To A New Nigeria", consisting of 8 key items of APC's "cardinal programmes"; 1. War Against Corruption 2. Food Security 3. Accelerated Power Supply 4. Integrated Transport Network 5. FREE EDUCATION*** 6. Devolution of Power 7. Accelerated Economic Growth 8. Affordable Health Care 

Note item 5 of the manifesto. It is about providing free education from primary to tertiary education. On tertiary education, the manifesto specifically states that, APC will "provide free tertiary education to students pursuing Science and Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), provide free tertiary education to education majors and stipends prior to their employment as teachers; and to create incentives and dedicate special attention to the education of girls". 

Now the question, how can anyone, in truth, create incentives and dedicate special attention to girl education if the girl or her parents must cough out quarter of a million as fees? That is not an incentive. It is a disincentive. In a culture that gives preference to boys, Lagos state and indeed many others will record a step back in the enrollment of girls in higher institutions. Many a parent will be forced to make that dreadful decision between sponsoring that brilliant girl or that dumb boy. And the odds are heavily stacked against the brilliant girl. 

A party manifesto is not, in any way, a list of suggestions. It is a public contract; a social contract between the aspiring government (political party) and the people it hope to govern, that should a people elect it, it is promising them a commitment to honour and provide them with the promise. As a checklist of obligations, manifestos serve as pointers to success and failure. What the ruling party does/achieve goes to its success corner, and what it fails to do/achieve naturally proceeds to its failure corner. 

What we see now is that even before the journey starts, we are going to push promised "free education" to science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and education students, and incentives to girls to the corner of failure. Education should be to the willing and deserving, not only for the privileged few. It is not a curse that some people are too poor to provide some basic things for themselves. Leaders must create avenues to help citizens climb out of poverty. And education has been proven to be one sure bet to social mobility. 

We, as a people, must never allow a government that will handicap citizens because of their socio-economic status. We cannot be in a system that allows a George Bush Jnr like person to go to University because his father is rich, while an Einstein whose father is poor becomes a bricklayer. And it seems this one APC governors is already breaching that social contract; either because he did not get the memo, or that he got it but misunderstood his party's "credo", or that he understood it well but never really bought into or commit to the idea. It may also be that he misconstrues the governance road map presented to Nigerians as the TO-WIN-ELECTION manifesto. So, all they need do is wave it to people before election, and soon after winning, they will just bring out from their pockets, the "AFTER-THE-WIN" program, and start torturing people with it. I believe that that may not be the case. That man's action is his own, and his alone. He, as a friend once said to me, is arrogantly intoxicated with his "success" in his own backyard that he feels he can do just about anything. 

But by letting him go ahead with this elitist and anti-people policy, the party is owning his actions. And unless, of course, they are saying the "free education" mentioned in the manifesto exclude the people of that state, the party should checkmate him now, or simply strike out the free education part, and reduce the items to 7. But it must leave the school fees the way they currently are, until they win the national election, improve the lives of Nigerians significantly, then think of incremental adjustments of the fees as people improve economically. Never by some crazy 1,000% jump. Until then, people should never expect us to keep quiet. It is not going to happen! We'll not transfer ourselves from one wickedly insensitive bunch to another equally wicked and insensitive bunch. No way! It is total and complete change or nothing. That, I believe, is what progressives represent. Any policy that says the sons and daughters of local government workers, barbers, mechanics, primary school teachers, farmers, soldiers, policemen, etc cannot go school until they steal government money, dupe their fellow citizens or engage in ritual killing must be resisted. We cannot afford to have a class segregation in any aspect of our lives, especially education.


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