On a grey, cloudy afternoon in March, a dozen students at the Anthony campus of the Lagos State University (LASU) huddled around a notice board. Pasted on the board, propped against a wooden bench on the floor, were the final year results of two departments – the 2003/04 and 2007/08 batches of students in Mass Communication and Economics Departments respectively.
But the late release of the results, now a tradition at the School of Part Time (otherwise known as LASU External System) established in 2002, is just one of the myriad problems students in the institution face.
A protracted delay in issuing certificates to graduates, non-issuance of identity cards to students, and delay in payment of lecturers’ remuneration have ensured that the school continues to churn out young people who are already frustrated with the system.
“Before I came in, we had some people that came in 2002 and some of them just got their results last two years. Even up till date, like 90 per cent of them have not received their certificates,” said Julius Adeoye, a 500-level student of the Department of Literature and English.
“LASU is a good university but the structure is bad,” added Mr. Adeoye, who had spent seven years studying a five-year course.
A passing interest
With 10 satellite campuses spread across the state – eight on the mainland and two on the island – and a student population of more than 70,000; the LASU authorities have paid just a passing interest in students’ affairs at the External System.
And the absence of a well coordinated and united student body have meant the students find it difficult to present a common front and confront the university management.
“We have the Ojo (main campus) having the concentration of the management while the external system, which is like the power house where they generate more money, is not taken care of.
“And the reason is because in a conventional university, we have the student union, but in the external system, LASU management has been trying to subdue the body of students who are trying to fight for the benefit of the students. That is why we are having some of these problems,” said Mr. Adeoye, a member of the Students Representative Council.
Perhaps, one of the most worrying things for the students is the non-issuance of student identity cards by the management.
According to the students, some of them have come under severe police harassment and brutality due to their inability to “identify” themselves when accosted by the officers.
“In fact, they arrest some of our students and they take them for (bus) conductors because they don’t have student identity cards to show that they are students of LASU.
“That is why some of the departments have started to produce ID cards for their students because we’ve had issues whereby some of our students will stay for like a week in the police station,” Mr. Adeoye said.
The LASU School of Part Time was established to help solve the problem of manpower requirements of the state among other objectives, according to the institution.
In addition, it aimed to take education nearer and closer to the people of Lagos State through its multi-campus status in line with the Edict establishing it.
A lot of the graduates – who refer to themselves as ‘out gone students’ because “they do not have proofs of being graduates” – say it is difficult retaining their jobs after graduation, not to talk of getting new ones.
One of them who identified himself simply as Tobi said that he was “politely” asked to leave by his former employer when he failed to tender any testimonial eight years after he said he was a part-time student.
“My employer thought I’d been lying to him all these years because he had really supported and encouraged me during my programme,” said Tobi, who finished from the Jibowu campus last year.
“I couldn’t even present to him a ‘To whom it may concern’ from the school. He was disappointed,” he added.
Lecturers play their aces
The university, which prides itself as the “preferred university of excellence with cutting edge research,” has a history of delaying, or outright failure in some cases, in payment of lecturers’ remuneration across all its campuses.
Premium Times investigations reveal that the school pays lecturers N38,000 (after a N2,000 tax deduction) per course.
Furthermore, a lecturer must not exceed teaching two courses in a particular campus and a total of four courses in all the campuses.
Lecturers are also ‘forbidden’ from selling course handouts or collecting money under any guise from the students.
“If you are unlucky to have just one course, it means you will be paid N38,000 in four months,” said a student leader at the Jibowu campus..
As a result, the lecturers play their aces – seize students’ examination papers until they are paid.
Ade Alabi (not his real name) is a lecturer in one of the campuses and he describes the challenges he faces as “numerous.”
“The very first one is that there is no proper package, arrangement for lecturers.
“For lecturers to come over to the school, he or she will be hanging around. No special place that we could call an office, for us to relax after teaching the students,” says Mr. Alabi.
When asked if he’d ever withheld students’ results to press home his demands, Mr. Alabi responds:
“Students’ results? Of course, that’s gonna be now. In a situation whereby a lecturer is not paid, how will you expect the lecturer to submit the result of the student? He or she is not gonna do that.”
“In a situation you are expecting your cheque, and you need money for so many things, you are not paid. Definitely, the only avenue you hold them to ransom is to seize the result which in one way or the other affect the students.”
The lecturers who are either teaching full time or handling just one course are always the worst hit; the current semester began last September and is still unfinished as at April.
“We are still awaiting cheques of close to two semesters now,” Mr. Alabi says.
Serial graft such as the recent allegations of embezzlement of N3bn by the institution’s senior staff is to blame for the crisis in the External System and has led to the freezing of the account in question; the lecturers say they were told by school authorities.
“It is a transfer of aggression that is affecting the students and the lecturers at the same time,” said another lecturer who did not want to be named.
A statement on the institution’s website stated that the School of Part Time was established to operate the various part-time programs approved by the University Senate in its various campuses with the relationship between the School and staff being purely contractual, and the expectation that its operations would not be truncated by “strikes knock-outs.”
‘We are struggling’
However, the university management says they are “struggling” to manage the spate of problems.
In September last, after series of students’ protests at the main campus in Ojo over the alleged high-handedness of Professor Lateef Hussein, the then Vice Chancellor (VC); Professor John Obafunwa was appointed as his replacement.
Sola Fosudo of LASU’s Media and Information unit said the problems at the External System should be blamed on all the past vice chancellors.
“They are responsible for the backlog of unissued results and certificates as well as students’ identity cards,” Mr. Fosudo said in an interview with Premium Times.
“I am aware that the new VC (Prof Obafunwa) has been signing certificates in his office, in his car, in his house,” he added.
Mr. Fosudo also said that they have been having meetings with some students from the External System and that they are trying “to correct the errors of the past.”
“In the next two months, if these issues persist, then you can come and query us.”
Mr. Adeoye and other students say they have prepared for a life of uncertainty after graduation, if the problems are not nipped in the bud.
“Some of our parents sold family lands to send us to school in the hope of after the result, you get a good job, and you buy them lands or maybe houses… But you enter for a programme of five years and you are spending seven years, and you don’t have results,” Mr. Adeoye said.
“It doesn’t make sense that you will spend seven years in an institution and you graduate and you cannot get a result. This is my seventh year and I’m not sure I will get my results in the next three years.”