Students of tertiary institutions in Ondo State are not relenting in their calls for the governor of the state, Rotimi Akeredolu, to immediately review downwards their school fees.
Both the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA) and the Ondo State University of Science Technology, Okitipupa (OSUSTECH) have been closed down over students’ agitation for fees reduction.
The state government had increased the school fees with about 200 per cent last year, when it decided that the initial rates operated under the previous administration were unsustainable.
Although the protest began on Tuesday, it degenerated into a confrontation on Wednesday when the police tried to force the protesting students out of the streets of Akure.
The policemen fired teargas at the protesting students who had mounted blockade at the busy Arakale road and Oba Adesida.
The students, who were mainly from AAUA and OSUSTECH, told journalists that many of their colleagues sustained varying degrees of injuries after the police teargas attack.
As the students moved their protests to the NEPA area, with placards, many residents and commuters were stranded for several hours.
A student from the Adekunle Ajasin University, Ibidapo Adefunke, who was affected by the teargas, said the police had always been an enemy of mass action.
“You can see the police using all the force they have; you witnessed it. This has been a peaceful protest, but the police are making it as if it is a war zone,” she said.
“They have just fired teargas on us and we have to run for our dear life but we will not relent. We would surely come back.”
The President of the Student Union, AAUA, Samuel Adesomoju, described the teargas attack against the students as inhuman.
He said the protest had been peaceful and that the attack by the police “was callous and an oppression of the students.”
Mr Adesomoju said the protesters would not succumb to police brutality, as they had all resolved to oppose the increment.
“This is unjust and it is inhuman and both AAUA and OSUSTECH have all been at home for three weeks now. We are saying no to all the satanic increments in our universities by Governor Akeredolu’s government,” he said.
“We have tried all we could to make the governor understand us but he has failed to listen. He showed he is recalcitrant, arrogant and draconic. And for peace reign, we are calling on the Governor to reduce the hike in our tuition in tertiary institutions of the state.”
Meanwhile, the management of AAUA has reacted to the protest by the students, saying that some of the allegations being peddled by the students were false.
In a statement made available to journalists on Wednesday, the Acting Registrar of the institution, Opeoluwa Akinfemiwa, said those spreading the “lies” that the institution had increased its school fees were “unscrupulous” and “compromised elements.”
She said the students were alleging that Adekunle Ajasin University had again, increased fees payable in the institution and that the school fees had been raised to N250,000 per session.
“While we do not want to speculate on why they are toeing this path of lies and infamy, Management wishes to state firmly and unequivocally that:
“1. There is no new increase of school fees in AAUA.
“2. Current school fees in AAUA range between N80,000 and N150,000.
“3. The students are allowed to pay twice i.e. between N40,000 and N75,000 per semester.
“4. The demand during the recent protest of students was for the University to allow those who have not paid their school fees to write tests/examinations while they pay their school fees later.
“5. Parents and Guardians are advised to ensure that their children and wards pay their school fees without delay, especially since they have the option of paying twice over two semesters.”
Mrs Akinfewa said the schedule of school fees charged in AAUA, “with effect from April 2018 range between N80,000 and N150,000 per year, depending on the course or level of study.”
She noted that the above figures were negotiated with relevant ‘stakeholders’, including the students and their parents, “and finalised in April last year.”
“It is instructive to note that almost a session has passed since then and students have paid without any issue,” she said.
“It is, therefore, surprising that some people are now coming up with issue of reduction in school fees – an issue that was negotiated, agreed upon and finalised in 2018, a period of over a year ago.
“Management is hereby urging members of the public to note that the school fees payable in Adekunle Ajasin University remain as negotiated with the students since April last year. All lies, insinuations, and rumours contrary to the above stated facts should be ignored and discountenanced, please.”