– By Olopade Oluwasegunfunmilola
The Senate Chambers around 6:07pm on Thursday, 5 April, 2018 was filled with Students’ Leaders from various halls of residence, faculties and departments, with members of the Union of Campus Journalists, Deans of Faculties, Dean of Student Affairs, Provost and Deputy Provost College of Medicine, DVCs, Hall Wardens, and other Principal Officers in the University.
The meeting, which was headed by the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka, was summoned to commune and deliberate with the students on how to run the coming 2017/2018 session successfully without further hindrances from the students. He started by asking everyone to suggest things to be discussed in the meeting.
Olanrewaju Olanshile (a 400L Animal Science student and the Hall Chairman, Kenneth Mellanby Hall) stood up to highlight his suggestions, as the VC interrupted him and asked the principal officers on seat to introduce themselves. After the introduction, Olanshile then continued with his statements. He stated exactly what many people had to say; and of course, all were on the increment in accommodation levies and school fees.
“Accommodation levy has been increased from 14,000 naira to 30,000 naira for those in main campus, while the people in ABH will have to pay 40,000 naira because they stay all year round”. The Vice Chancellor started to address the issues on ground by affirming the content of the just released undergraduate levies and fees. While still addressing the issue, he talked about his proposal to the Senate on Monday, 19 March 2018 when the Senate met, which was rejected, and this made the Senate to conclude on the said amounts. The reasons for the increment in accommodation fees are due to the high cost of maintenance which the management has for long subsidized, but would no longer be possible. The VC also mentioned that there is little or no help on the maintenance of halls of residence again from the Federal Government. The Dean of Student Affairs, Prof. A.T.P Ajuwape, was asked about the fumigation of the halls of residence; which he said all undergraduate halls have been fumigated, except for Mellanby Hall that would be done the second time due to bed bugs, and also all postgraduate halls and ABH. The VC also mentioned that some locks and nets must be repaired as urgent as possible. He talked about sanitation and cleaning of halls, water and the biggest of it all – electricity.
Professor Olayinka further emphasized that “accommodation in University of Ibadan is optional”. He made accounts on reasons why most students do not need to bother on the increment, because the halls are basically for fresh and final year students. “We have admitted 3,960 students for the coming session. And we have just 8,300 bedspaces in University of Ibadan, in which 7,000 are for the Undergraduate Halls”. He continued with his analysis. “Lautech are not having bedspaces, and they are not second class citizens. I don’t think we have to worry about bedspace, because it’s optional. You can come from anywhere you like.”
In no time, another person stood up with a comment on the discussion. Ojo Gbenga (Zik Hall Chairman) spoke out of concern. After all illustrations and gesticulations in explaining his plight, he said “Sir, it’s too much”. The VC interrupted “accommodation in UI is a luxury. We have people that stay in BQs and some from home. It would have been another option if we were in Babcock, where accommodation is compulsory.”
This seemed so unpleasing to many hall chairpersons, faculty presidents and leaders on seats, while the VC called upon the Bursar to clarify the issue. Mr. Michael Akinade Alatise started with a statement “Nothing can be free again in tertiary institutions in Nigeria”. He gave statistics of 40-45million naira being spent on electricity per month (when school is on session); and 18-20 million naira per month during holidays. He went on and on to also make analysis of the expenses on water supply to the halls, sanitation and cleaning. In his statement “the university is not making any money from the accommodation levy. The money goes to individual hall accounts with the wardens.” The Bursar pleaded to the students to cooperate and partner with the present administration, to run the session successfully.
Despite spending over two hours already, the issues concerning accommodation could not be repudiated. The Provost for College of Medicine also made names on the expenses in Alexander Brown Hall, and why the increment is inevitable.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) Academics also joined the discussion. He explained that the increment should have happened 3 years ago, when a committee (students inclusive) was set up to check some selected institutions. The committee came back with a proposal to increase the accommodation fee to 46,000 naira. But the students’ representatives then did not sign it. Another committee recommended 62,000 naira, which was discarded.
At this point, people were more eager to talk and respond. The Sultan Bello Hall Mayor spoke expressly. He also pleaded for a reduction in the outrageous increase in the accommodation levies. The Hall Chairman of ABH finally got to talk. He gave several analysis and illustrations, he explained the results from the opinion poll conducted, and he questioned the reason(s) why ABH has to pay more than other halls of residence in the university community. He swiftly talked about the levies on Medical Professional Trainings. He pleaded to the VC to consider the ‘poor’ students, because it was coming as a shock to them.
The Vice Chancellor interrupted him that the discussion was still on accommodation levies. He then requested for a resolution on the discussions so far. He said “We are all under authorities. I am also under an authority. But all your points are taken into notes, and will be taken back to the Senate for reconsideration.”
At about 8:37pm, then the discussion on school fees started proper. The VC read a presentation on the school fees schedule from his laptop. He mentioned the faculties, departments and levels that were affected with the increment. Stating that the increment was the unanimous decision of all Deans of Faculties at the last Senate Meeting, and the reasons were because of the departments in some faculties that embark on field trips and practical, and for the medical students with professional trainings in their clinical year(s).
Another chance for questions was given. This time, the President for the Central Literary and Debating Society, University of Ibadan raised an observation that the meeting called was rather too late for the deliberations, if truly the management had the students at heart. There are just few days to resumption, and the opinions of the students are now being called for. He also stressed, that before any discussion on the current issues, there should be a review on the issue of transparency and some other rational things which need clarification before any decision would be made on the current though pressing issues. He ended his statements with a question for the VC on how sure the money to be paid would surely be used on the claimed issues.
The Administrator-General of Independence Hall, Bamidele Emmanuel Olayinka in unison, questioned the increment in the accommodation levies. He pleaded with the authority to have a volte-face on the fees. To confirm the apt spending of funds allocated to halls of residence till date, the Deputy Vice President Editorial for UCJ UI, Sanya Martins requested that the report on funds allocated to halls be presented to the press. With few words from the DVC Academics, no one remembered to ask for the report anymore.
Despite the fact that the discussion should have been on school fees, the students’ leaders seemed to worry more on the accommodation levies. A representative from the Postgraduate Hall (Tafawa Balewa), stood up to also ask about their accommodation levy and school fees, since nothing has been said about it. The Vice Chancellor ordered the DVC Admin to respond to it. The DVC apologized for the delay, and said there will surely be an increment in the levy payable in postgraduate halls and it would be published soon. He stated some possibilities that a 3 man room will be 50,000 naira, a 2 man room will be 70,000 naira, and a 1 man room will be 120,000 naira. This caused more confusions, as the representative started pleading to the management to have mercy. The DVC continued on school fees, that they might not pay more than the previous fees for those that were undergraduate students of university of Ibadan, while those that came from other schools would pay 5,000 naira as against the 2,500 naira levied on verification of certificates.
At about 8:48pm, the Vice Chancellor called for a close of the meeting. This was when more hands were up, to also explain their minds. The table turned to the side of the students’ leaders from ABH. The meeting seemed not to end any time soon, when a representative of medical students took a turn. He started by appreciating the efforts of the Provost for College of Medicine on the renovation ongoing in the hall, courtesy of the alumni. He then started with facts and figures, and reiterated that the medical students cannot afford to pay such fees, and so, they are not going to pay. He further explained that 33% of the entire Medical Students will prefer to drop out of school, from the opinion poll conducted recently. He continued in his analysis, facts and amazing figures, while almost everyone became silent and he got all the attention. When it was becoming embarrassing, as the Provost said, he was interrupted and cautioned for being too emotional. “College of Medicine students are trained to handle human lives; a doctor cannot afford to be emotional”. He said he was surprised that these people have not been telling the true side of the story. That the information has reached them since March 22nd and has explained in detailed to them. “Without these monies been paid, there won’t be exams”. He explained further that there is a need to renovate the 29 departments in College of Medicine, so as to get accredited, aside the fine of 12 million naira payable to the governing bodies immediately. The provost continued in his explanation. “Apart from upgrading the facilities, all the health professional courses are directed by the professional bodies who even check the halls. Hence, the need to pay so as to renovate on time. There is a need for more teachers in the college. The money being asked to be paid is not even the full amount, the school will still have to support.” The Provost ended his statement that ABH might be locked while students would be asked to go home, if the school management discovers any form of intrusion that may cause danger for the students.
At this point around 9:08pm, the Vice Chancellor already packed his diary and pen, while the President of College of Medicine hurriedly stood up to seek the attention of the VC for just a minute. He was pleading on behalf of the medical students, that the fees should be considered. And that the VC should give him his words that the fees would be rescheduled appropriately for the sake of his members. He wished to continue begging before the VC interrupted him that there would be another meeting on Tuesday, 10 April 2018 for the PTA and Stakeholders, which is to be published in Punch Newspaper today, meanwhile the students are also invited.
At exactly 9:13pm, the VC closed the meeting and told everyone goodnight. But surprisingly, some medical students from ABH (about 50 of them) were already waiting on the street along the Central Admin building, for the VC to step out. When he was sighted, they attacked him with words and were singing. He sparingly escaped the scene as the students became more vicious. This happened for almost another 30minutes, before they all went back to the hall with songs.