The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, met with heads of regulatory bodies in Nigeria’s education sector as part of efforts to douse the tension over hike in registration fees in some tertiary institutions.
At the meeting were the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Prof Abubakar Rasheed; Executive Secretary, National Commission for Colleges of Education, Prof Paulinus Okwelle; and representative of the National Board for Technical Education, Bilkisu Ahmad.
Lawan, in his opening address, noted that the meeting was a follow-up to an earlier one he had last week with the Coalition of Northern Groups – Students’ Wing, which complained about a plan by some tertiary institutions to hike registration fees.He said, “We felt that we actually owe it a duty to listen to our students and, of course, also hear from you because we need to establish beyond reasonable doubt what the situation is.
Whatever situations we find ourselves, we must not do anything that will jeopardise the position of our students, particularly at a time that is so difficult.
“We understand that our tertiary institutions need more resources but we equally understand that our students are mostly from very poor background and we must do everything possible to protect those who are so vulnerable.
“The finances for their education must never be hurdles between them and actualising their dreams.
So, we have to find out how this situation is and we take the appropriate measures because you represent the supervising bodies for our tertiary institutions, we felt that we should start with you, listen to you and then we can now find a way out of this.
Responding on behalf of other stakeholders, Rasheed commended the Senate President for his timely intervention.He said, “Your concern is shared by all of us. It will, at this point, be difficult to know exactly which universities are violating or not.
But after this meeting, we shall consult all the universities with a template to complete and tell us exactly what charges they have. “We shall advertise. If we are misled, we shall be able to get to know.
We understand that universities cannot be forced to charge uniform fees across the country because they have different demands and they come from different situations.
“Possibly, a university in Lagos or Port Harcourt may charge slightly more than universities in some rural areas. But there should be a base line.
One university cannot charge N20, 000 while the other charges N150, 000 in a country where tuition had been free since 1978 at the undergraduate level.
“We are happy that you have now raised this alarm on time and I will go back immediately, consult vice-chancellors and if possible, we shall bring them to a meeting to discuss whatever resolution we arrive at, at the end of this meeting.”