WITHDRAW THE THREAT TO STUDENTS OF ABIA STATE UNIVERSITY/’PROTEST IS A RIGHT’ – MSA
The Abia State University school administration through the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Onyemachi Maxwell Ogbulu had informed the public of their intention to increase school fees. A circular issued by Deputy VC Prof. Emezue threatened students not to embark on any protest, and consciously reduced the issue at stake to the question of unpaid school fees by students.
The right to protest is a democratic right and the university both as an idea and practice must be seen defending those rights, not attempting to stifle them. MSA welcomes the position of the university’s management to hold a fresh interactive meeting session with students. However, this doesn’t automatically mean students will suspend the idea of organizing a protest when they choose to organize one.
The task before management is to put in place all the machinery to ensure that its voice and position on all issues is expressed: no more, no less. Added to this, students are not under any compulsion to see issues from the perspective of the management. This is not when the school administration is engaged in doublespeak, seeking all ways to increase fees. Even when it acknowledges some students are currently unable to pay the current fee. However, management increases further while reducing the production of the necessary skilled hands needed for the development of the Abia state and the country.
The MSA is opposed to the commercialization of public education, and any attempt to send students out of school based on their inability to pay school fees. This background acknowledged that public education is a right and the country is rich enough to invest public resources in it to build her skilled labour that would, in turn, impact the development of the country.
Therefore, accusing students who want to organize a protest action to defend their right to be educated and oppose any proposed hike as out to “destroy the properties of the university”, is a white-black lie painted. It is a demonstration of the desperation of the School authority to cow students from exercising their right to protest, in opposition to any new hike in school fees.
It is even more laughable that the school authority is here limiting the issue to unpaid school fees. This is diversionary and poly to mislead the public. At no time have we insisted the majority of students be owing their fee and freshers pay up before they are registered. It is therefore the VC, Prof. Ogbulu, and his management staff that is hiding something.
The staff unions and student bodies must as a matter of urgency demand the opening of the accounts. Lecturers are owed wages running to six months and more, and they have not been paid. The recent death of three lecturers of the university is not unconnected to the nonavailability of funds at which to tender their needs and health challenges.
Can we ask if it is the same with the VC, DVCs, and other management staff of the university, what do they earn, how much are they been owed in turn? These are questions we must pose. What about the monthly allocation to the university from the state government. It’s our thinking not to have paid wages since six months plus in itself is scandalous. This is enough reason for students and another staff union to organize a protest and demand the resignation of the VC.
Besides, fee hike is not the only source of income, not even the major. We, therefore, insist that management must withdraw its threat to the student bodies. Otherwise, they should decline attending any meeting with management and continue with plans for its protest action against the management and the State government, by raising the demand for increment of the monthly allocation of the university, payment of owed salaries, and kick against hike in school fees.
Education is a right and access to it must not be denied to anyone based on their working-class background. The management must therefore not accuse students of crimes they have not committed. There is nothing special with the Abia State University’s students. They are not different from other university students or other working-class youth in the country. We think that the student’s right to protest is sacrosanct and must not be violated.
Therefore, there should be payment plans that are friendly to students and their parents, given the special difficult times the country is going through, which in the end would encourage those who can pay to pay without any form of duress unconditionally. And also, the threats to students must stop! Education is on the concurrent list, and the state government owes society the responsibility to finance public education adequately.
This we expect the eggheads in the university management to know and take steps to put the necessary machinery in motion. Added to this, it is to take on the government and get the staff union organized to take the necessary measures that would affect the needed pressure on the government to increase its subvention to the university. As well, seek the support of the students in this regard to bring their strength of numbers and organization on all the issues together. Importantly, demand bailout funds for the university to clear the backlog of wages and all immediate needs of the university.
The University is not a barrack. That is why MSA calls for a United action of all the staff unions and students in Abia state University to rescue it from immediate collapse and a deeper crisis ahead waiting to erupt. In solidarity, we join students of Abia State University today to say No to Hike in School Fee! No to Victimization! Yes to Right to Protest! Adequate Funding of Public Education Qualitatively!