Power Outage in OAU Derides Fee Increment
By Oladele Oluwasogo
For close to two weeks now, the Obafemi Awolowo University community has been thrown into utter darkness, complete blackout, coupled with intermittent water supply. This has led to paralysis of activities on campus, causing physical, emotional, social and psychological breakdown for the mass of students who consider this unprecedented situation ridiculous and insufferable. With this situation, students have been reduced to the pre modern era, the era of technological darkness. This condition is made more frustrating and abysmal when the brevity of the academic calendar is fore grounded, less than two months to the commencement of the 1st semester examination; students are forced to learn under such maddening conditions, a situation unspeakable of a 21st Century University.
The university management, despite hoodwinking and coercing students to pay an outrageous regime of fee recently, is nonchalant, and has not taken any serious effort to placate the situation. This ridiculous situation is coming a month and some weeks into a new semester which was earlier truncated after the school was shut down following the series of protests staged by students against the newly introduced 350% increment in the school fees. The chief justification of the management for the increment has been that education is poorly funded by the federal government, and that the cost of providing basic amenities like electricity and water has skyrocketed, further arguing that "if students want the best, they must pay for the best". With the current conditions in OAU, it is annoying that after fresh students were coerced to cough out a fee range of N90,000 and stale students over N35,000, they still have to be subjected to such absurdity of unbridled power outage in a University community. Before students started paying this current regime of outrageous fee, the conditions of students, though disgusting, was not worse as we have currently. Asides erratic power and water supply, congestion in residential halls has increased, with over fifteen students crowding rooms originally designed for four. This condition is obtainable in lecture halls, where instruction materials are absent and overcrowded - in fact the university sport centre is a new 21st century lecture theatre.
It has always been our argument that poorly paid parents earning stipends as low as N18,000 per month should not be made to bear the brunt of the ineptitude of the government, instead, university managements should further expose the federal government, whilst also forcing them to use the tax payer's money to better the life of the tax payer's children. Struggling Nigerians should not be further made to regret their being born in Nigeria, after the only natural disaster (bad leadership) that has rocked the country incessantly since independence has made life hellish for them. Apparently Nigeria is rich enough to fund free education at all levels, but because of the unrepentant looting of the common good by the ruling elites, and the desire to price quality education out of the reach of the masses, they have refused to fund free education instead education is being made the benefit of the rich only.
If care is not taken, the public university system is on its voyage of natural death as it happened to PHCN and other public sectors which the government has privatized. PHCN did not function not because the name bears a curse or because it was destined to fail, it failed because the government wanted it to fail so as to make money from the privatization of the sector, and for this reason it was set on a journey of natural death which made even an average Nigerian indifferent when privatization was suggested. Same happened to public primary and secondary schools, after a long and consistent decadence in these sectors, even a poor man will try as much as possible to send his children to private schools. They were rendered useless by the government. The public university system is being made to tread the same path. With so much failure in the system, it is logical therefore to say that the profiteer of a failed government is the government itself.
It is totally unacceptable that in a university like OAU, a leading university in the country, light and water will be unavailable for over a week, and the university authority will not consider it appropriate to put in a place an alternative power supply. The university has several generators that could have been powered to cushion the effect of the outage. Instead, the generators remain idle, probably to save the cost of diesel, while students pass through unimaginable hardship and frustration to research and write assignments. With the school in total darkness, one will be forced to ask; who is the profiteer of the increment? Whose pocket did the money go? Before students are again fabricated as restless and exuberant, Nigerians should be informed about the nonchalant attitude of the OAU management towards the condition of students, and equally condemn it. Also, students must overcome their fears and question the university management on the utilisation of their money, and demand for accountability, including democratic management of the university.
The situation at OAU to say the least is the reality of all Nigerian universities, and a true reflection of the Nigerian system and the failed capitalist principle of "money before people". A tour around OAU will assert the fact that we have paid more to get less. After the hike in fees, nothing whatsoever and howsoever has changed about the university. In fact, things have only gone from bad to worse; the water supply since resumption aside from being erratic is not also suitable for drinking as it is brown in colour, the condition of light has deteriorated, all in all we have paid only to multiply our woes.
Oluwasogo, a member of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and student of Obafemi Awolowo University