Increase in Tuition Fees: Justifiable?
Not all is well with Nigeria’s educational system. It is still not accessible to all qualified candidates and even the quality of education given to those in school is debatable. Probably in a bid to address some of these issues, government might be considering increasing tuition fees. But is the increase in tuition fees justifiable? This essay articulates three points why it is not.
While the popular argument by government is that it does not have sufficient funds, it is obvious that it does not need more funds than it already has, to run its schools. In other words, Nigeria does not need to get wealthier to be able to provide accessible, qualitative and affordable education for her citizens. She needs instead, to put to very efficient use, the funds she already has. The challenge of funding the educational system begins with lack of priority on the part of government. A look at a typical Nigerian budget reveals that education is not the sector with the highest or second highest allocation. Indeed, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, recommends that member countries commit at least 26% of their annual budgets to education. Nigeria does not. “She spends less than 7% of her budget on education. Botswana spends 19.0 percent; Swaziland, 24.6; Lesotho, 17.0; South Africa, 25.8; Cote d’Ivoire, 30.0; Uganda, 27.0; Tunisia, 17.0; and Morocco, 17.7 percent” (Okecha, 2008). What the government needs to do is to channel available funds into the sector to provide productive and innovative education for her citizens.
In addition, it should not be the priority of government schools to make profit. Public schools are not private businesses where the proprietor, having invested a certain amount at the beginning, expects a certain profit margin at the end. Instead, public schools are an investment by tax payers to provide a qualitative educational system for themselves and their children. It is illogical for the government so funded, to reserve or waste the tax payers’ money and demand more from them in form of tuition fees. Government’s priority is to ensure that tax payers get commensurate dividends on their investment. The dividends in this case, are not financial gains, but an orderly, qualitative and functional public system. Therefore, there has to be a difference in the tuition fees payable in private schools and what is payable in public schools. Whereas private schools are run on the proprietor’s funds, public schools are subsidized – and must remain so – by tax payers.
In any case, the Nigerian student is already over-exploited. He suffers through school on his own, unaided by scholarships and other government aids that are non-existent in the first place. All through this period, there is no evidence that there is a government which is interested in him. If he drops dead while in school, the government does not notice. Yet as soon as he graduates, he must embark on a compulsory one-year service, serving a nation that did not care about him until now, and which does not care what happens to him after service. Last year, “Mr Ikechukwu Ukeoma . . . was one of the seven corps members whose lives could not be protected by the police at Giade police station in Bauchi State as they fell victim of . . . [the] heinous act” (Balogun, 2011). He was just one of the many corps members murdered across Northern Nigeria last year in the wake of the post-election violence. It was a great loss to their families, of course, but as Anzaa (2011) argues, it was not so to the government.
“The government did not lose Because it paid nothing for their education But the families that paid had no right to choose Where their sons could serve the nation”
If the government had actively participated in the training and welfare of these corps members while they were in school, it could not have afforded to post them on duty anywhere without adequate security. It is unfair for a government that would not invest in its young ones to turn round with arrogance and impose on them such exploitation in the guise of national service. Any increase in tuition fees would create a situation where the only fair thing to do would be to allow the NYSC members negotiate where they would serve, their individual conditions of service, and indeed, whether they want to serve at all.
This essay has explained that although Nigeria’s educational system actually needs to be revamped, it does not have to be at any additional cost to the public. Instead, government should ensure that tax payers’ money is put to efficient use. It also argues that it should not be government’s priority to make profit from its schools. The essay believes that in any case, the system as it is today, is already unfair to Nigerian students who go through school unassisted and uncared for, but get exploited in the end through compulsory national service. In this view therefore, any increase in tuition fees in government schools is uncalled for, unfair and unjustifiable.
Please note that this essay was the winner of Spur Magazine’s monthly essay series on issues affecting Nigeria’s educational system for the month of May and was reproduced on July 13, 2012 on: www.nigerianessay.blogspot.com