These are not the best of times in the Nigerian economy and now its worse for postgraduate students of the University of Lagos. Still battling inflation and other effects of recession, there seems to be no end to the spiral as authorities of the institution have slapped a more than 500 per cent increase in the cost of bed space and caution fees on the students.
The students, who are demanding a reversal of the hike and the refund of the backlog of caution fee, also want the school management to reinstate the Graduate Fellowship and the Teaching Assistant Programmes hitherto enjoyed by indigent postgraduate students.
Our correspondent learnt that the development, which affects students in the Henry Carr and Erastus Akingbola halls, has its root in a letter signed by the Dean, Students Affairs Division, Prof. Ademola Adeleke, announcing an increase from N11,000 to N70,000 for bed spaces at the Henry Carr Hall and to N120,000 for Erastus Akingbola. Caution fee was also increased from N3,500 to N25,000, while students expected to resume for the new session at the newly-opened Sodeinde Postgraduate Wing are also expected to pay N120,00 for accommodation per session.
According to Adeleke, the increment takes effect from the 2016/2017 session.
In the letter, Adeleke said, “The cost per bed space is N70,000. This means that for Henry Carr, rooms with a single occupant will attract N70,000 X 2, which is N140,000. Caution fee is N25,000.’’
However, the students have decried the increment. One of them, who stays at the Erastus Akingbola Hall, said it was unfair for the school management to review the cost of accommodation upward for students who were not expected to hold paid jobs.
The student, who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, said, “ For us here, we are now expected to pay N184,000 for a bed space and anyone who wants to pay for two-bed spaces is expected to pay N265,000. For Henry Carr, the cost of a room inclusive of bed space, caution and maintenance fees was initially N58,000 for a session for PhD students. That included bed space cost, caution fee and maintenance fee.
“But now, the amount has been jerked up to N165,000. That is over 600 per cent increase for an eight-by-eight cubicle. That is ridiculous compared to the N15,000 members of staff of the university pay for a three-bedroom flat with a boys quarters of two rooms.’’
In a letter addressed to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rahman Bello, and obtained by our correspondent, the students claimed that efforts to resolve the issue with Adeleke, as well as the Dean of Postgraduate School, Prof. Solomon Akinboye, had not been successful.
“The current economic recession in the country has become a social menace to all and sundry as we all groan under the current hyper-inflationary prices of basic goods and services. Also, as clearly stated in the admission letters issued to every full time postgraduate student of the university, the programmes leave no room for gainful employment. Many of us at present experience difficulties in paying the current fees. Therefore, this increment will further escalate our economic challenges, and hamper our academics as well as research pursuits.
“Sir, kindly permit us to reiterate on the fact that the teaching assistantship and graduate fellowship programmes which served as the only accessible grant for some indigent Masters and PhD students have been cancelled. Moreover, there are some of us who have worked for several months but have yet to be paid.’’
When our correspondent spoke with Adeleke on the telephone on Monday, he declined to speak on the matter. “You should get in touch with the Information Unit. They are the spokespersons for the university,’’ he simply said.
However, efforts to reach the spokesperson for the university, Mr. Toyin Adebule, on Monday were not successful as calls and messages sent to his lines were not acknowledged.
Source: The Punch