IT is unfortunate that most of the state-owned universities and other tertiary institutions have lost the logic and purpose of setting them up. These institutions are not supposed to be there merely for the prestige of the states or governors who took the decision to set them up at huge public expense.
They are to promote affordable access to quality higher education by the ordinary citizens. Sadly, many state tertiary institutions are even more expensive than their federal counterparts, thus negating the easy access objective.
The public/private partnership model of the Abia State University, ABSU, has given the institution the licence to impose levies that make access to education by indigent students a harrowing experience.
Their recent imposition of a N15,000 “pandemic prevention fee” on returning students was wrong. After fumigating its facilities, the university turned around to demand this fee as a compulsory precondition for entry into the campuses and examination venues.
Families are still struggling to cope with the economic debilities connected to the pandemic. Many have lost their jobs, and those who are still working are either enduring pay cuts or no salaries at all.
The situation has been exacerbated by the recent #EndSARS protests which led to the looting of many businesses. People are still licking their wounds and hoping for government palliatives or bailouts.
ABSU chose this moment to impose a levy which could have frustrated the children and wards of the poor out of their academic pursuits.
This university’s anti-people policy flies in the face of the wholesomely welfarist attitudes of governments all over the world, including the federal and Abia State governments, toward the pandemic.
The governments are bearing the full costs of the COVID-19 handling, from testing, contact tracing, admission and therapy at the isolation centres.
Government is even offering palliatives, no matter how poorly or corruptly administered. Why would ABSUimpose such a huge “prevention” fee on its students?
We, therefore, commend the Visitor of the institution, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, for his prompt intervention and scrapping of this obnoxious fee. To make matters even better, the Abia State Government has introduced a N30,000 annual bursary award to indigenous students of the university. The government’s gesture is a correct reflection of the philosophy of taking the worldwide pandemic’s financial burdens off the citizens.
The pandemic will overwhelm mankind if the populace is left to tackle it individually. Those who cannot afford it will simply continue to transmit it, and no one will be safe.
We call on the Abia State Government to re-examine the PPP model of running the ABSU.
The institution’s authorities must consult with the Abia State Government and secure approval before imposing any more anti-social levy.