The Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neo-liberal Attacks has knocked the authorities of the University of Abuja for imposing “extra-legal and burdensome fees” on the students and dispersing their peaceful protest with the force of the military.
ANSA in a release on Tuesday condemned such official use of violence, saying the students must not relent until their demands are met by the school management.
Students of the university had on Monday protested at the main campus gate in the Giri area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, over the increment of their tuition fees by the school authorities.
The students, led by their union, had carried various placards, saying the authorities led by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Rasheed Na’Allah, implemented over 100 per cent increment in fees, a step they described as insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.
On social media, the students had created #EndUniabujaOppression, while calling on the school management to rescind its decision and open the portal for students to register.
Soldiers later in the day had disrupted the students’ protest, shooting teargas canisters and live ammunition in the air, as the students fled in different directions – a commotion which captured in several trending videos.
ANSA, in a release by its National Coordinator, Damilare Adenola, called on the affected students to refuse payment henceforth.
The group said, “Given the adverse impact of the COVID-19 and especially the lockdown imposed, workers, who are the sponsors of students, have fallen victim of its harsh economic repercussion, ranging from layoffs to salary slashing and unprecedented hike in essential consumable goods.
“This ugly situation has dampened the hope of many students of returning to school as their parents and guardians cannot afford to pay the already pricey sum of tuition.
“In University of Abuja, students are being compelled to pay one fee which to them is termed ‘late registration fee’. The ability of many students to pay this fee sprang into a peaceful protest which was later met with violence by the soldiers deployed.
“ANSA strongly condemns this continuous use of violence to disperse protesters and sternly frowns on the imposition of extra-legal and burdensome fees on struggling students. In the same vein, we enjoin affected students to refuse payment henceforth. In a time like this, such demands practically mean an automatic discontinuation of access to education for many students, thereby translating to the denial of students' right to education as spelled out in the Nigerian constitution.
“It is on this note that the Alliance of Nigerian students Against Neo-liberal attacks (ANSA), known to be pro-student body, convincingly demands that for a proper resumption of schools, some conditions must be fulfilled by the Federal Government, one of which is the cancellation of school fees across all public institutions and immediate extension of financial aid to the mass of unaided Nigerian schools and students, this which is an obligation of the government.”
Speaking about the COID-19 pandemic, ANSA stated further that it did not support “the reopening of schools in this most unsafe condition".
“For us, this continued closure which by the FG is excused by a spike in number of cases, further exacerbates previously existing inequalities due to underfunding of education, and that children who are already most at risk of being excluded from a quality education have been most affected.
“In conforming with the Presidential Task Force’s order for non-physical resumption of school activities, virtual learning system has been launched by many universities to engage distant students. While we welcome the expedient intervention of these institutions, our one-on-one engagement with students coupled with its surrounding shortcomings fuel our doubts for its success and reassure us of its imminent failure.
"In reality, the operation of virtual learning excludes students in the rural areas who are battling network infractions, students without digital literacy and financially impaired students. Take for instance the effect of extravagant cost of data required by the learning apps on students who barely feed once a day. What more can convince us that the end product of this is not mass failure and half-baked learners?” it added.