Protests marked an interactive session between the management of Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State, and members of the Parents, Consultative Forum to resolve the controversy generated by the recent increment in school fees on Tuesday.
The university had, on August 17, announced an increment in tuition for fresh and returning students for the 2015/2016 academic session.
It was gathered that while Law students who used to pay N870,000 (with two meals a day), have now been mandated to pay N1.5m, while medical students who used to pay N2m per session, now have to pay N3m.
The meeting was already underway when a horde of parents who could not be accommodated inside the venue, within the Babcock Business School building, forced the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kayode Makinde, to relocate it to the church within the campus.
At the meeting, some of them protested against the hike in tuition, describing it as exploitative and fraudulent.
Among other issues, the parents decried the timing of the increment and also demanded an explanation of the miscellaneous component of the school fees as well as professional fees charged by the university every session without corresponding certificates to show for it.
At the end of the meeting, which lasted for more than five hours, Makinde, who also doubled as the Chairman of the PCF, declared, “I do not have all the answers. But whatever question I cannot answer, I will not parry it. I would rather be punched now and be praised later rather than be praised now and punched later.” .
Makinde, who also apologised for the timing, said the increment was informed by economic realities.
He added that members of staff had had to shun personal privileges to control costs in the past.
“Initially, we were justifying and bringing out the books, but the fact that currency is currency does not mean that the naira and dollar have the same value. Three months ago, NEPA brought a bill of N23m for the darkness it supplied for a month. We still paid more than N30m for diesel.
“People who work at Babcock are missionaries. They have had to forego their leave bonuses so that we can keep the expenses where it is. My Deputy Vice-Chancellor came from a state university. His monthly pay packet dropped by N500,000 when he joined us. I am not even going to talk about the office of the Vice-Chancellor. It is not because it was compulsory but we decided that that was the way to edge out people who are mercenaries and retain the missionaries,” he said.
However, Makinde’s entreaties did not go down well with the majority of the parents. Intermittently, they grumbled that the VC’s speech was too long, shouting for the opportunity to start the question and answer session.
One of them, Mr. Anteh Anteh, wondered why Makinde should be the chairman of the PCF.
“We enjoyed your lecture but it was too long. It was too long to the extent that we may not have enough time to address the major purpose of this meeting. We did not bring our children here because we have excessive money. We want the management to reconsider the hike. This forum should be presided over by a parent, just like it happens in secondary schools,” he said.
Another parent, who claimed to have three children in the university, Mr. Akin Akintoye, said, “I am not a rich person at all. My experience in the last six years has shown that fees are increased every year. This increment came a week before resumption. How do you want parents to cope? Mercy and fairness should take precedence over economic realities,” he said.
However, Makinde, who further tried to appease the parents, apologised for the late announcement.
According to him, the miscellaneous component of the school fees contains “18 different things and it is for this administration to know how to apply them. We should have communicated better. I goofed on that point. If there are any professional fees charged without having a root in a professional body, those fees will be refunded. I will resign if there is any evidence of fraud against me.”
A parent also fainted hours into the meeting at the second location.
Many believed this was due to exhaustion.
Earlier, Makinde’s attempt to stop a parent who demanded to see the agenda was drowned by shouts of, “No,”“No,” from the parents.
Makinde had asked the parents to nominate people to fill the Executive Council vacancies of the PCF.
The parent had raised a point, demanding to have the agenda “in writing because this is an academic environment.”
But Makinde had overruled him, saying, “I believe what you are saying is not what I asked, so I will move to the next person. This is not an attempt to cut you short. It is because I realise that there are parents who come from afar.” Punch