Ifeanyi Okowa, the executive Governor of Delta State has had cause to intervene in the ongoing controversy between students and the governing authorities of Delta State University over the increase in school fees.
Okowa disclosed this after inspection of ongoing works at the University of Delta, Agbor, and the Trauma Centre, Agbor.
Okowa explained that the state government didn’t fix school fees for its institutions, but had to intervene in the crisis because of the current hardship prevailing in the country.
He said that students of Delta origin did not pay for tuition but only for other development levies and called on the people to show understanding with government as fees could not remain the same over the years.
He said that fees being collected by the state-owned tertiary institutions were for some critical aspects concerning standards in the schools.
“From the beginning we made it clear that it is in the best interest of the state that we upgrade some of our institutions and that we have done to ensure that our children have access to higher education.
“We are at very tough times in our nation now, but our students who couldn’t get admissions here have had to get admissions into private universities where they pay over a million naira.
“Some have even left the shores of Nigeria to other countries whose standard of education are not up to what we have here and some to other West African countries into mushroom universities where they pay a lot more.
“We are very mindful of this but also why we want to appreciate the economic situation in our nation and we know that parents and students are struggling through but we also want to be sure that the universities are maintaining a minimum standard.
“It is very important to maintain standard so that you don’t find yourself going through an educational institution and at the end you are not actually given the right academic capacity to be able to function outside the institution,” he said.
According to him, the state government pays the salaries and allowances of lecturers and other university staff, but the universities should be able to handle their day-to-day running cost.
The governor added that “what we are doing is that the lecturers are fully paid by the state government but in terms of the day-to-day running, the universities should be able to handle their day-to-day administration running cost.
“Unfortunately, the power sector is not functioning properly and the universities have to run on generators and we all know what cost of diesel is now with various forms of stationeries also needed in the universities.
“When you look at all these, they definitely need to find some means of being able to run themselves internally, not in terms of payment of their salaries which obviously is being paid by the state government.
“So, what the universities did is to have a readjustment of fees to meet current economic realities. It is not the state government because we don’t fix fees for them.
“Bearing in mind that the naira has depreciated and the cost of stationeries not the same as it was 10 years ago and never is the cost of fuel or the things they require for maintenance in the past.
“All I had to do was to get them along to talk with the students union, but in talking with the students union they brought the values down and I don’t know what the values are at the moment but I advised on the need to be responsive to the demands by the student unions.
“The student unions actually understand that the fees cannot remain the same way they were years ago.
“Even at that, what the fees were before they brought down the cost it was still definitely lower than that of other state universities across this nation, we have always been at the lower level of what other state universities pay and that is the truth.
“More significantly, they are not paying for tuition, what they are paying for is for other facilities and other services, they don’t pay for tuition in our universities,” he said.