“If it is from Ibadan, it must be of outstanding quality.” This is one phrase that members of the management of Nigeria’s premier University like to echo at every slight opportunity they have to pass a comment about the prestige of the institution. Unsurprisingly, this tradition of blowing the trumpet of the quality of products churned out by the institution has now penetrated to students also.
No doubt, it is currently illogical to dispute the position of University of Ibadan as one of the best places for a tertiary education in the country, but there is a problem. A serious one. As members of the institution’s management continue to echo these lines, they have begun to lose focus of issues that really matter. Issues that threatens the credibility of such statements in the foreseeable future.
One of these issues is one that has left many students of this institution in awe of how things have begun to fall apart over the last few weeks: the process for the payment of school fees. If anyone is not familiar with the reality and peculiarity of what it really means to be a UI student, aside the shout of ‘first and best’ heard, it will be difficult for such an individual to come into terms with a problem related to the payment of school fees.
In all sincerity, we wonder why an institution, expected to be the primary home of intellectuals in West Africa, struggle with an issue as minute as the payment of school fees. But that’s our reality and we must face it. Even if no one does; we would.
Controversy 1: Who Fixed The Deadline?
In the approved calendar for the 2021/22 academic session released by the University management, online registration for fresh and returning students of the institution was scheduled to commence on the 24th of January, 2022. Further details released by the management indicated that the registration would run for only four weeks, after which, it would reopen for another “two weeks of grace, with penalty would follow”.
Now, the first issue here is not the short timeframe for course registration, it is the fact that the timeframe was set without taking into account the reality of UI students. Despite the fact that the four weeks for registration began to take effect on the 24th of January, we have it on record from multiple students that as of the 30th of January, the portal for school fees payment and course registration was still not accessible.
What this indicates is that students of the institution have to work with a registration deadline, which is a little bit friendlier on paper, than what is obtainable in reality. As at the time of writing this, the deadline is barely 48 hours away, and there is no indication that this original registration period has been extended, leaving students who couldn’t work with it in a state of limbo.
Controversy 2: What Does Grace Really Means?
Peradventure we have grown so accustomed to the word ‘grace’, we might have misplaced its true meaning somewhere between saying ‘na grace’ while gisting with friends, and asking for God’s grace while praying in holy places. But, when the management of a school uses it in face of the reality currently facing UI students’, it becomes imperative to interrogate it.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, grace refers to “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification” or “a special favor.” In the UI context, the latter definition captures it more succinctly, while the first part of the former definition paints the real problem.
If the school management decides to go ahead with its current two weeks ‘grace’ period, without taking into consideration the reality surrounding it, students would have no choice but to pay during a grace — in other words, ‘unmerited’ — period that attracts a fine of N10,000 for no fault of theirs. Is that truly the grace we deserve in this context?
There is also the question of the ‘weight’ of the penalty during the ‘grace’ period. The school fees of students across the institution differ on the basis of level and course of study. However, a significant percentage of students pay less than N20, 000 as their school fees. This raises the question of why the penalty imposed for late payment should be as high as N10, 000 — more than 50 percent of their original school fees.
Is that truly grace in any context?
Controversy 3: The Controversial Introduction of ‘Grace’
As the reality of the ‘grace’ the University management presents begins to sink in, it becomes imperative to trace its origin. In a statement released by the University Management on the 5th of January 2022, it explained that the decision to introduce this new timeline frame for school fees payment was necessitated by the “incessant opening and re-opening of registration portal for students during the session.” Nothing else; nothing more.
This reason does nothing, but further indicates that there is not enough realistic basis for introducing such policy, especially during a time when poverty is at its peak, and Nigerians live in one of the most economically trying times since independence.
By The Way, Where Is Mascot?
If there is one lesson we have learnt from the tree of knowledge called Nigeria, it is that sometimes, the populace are afraid of voting certain set of candidates because of the fear that they might not perform better than the current crop of people in office; foremost among this set of people are the ‘intellectuals’. The reasons for this fear are multi-dimensional, but that is a topic for another day.
The bone of contention at this point of today’s topic is that the current President of University of Ibadan Students’ Union, Adewole Yinka, popularly known as Mascot, emerged victorious at the last poll, riding on the massive support of UI students’ who fell in love with the intellectual with a 20-page CV. I mean, who won’t?
The question of his overall performance in office will be answered, obviously, not today. Today, UI students waits to see which side of the pendulum the current school fee payment deadline would swing. The Union President and members of his administration seem confident with the situation of things, as they have not made any visible effort to brief students, who they swore to protect their interests, on where they stand and the efforts they have put in place to achieve this.
This begs the question: Where is Mascot? Because it seems like while things continue to fall apart, he is still at ease.