Rejoinder : UniAbuja Students Groan Under High Fees, Dysfunctional Portal

Our attention has been drawn to a report in the Leadership newspaper with the above title published on Sunday 21st March 2021. The report which focused primarily on alleged portal challenge and high cost of fees in the University claimed to rely largely on interviews with some students of University of Abuja. Though in fulfilment of the journalistic principle of balance, the reporter, one Kucha Jeremiah, had reached out to the Information and University Relations unit for reactions presumably to get a stamp of credibility to his ostensibly pre-conceived notions. Otherwise, when sources clearly make spurious, weighty and unfounded allegations, it is the responsibility of thriving media organisations such as Leadership to be cautious and steer clear of them.

Fees

The point has been made time without number that the review of fees by the Management of University of Abuja was done in 2019, following consultations with stakeholders including students leaders. Now, there is no denying the fact that students are usually not at home with any increment in fees, as they always prefer that education be free, without any financial responsibility whatsoever on their part; but the mood in the University generally, is entirely different from what this report attempted to paint. Students have long paid their fees, written their exams and look forward to seeing more of the developmental changes in the University as they prepare to resume the Second Semester of the 2019/2020 Academic Session.

Similarly, the acceptance fees which the report harped on is not an issue the students concern themselves with, at the moment, because in the first place, the fees aren’t as outrageous as they were made to look. But since the report wanted to make the fees charged by the University an abnormality, it conveniently referenced universities with lower acceptance fees in the report and systematically ignored the ones charging relatively higher fees.

According to The Guardian editorial on 31st January 2020 titled “Public universities, high acceptance fees and consequences,” University of Benin was charging between N60, 000 and N80, 000 as acceptance fees depending on the course of study, while Imo State University, charged N70, 000 and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, charged N50, 000. The Federal University of Technology, Owerri, in the same report by The Guardian was charging students N42, 000 as acceptance fee, and the University of Ibadan, had N35, 000 or more as its acceptance fee depending on faculty. One report by Daily Trust (January 2020 ) put the acceptance fees of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awka, Anambra state at 47,000. The University of Abuja charges N30, 000 only, as acceptance fees. Whereas University of Nigeria, Nsukka and University of Lagos which charged N25, 000 and 20,000 respectively were referenced, none of the universities with high cost featured in the Leadership report.

Portal registration/ admission process

This report probably wouldn’t have merited any rejoinder, but for the barefaced falsehood and mischief contained in the purported interview with the students. By claiming that “there were several rumours that the school’s portal is being managed from Ilorin,” and “Kwara State University (KWASU) ITC department is managing the school portal,” that “we even heard that admissions are compiled from Ilorin,” and “we were told that whenever we lodge our complaints, they have to contact Ilorin to attend to us,” that staff requests for admission were “not honoured, as the vice-chancellor only gives those he wanted admission,” while “some people who went through the backdoor confirmed that they went through some guys in Ilorin,” the report shows there is orchestrated plot to malign the person of the Vice-Chancellor, in particular and image of the University in general. This is to say the least cheap, insulting and mischievous. In any case, all of these rumours from the so-called students should have been treated for what they are – “baseless rumours.”

Of course as of the time the reporter visited, the University had not even released the “Merit List” of the admission batch, let alone call for staff request. Staff request for admission is itself open and transparent and the Vice-chancellor makes it clear that while admission cannot be offered to every staff who has made a request, preference would be given to those whose biological sons/daughters are seeking admission. It’s on record that because of this transparent nature of admission, the University, last year admitted candidates from all the states across the country, for the first time. So where is all of this hogwash about compromised admission process coming from?

Until the coming of Professor Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah as vice-chancellor, there was huge admission racketeering in the University of Abuja involving students and staff sometimes. But now this racketeering has been shattered making the process now uncharacteristically transparent and open. Those who are caught in this act now meet with very stiff penalties and sanctions.

On the management of the portal, let it be understood that the unit which manages the University portal is the Information Technology Management Service, ITMS, and the Academic Office is also very involved in helping to handle any complaints that may arise from the students/staff. While the operation of the University portal is not 100 percent free from glitch, students have generally not encountered challenges beyond the competence and urgency of the University ITMS unit; and we challenge anyone to come up with evidence to support the allegations and spurious claims of unresolved difficulties.

I know that it is not unusual that in a period of change such as is now in the University, people who feel removed from their comfort zone would do anything to maintain the status quo. But it must be stated clearly that the University is on an unbending route towards greatness, and its leadership under the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Na’Allah, remains strong and unwavering in the mandate to taking it to greater heights. The sooner we all realize this and offer unalloyed support to the only public university in the nation’s capital, the better for the development of the nation, and all of us.

– Dr Habib Yakoob is the Head, Information and University Relations, University of Abuja.


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Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.

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