Students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state on Monday staged a peaceful protest over alleged hike in school fees by the institution’s authority.
The students who marched round the school environment with placards with varying inscriptions like ‘Do Not Send Us of School’, ‘Reduce UNIZIK School Fees Now’, ‘School Fees is not Garri that Rises’, ‘We Say No to School Fees Hike’ ‘Education is Not Only For the Rich, it’s for All’, among others.
They also blocked a portion of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway to register their grievances, insisting reversal of the fees.
The institution, through its Acting Head, Information and Public Relations, Chika Ene, had on Saturday, refuted alleged increase in school fees of returning students of the institution for the 2020/2021 academic session.
It urged students, staff and the public to dismiss the report as fake, targeted at causing unrest and destabilizing the peace being enjoyed in the University.
But the students, during the protest, insisted that the increment was real, accusing the Student Union Government (SUG) of conniving with the university Management on the purported increment.
One of them, a third-year student who pleaded anonymity, said they decided to embark on the protest as they could not bear the increment any longer.
“When they increased the fees to over N50, 000 last year, we were asked through the SUG executive to bear with the school, promising they will revert to the initial fee of about N26,000.
“But to our greatest surprise, instead of asking us to pay the old fees as promised, we saw additional amount to what we paid last year,” he said.
Addressing the students in front of administrative block, the Chairman, Anambra State Axis, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Peter Onyenweife, assured the students that his executive would never be party to any form of increment.
He appealed to the students to ensure the protest was peaceful and within the confines of the campus environment.
He said, “Any student protesting outside the gate is on your own. Anybody can release gunshots from anywhere, and once that’s done, we’re all gone, and the the aim of the protests is defeated.
“I’m standing here as your representative. We can never be a party to any form of increment. That’s why we’re here to plead with you…our voices must be heard.
“If these same group of students were the same students that gave me support in 2019, I want to assure you that I won’t for any reason support anything that will hurt you.
“I want to put my integrity on the line, in all honesty, the VC is currently in Abuja. But the DVC, academics who’s the second in command will brief us on his behalf.”
The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics, Prof. Fedrick Odibo, who addressed the students on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, said institution’s fees structure had been pulled down, while discussion with the students union government was ongoing.
He said, “We’ve heard your agitations, and they’re okay. You have freedom of protest and that’s why we’re handling you as our children.
“The VC is not around, but I’m in touch with him. He suggested he addresses you via zoom, that’s the essence of technology.
“We’ve pulled down the fees structure of the university, and we’re discussing with the students union government.”
“On his part, the Dean, Students Affairs, Prof. Nonso Achebe called on the students to suspend the protests, assuring them of a town hall meeting with the VC on return.
“You’ve registered your displeasure, please let’s meet at the round table for negotiations. The DVC has addressed you and I’m lending my voice as the number one student.
“Let every fray nerves be calmed so we don’t spoil the good work we’ve started. Let’s broker an agreement. Tommorow by 11am,” he stated.