Students of Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Imo State recently protested the decision of the school management to disenfranchise those yet to pay school fees from participating in their examination.
It could be recalled that academic activities were brought to a halt at the wake of coronavirus pandemic as a measure to curb the spread of the disease.
During this period, economic activities were on stampede, markets and churches were shut.
Most affected, were families – most of whom have four to five school children who rely on daily income for survival. Somehow, they survived the hard times, to the point of allowing their wards return to school when the pandemic appeared ‘over’.
While Nigerians are still grappling with the effects of over four months’ lockdown occasioned by the fast-spreading pandemic, which death toll has risen to over one million worldwide, the hope of Nigerian students returning to school was dampened owing to the fact that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are still on strike that started since March 23, 2020.
Despite negotiations by the Federal Government to call off the nine months old industrial action, ASUU leadership refused to shift grounds until all of its requests are met. Consequently, students of various tertiary institutions in the country remained at home, while their counterparts in the polytechnics have until recently resumed.
At Federal Polytechnic Nekede, the management of the school had announced its intentions to conduct examinations for students who have paid school fees only. This they did, without putting into consideration the effects several months of restrictions, curfew and quarantine had taken on parents of the students and most especially, those who self-sponsor to school.
Irked by such unfriendly policy, the students mobilized themselves and protested to drive home their demands for a fair and better option. They went on rampage and some school properties were reportedly damaged. As a result, their examinations were canceled and they were asked to vacate the school. Up until this moment, the school has remained shut.
Much as we do not support breakdown of law and order in any form or even protests that could lead to damage of school properties and halting of academic activities, we make bold to condemn the decision of the school management as anti-human, given the circumstances highlighted above.
We also appeal to the federal government to consider waving fees of one academic session for students at all levels as a face-saving effort, having failed to provide the needed response during the period of lockdown and restrictions.
It is known that while countries like Canada, USA, Russia etc provided online classes and other avenues of knowledge impartation and support to their citizens while on lockdown, Nigerian government abandoned theirs to their fate and only to double their suffering by forcing fees and other sundry levies on them.
We also demand that the federal government should as a matter of fact and urgency step up efforts in its negotiations with the striking varsity lecturers to return to classroom, for it is taking longer than necessary.
For once, this government should do something we all will be proud of.