LASU Students Demand Apology from Varsity’s Management:
The Director of Information, Lagos State University, Dr. Sola Fosudo, in this interview with ALLWELL OKPI, says the recent student protest in the university was a reaction to the management’s attempt to clean up the system
What led to the protest by students on the day they were to begin the exams?
The students, who had not registered for the semester exams, came up with a request that they wanted the portal to be opened for them, so that they could register. Whereas, the university had opened the portal about three or four times and had issued bulletin information the last time it was opened June/July last year, that any student who had not registered should use that opportunity because when the portal would be closed, it would not be opened again. So, many of them registered that time. We were supposed to start the second semester exams July last year; but unfortunately, ASUU struck early July. When the ASUU strike started, the portal was left open. And some time towards the end of July, the university closed the portal. ASUU called off its strike in December and the university set timetable for exams, which was supposed to start last week Thursday.
Suddenly, some students came up again asking that the portal should be opened for them. There are 12,858 students in LASU today, according to ICT information given to us; 11, 566 registered leaving 1,292. So, what were they doing? Where have they been in the three or four times the portal had been opened? We all went to school. We registered when we were meant to do so. Registration does two things. First, when you come into a school, letter of admission does not really mean anything. It is when you register that you confirm your presence in the university and become a bonafide student of the university. Secondly, when you register, each department will know the number of students it has to cater for. If I have to teach a course, for example, Introduction to Theatre, and the Joint Admission Matriculation Board admitted 50 people into that class and only 25 have registered; I, as a lecturer, will be thinking I have only 25 students. If a student does not register but attends lectures, is he a bonafide student of the university? No. The people that are defending them didn’t behave like that in school. Let us call a spade a spade.
Some of the students said the hike in school fees was the reason they could not register on time?
There are 12,585 students in the school, 11,566 have registered and you are saying it is the hike in school fees that made them not to register. It is not correct. If we do a research, 70 per cent of those 1,292 students will be those who are supposed to pay N25,000. For your information, not every student here is paying the new fees. The school fees that was increased was for new students. We have only two sets of such new students. The old students, those who were in year two in 2011/2012, pay N25, 000. So, is it hike in fees that is responsible?
What is responsible?
This issue of registration has always been there in LASU. The current Vice-Chancellor is only trying to clean up the system. He is trying to help the students to reduce the number of stragglers that we had in LASU over the years. Every year in LASU, we used to have a situation where a number of students would not be able to graduate and they would be hanging around the campus just because they did not register. Some of them would not write exams; some who wrote exams could not get results. This is because when their results are uploaded in the system, it will not be able to locate any data. That’s why you find many people say I graduated from LASU six years ago, I don’t have a certificate. It’s a lie; they have not graduated. Many of them hang around campus for eight, nine years. These 1,292 that have not registered most likely fall into that category. The number used to be more than this. In the past, about 4,000 will not register and they will be in the university for five to six years. Mind you, for a four-year course, when you stay in the university for six years, your studentship elapses. I can tell you with authority that the studentship of many of those who were protesting has elapsed.
Does this mean that LASU, over the years, has not been able to account for the number of students it has?
When this VC came and saw the problem, he called all the deans and heads of departments, and told them that henceforth, every department should be able to account for all students. He asked them to bring the status of every student to the school Senate; that was when the problem started about two years ago. Those students, who have not been registering, some of them writing exams and others not writing exams, were exposed, because nobody could account for them in black and white. All of them started running around to beg the HODs and the deans. So, the HODs and the deans decided to help. They started packaging letters of retroactive deferment for the students. When I was HOD of my department, in some Senate meetings, we spent about one hour taking letters of retroactive deferment from students, who did not register throughout the session. After about a year, the VC said the issue of retroactive deferment had to stop and it was stopped in December 2012. So, most of these students know that they cannot write any retroactive deferment letter, that is why they are agitated. I can tell you that most of the students protesting now did not also register for the first semester. The reason up to 11, 566 students registered is that they knew that if you did not register, you were gone. I’ve been in LASU for 20 years; this is the first time students will protest in LASU because of non-registration.
Why is it like that now?
It’s because they know the system is closing in on unserious students; it is pushing them to the wall and they don’t want to be exposed. In the past, whether you register or not, nobody cares. Some will say I graduated from LASU 10 years ago, I don’t have certificate, whereas some have graduated and they have certificates. Is the university discriminating in the issuance of certificates? If anybody tells you LASU has not given him certificate, ask him to show you his up-to-date results, which is in the system. The person will run away from you because he has some courses he has not done. This is also the first time that students will be protesting and destroying LASU property. Is it because of registration?
But the students said they were infuriated by the VC, who pushed a student that was begging him and whose car knocked down another student.
The VC, a professor, push somebody? Why will he do that? Well, unless the person was holding him. They should produce the persons that the VC pushed and knocked down. They said the protest was also hijacked by hoodlums. They should tell us the people that they invited to come and unleash terror on the university. They are coming out now. All we know that this is the first time this is happening in this university. They came into the Vice-Chancellor’s office, looking for him. The people did not know him well; they were asking: where is he, where is he?
Who will pay for the damages?
I will not be able to say who will pay for the damages because the decision is yet to be made. The House of Assembly asked for an investigation into what happened and the cost of the damages. Until the investigation is done and the result is submitted, we will not be able to answer some other questions, like when the school will be reopened and who will pay for the damages. The university is willing to reopen the school and help the students to write their exams so that those who are due to serve will go and serve.
The students are demanding an apology from the university management.
Is that not laughable? That is melodrama. I think you are the one getting it wrong because one of the resolutions at the House of Assembly was that the students should write a letter of apology to the management.