ROCHAS AND POLITICS OF FREE EDUCATION IN IMO STATE – Sir Roy Iwuala (07039096666) As Socrates once said, “an unexamined idea is not worth having, and a society whose ideas are never explored for positive error may eventually find its foundation insecure or completely eroded”. In a similar circumstance, President Olusegun Obasanjo said, “we must have the courage to tell ourselves what is immoral and unjust in order that we may ensure for ourselves minimum standards of decent leadership and the good governance of our people”. Given the foregoing, and in consideration of the context, it is just, right and fair to subject the contemporary free education at all levels in Imo State to an acid test in attempt to determine if there is anything new or exciting in the programme. It is the expectation of Tom, Dick and Harry that the free education at all levels in Imo State should be a mission supposedly undertaken on humanitarian grounds to care more especially for the poor and the vulnerable in the society. Arguably, there is no topical issue on free education in the public school system in Nigeria that will be complete without mentioning Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. As a military head of state in the late 1970s, he took certain decisive actions that turned out as great strides toward achieving a great nation. One of such noble policies was the Universal Basic Education (UBE). The UBE scheme kicked off nationwide with free education programme at the primary school level of the public school system. The policy governing free education programme made it compulsory for parents/guardians to ensure that their children/wards go to school. Following the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system of education in the 1980s, the federal government extended its free education programme to the Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) in the public school system. In view of our peculiar situation in Igboland in general, and Imo State in particular, the free education programme is yet to be totally free of certain fees, levies, and dues in the public school system. This shortfall account for the ignorance of some people about the free education programme of the federal government, which had already been in progress. No wonder, Governor Rochas Okorocha received rapturous applause from the ignorant public for his mere promise of free education during the 2011 electioneering campaign. As Peter Marshall rightly said “give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything”. The import of this philosophical disposition is that governor Okorocha should have given clear vision to Imo people about the federal government’s free education programme, which already is in progress in the public school system prior to his emergence in 2011. Given this background, the governor only needed to show good knowledge of how to advance the viability of free education in its true sense. Regrettably, he set off on a wrong pedestrian, and like a showman, he claimed to be the pathfinder or architect of free education in Imo State, which is totally untrue. In essence, what he should have done on assumption of office was to narrow and put down what his government’s plan of action should entail to complement the federal government’s efforts in reducing the cost of education to its barest minimum. Without sounding parochial, ex-governor Ikedi Ohakim came into governance with the clean and green initiative. He gave the programme an unmistaken boost and style. This enabled the state capital, Owerri to win a national award of excellence as the cleanest city in Nigeria. In situations like this, ex-President George Bush (Snr) of America said, “Great men and great nations keep their promises”. If Governor Okorocha can keep faith at the primary school level as a model and ensure no payment of any sort (including internal and external exams), provide modest teaching-learning environment and offer better welfare package to teachers, he would be on the part of leaving his footprints on the sands of time. But, to think that he will be Jack of free education at all levels means that he is an imposturous master in the gathering storm. Methinks, the free education at all levels of the governor is a sweet-coated promise that can hardly be fulfilled. Even, the rich oil producing states like Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Delta cannot have such tall dream. The undressed naked truth is that the actions and policies of the governor, which at best are hasty and haphazard does not offer any promising direction or road map to a fruitful free education programme. My position will be better understood as I delve in some depth on the specifics of the modus operandi of the free education programme in Imo State. Firstly, as governor Okorocha began the business of governance, it dawned on him that free education per se is not only about free tuition fees, which the federal government had taken care of. It involves a lot more including its concomitant funding on the part of the state government. This may be why the governor started the hullaballoo about slashing the security votes and salaries of his government officials. During this time, there were widespread rumors that every autonomous community in the state will support the free education programme with N0.5m, while the civil servants would pay compulsory education levy. These clever maneuvers of the governor were clear manifestation of obvious lack of thorough home-work, or failure to produce a clearly articulated blueprint, or a defined agenda to promote the programme. In short, the governor merely scratched an important issue that deserve fundamental action plan, having realized too late the futility of his professed campaign statement that there is plenty of money in Imo State begging for usage. He knew too well that he cannot levy the people without provoking a storm of protest. Secondly, in attempt to prove his sincerity about his avowed free education programme, and thereby win applause, governor Okorocha abolished the N100 development levy and the N950 stakeholder’s fee paid in the public primary schools and the JSS respectively. Also, he scrapped the school fees in the public Senior Secondary Schools (SSS), although President Jonathan extended free education to that level in September 2011. To the perception of a passer-by, the scrapping of the fees, dues and levies was a noble gesture. But, to a discernible mind, it was clearly window dressing. It is grossly deceptive to scrap the comparatively little fees and levies in the public schools just to win public ovation, and only to turn round to create paucity of fund in the supervision and administration of public schools. Today, financial bottleneck has worsened the supervision of schools as it is now a thing of the past. At the same time, the various administrative needs of the schools are begging for urgent attention. Free education is not only about free school fees, free PTA dues, free levy, etc. It encompasses a lot more. In view of the foregoing, one is at a loss on why the governor failed to go the whole hog of properly addressing the issue of financial commitment to the on-going free education programme. Definitely, he who fails to plan invariably plans to fail. Therefore, it is embarrassing that governor Okorocha’s cardinal programme, which is anchored on free education programme is visibly faulty, not clearly defined, and thus a total departure from what obtains in a non-politicized free education setting. Thirdly, governor Okorocha appears to believe so much in showmanship or politicization of the free education at all levels in Imo State. Otherwise, how can one explain the razzmatazz about salary to school children, which in late 2011 was a front burner of informed discourse? Truly, the governor threw the gauntlet when he boasted about the introduction of N100 salary (per child per day or about N3,000 per child per month) as a novel dimension. At this point, may I eulogize the great Zik who in this circumstance said “whatever someone does or says will someday be used as a weapon against him.” Frankly speaking, many people questioned the rationale for such a wrong idea about salary to school children when thousands of parents were relieved of their jobs in the ministries, departments and agencies of the state government as well as the local government councils. It is ridiculous that the governor schemed to pay an insignificant proportion of the total public school enrolment. Indeed, payment of N100 per child per (2011/12) academic session was effected in few selected schools in strategic locations in the state. What another window dressing! Or, is governor Okorocha suffering from, probably, a hallucination due to his inability to execute his vision? This politics of salary to school children is like the politics of community speakers who on appointment in July 2011 were promised a monthly salary of N100,000. After serving for more than six months, they were paid a monthly salary of N30,000 only and no more. Why are governor Okorocha’s programmes and schemes associated with “once upon a time”? Once upon a time, the governor paid salary of N100 to a select group of school children. Once upon a time, the governor gave uniforms to a select group of school children, and expects the entire state public school system to wear common attire. That which is wrong in not sustaining any of the schemes is actually what is wrong in the initiatives of the schemes. Actually, this so-called salary of N100 per child per day is in essence the feeding allowance meant for school children on daily basis as provided by the Universal basic Education Commission (UBEC). The daily meal was never offered to the school children just as the cash was ever present but out of reach, like the hope of Tantalus. And, yet the governor prides himself in introducing novel dimensions in the free education at all levels in the state. Nevertheless, there is room for change or improvement if the governor can offer to defray the cost of external exams such as the first school leaving certificate exam, common entrance exam, JSS exam into SSS, SSS NECO and WAEC for all school children in Imo public school system. If the governor welcomes the suggestion, he should sustain the practice and be in a position to win an award of excellence. It should not be turned into the usual “once upon a time the governor paid our external exam fees”. In fact, I have learnt to laugh like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo when the issue of governor Okorocha and his interest in the education of school children is discussed. Is it right that the external exams covered by the agencies of the state government should charge fees in a free education setting? Without sounding immodest, the governor should not use external exams to reclaim what he lost in levies, dues and fees, which were abolished in the public school system. No sooner had he relished in the applause for abolishing the various payments in the school than he increased the fees for external exams in the public school system. For example, the fees for first school leaving certificate exam used to be N500 during Dr Ohakim’s administration, but now it tripled to N1,850. Also, the fees for the common entrance exam into the JSS was N500, but now it skyrocket to N1,750. In addition, the common entrance exam into the model JSS was a preserve of pupils who scored 50% and above, but it is now for all and sundry, just for the sake of monetary gains. Previously, the exam fees was N750, but now it doubled to N1,500. Also, the JSS exam into the SSS used to be N1,500, but it is now N3,500. To abolish the development levy of mere N100 and stakeholder’s fee of N950, and turn round to hike external exam fees organized by the apparatus of the state government can be likened to the Greek gift of giving with the right hand, and retrieving with the left hand. Where is the justification for the shout of free education? With the trend of things happening in the contemporary Imo politics, one would be tempted at a first instance to say “no truth in politics”. Furthermore, there is obvious need to improve the school infrastructure in a free education setting. But, the recent innovation in which the pre-cast system of walls is being adopted for school buildings in some parts of the state is giving serious cause for concern. The one at the Township Primary School along Wetheral road, Owerri is a discouraging pointer to an improvement in school infrastructure. It is hugely an economic waste and a death trap. The pre-cast walls do not seem to consider dead loads or the weight of the number of school children that will use the upper floor (or the upstairs). Under normal concrete practice, the reinforcement for such public edifice is determined by the size of rods and the ratio of the mixture of the concrete. One wonders why governor Okorocha preferred the pre-cast wall for school buildings than the usual block walls in vogue. I have never seen any of the residential or business buildings of the governor in any part of the country built with the pre-cast walls for whatever advantage he thinks desirable. Methinks, the mark of greatness is the ability to use powers to affect the course of history positively. Also, the demolition of the New Face building for adult education located in the said Township Primary School is a practical demonstration of insensitivity to monumental structures. In addition to this are other demolitions across the state namely Ama J.K. recreation park, the various roundabouts in Owerri, the government house buildings, etc which cost the state unimaginable economic waste. Ponder: state funds were used to erect the structures, just as state funds were spent to demolish them. I want to believe that it is the sheer awfulness of the moment that influenced governor Okorocha’s incurable addiction to doublespeak. How can one explain the promise of free education and scholarship simultaneously to Imo indigenes in the state owned tertiary institutions as if the two issues are interchangeable? We must not allow ourselves to be misled by the shout of free education at all levels. Nobody in Imo State has told us more lies, and been more treacherous than the shouters of free education. In fact, those who have free education always on their lips are the ones who turned our public schools into another arena of politics …. free uniforms, free sandals, school children’s salary and other ridiculous policies. The fanatics of free education at all levels are people of limited intelligence who want to stir everything in one non-descript brew. The moment the lies and deceit are left to settle, it naturally throws up the difference again. This is why Bryant William said, “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again”. Also, John 8:32 said. “And, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”. Sometime in 2011, the state commissioner for education sponsored a radio jingle, which purported that the present state administration reduced the tuition fees in the Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri from N150,000 to N30,000. What a blatant lie! However, the tuition fees at IMSU had been N33,750 for old students, and about N53,750 for new students. We are living witnesses to how governor Okorocha in 2011 hurriedly increased the tuition fees for old students to N53,750 just on a par with the new students. The lesson about the increased fees led to the bold inscription at the entrance gate of IMSU bearing “NO SCHOOL FEES, NO EXAM”. What a kind of hypocrisy! Yet, this is a philanthropist that wants the world to believe his sincerity about free education at all levels. Recently, the governor issued a scholarship cheque of N100,000 in a kind of random selection of Imo students at IMSU and the Imo Polytechnic, Umuagwo. One wonders what will be the fate of other Imo students in these two institutions that were not issued with the cheques. The funny story about the scholarship cheques dated 7th September 2012 is that none of the students is able to reap the proceeds of the crossed cheque. Each student yearns to have it in cash and touch and feel the scholarship spree. But, there is fear of the unknown, thence no student is reported to have parted with the cheque. What a free education wahala! The next issue is the actual tuition fees at IMSU. When the Executive committee of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) paid a courtesy visit at the government house, Owerri on November 29, 2012, governor Okorocha promised that he will slash the tuition fees of non-indigenes by 50%. Certain opinion points to N180,000 as the new tuition fees at IMSU. Presently, a beneficiary of the scholarship cheque of N100,000 was said to have been asked to lodge the cheque in addition to cash payments of N50,000; N20,000; and N10,000 at various points, which translate to N180,000. Is this the new tuition fees, which the non-indigenes will pay N90,000 (being 50%) as against N80,000 cash payment by selected indigenes? At this final juncture, I do not intend to address the issue of law students of IMSU at the Nigerian Law Schools that were denied the bursaries, which previous administrations honored without delay. How about the de-registration of the law faculty of IMSU in an era of free education at all levels? It is painful and shameful that the more we look, the less we see of the free education at all levels. Many of us poured venoms on ex-governor Ohakim for not reducing the N30,000 acceptance fee for new students at IMSU. But in 2011, our mouths were shut up by governor Okorocha when he increased it to N50,000. Presently, it is further increased to N70,000. WHO IS NOW DECEIVING WHO? I undertook this issue of free education at all levels because it is extremely important in human development – to offer learners the opportunity to study without tears and fears of cost of education. But, the manner of free education we have here in Imo State is one in which a future situation will be affected. Without mincing words, the future of our children who are the greater tomorrow is at stake. Therefore, it is not right and not just to allow the shouters of free education to mar the future of our children in the public school system, when their cherished children are in private schools or overseas. If Imo must be better, we need to redefine what governor Okorocha actually mean by free education at all levels

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–     Sir Roy Iwuala

     (07039096666)

As Socrates once said, “an unexamined idea is not worth having, and a society whose ideas are never explored for positive error may eventually find its foundation insecure or completely eroded”. In a similar circumstance, President Olusegun Obasanjo said, “we must have the courage to tell ourselves what is immoral and unjust in order that we may ensure for ourselves minimum standards of decent leadership and the good governance of our people”. Given the foregoing, and in consideration of the context, it is just, right and fair to subject the contemporary free education at all levels in Imo State to an acid test in attempt to determine if there is anything new or exciting in the programme. It is the expectation of Tom, Dick and Harry that the free education at all levels in Imo State should be a mission supposedly undertaken on humanitarian grounds to care more especially for the poor and the vulnerable in the society.

 

Arguably, there is no topical issue on free education in the public school system in Nigeria that will be complete without mentioning Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. As a military head of state in the late 1970s, he took certain decisive actions that turned out as great strides toward achieving a great nation. One of such noble policies was the Universal Basic Education (UBE). The UBE scheme kicked off nationwide with free education programme at the primary school level of the public school system. The policy governing free education programme made it compulsory for parents/guardians to ensure that their children/wards go to school. Following the introduction of the 6-3-3-4 system of education in the 1980s, the federal government extended its free education programme to the Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) in the public school system.

 

In view of our peculiar situation in Igboland in general, and Imo State in particular, the free education programme is yet to be totally free of certain fees, levies, and dues in the public school system. This shortfall account for the ignorance of some people about the free education programme of the federal government, which had already been in progress. No wonder, Governor Rochas Okorocha received rapturous applause from the ignorant public for his mere promise of free education during the 2011 electioneering campaign.

 

As Peter Marshall rightly said “give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything”. The import of this philosophical disposition is that governor Okorocha should have given clear vision to Imo people about the federal government’s free education programme, which already is in progress in the public school system prior to his emergence in 2011. Given this background, the governor only needed to show good knowledge of how to advance the viability of free education in its true sense. Regrettably, he set off on a wrong pedestrian, and like a showman, he claimed to be the pathfinder or architect of free education in Imo State, which is totally untrue. In essence, what he should have done on assumption of office was to narrow and put down what his government’s plan of action should entail to complement the federal government’s efforts in reducing the cost of education to its barest minimum.

Without sounding parochial, ex-governor Ikedi Ohakim came into governance with the clean and green initiative. He gave the programme an unmistaken boost and style. This enabled the state capital, Owerri to win a national award of excellence as the cleanest city in Nigeria. In situations like this, ex-President George Bush (Snr) of America said, “Great men and great nations keep their promises”. If Governor Okorocha can keep faith at the primary school level as a model and ensure no payment of any sort (including internal and external exams), provide modest teaching-learning environment and offer better welfare package to teachers, he would be on the part of leaving his footprints on the sands of time. But, to think that he will be Jack of free education at all levels means that he is an imposturous master in the gathering storm. Methinks, the free education at all levels of the governor is a sweet-coated promise that can hardly be fulfilled. Even, the rich oil producing states like Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, and Delta cannot have such tall dream. The undressed naked truth is that the actions and policies of the governor, which at best are hasty and haphazard does not offer any promising direction or road map to a fruitful free education programme. My position will be better understood as I delve in some depth on the specifics of the modus operandi of the free education programme in Imo State.

Firstly, as governor Okorocha began the business of governance, it dawned on him that free education per se is not only about free tuition fees, which the federal government had taken care of. It involves a lot more including its concomitant funding on the part of the state government. This may be why the governor started the hullaballoo about slashing the security votes and salaries of his government officials. During this time, there were widespread rumors that every autonomous community in the state will support the free education programme with N0.5m, while the civil servants would pay compulsory education levy. These clever maneuvers of the governor were clear manifestation of obvious lack of thorough home-work, or failure to produce a clearly articulated blueprint, or a defined agenda to promote the programme. In short, the governor merely scratched an important issue that deserve fundamental action plan, having realized too late the futility of his professed campaign statement that there is plenty of money in Imo State begging for usage. He knew too well that he cannot levy the people without provoking a storm of protest.

Secondly, in attempt to prove his sincerity about his avowed free education programme, and thereby win applause, governor Okorocha abolished the N100 development levy and the N950 stakeholder’s fee paid in the public primary schools and the JSS respectively.   Also, he scrapped the school fees in the public Senior Secondary Schools (SSS), although President Jonathan extended free education to that level in September 2011. To the perception of a passer-by, the scrapping of the fees, dues and levies was a noble gesture. But, to a discernible mind, it was clearly window dressing. It is grossly deceptive to scrap the comparatively little fees and levies in the public schools just to win public ovation, and only to turn round to create paucity of fund in the supervision and administration of public schools. Today, financial bottleneck has worsened the supervision of schools as it is now a thing of the past. At the same time, the various administrative needs of the schools are begging for urgent attention. Free education is not only about free school fees, free PTA dues, free levy, etc. It encompasses a lot more. In view of the foregoing, one is at a loss on why the governor failed to go the whole hog of properly addressing the issue of financial commitment to the on-going free education programme. Definitely, he who fails to plan invariably plans to fail. Therefore, it is embarrassing that governor Okorocha’s cardinal programme, which is anchored on free education programme is visibly faulty, not clearly defined, and thus a total departure from what obtains in a non-politicized free education setting.

 

Thirdly, governor Okorocha appears to believe so much in showmanship or politicization of the free education at all levels in Imo State. Otherwise, how can one explain the razzmatazz about salary to school children, which in late 2011 was a front burner of informed discourse? Truly, the governor threw the gauntlet when he boasted about the introduction of N100 salary (per child per day or about N3,000 per child per month) as a novel dimension. At this point, may I eulogize the great Zik who in this circumstance said “whatever someone does or says will someday be used as a weapon against him.” Frankly speaking, many people questioned the rationale for such a wrong idea about salary to school children when thousands of parents were relieved of their jobs in the ministries, departments and agencies of the state government as well as the local government councils. It is ridiculous that the governor schemed to pay an insignificant proportion of the total public school enrolment. Indeed, payment of N100 per child per (2011/12) academic session was effected in few selected schools in strategic locations in the state. What another window dressing! Or, is governor Okorocha suffering from, probably, a hallucination due to his inability to execute his vision? This politics of salary to school children is like the politics of community speakers who on appointment in July 2011 were promised a monthly salary of N100,000. After serving for more than six months, they were paid a monthly salary of N30,000 only and no more.

Why are governor Okorocha’s programmes and schemes associated with “once upon a time”?  Once upon a time, the governor paid salary of N100 to a select group of school children. Once upon a time, the governor gave uniforms to a select group of school children, and expects the entire state public school system to wear common attire. That which is wrong in not sustaining any of the schemes is actually what is wrong in the initiatives of the schemes.

 

Actually, this so-called salary of N100 per child per day is in essence the feeding allowance meant for school children on daily basis as provided by the Universal basic Education Commission (UBEC). The daily meal was never offered to the school children just as the cash was ever present but out of reach, like the hope of Tantalus. And, yet the governor prides himself in introducing novel dimensions in the free education at all levels in the state.

Nevertheless, there is room for change or improvement if the governor can offer to defray the cost of external exams such as the first school leaving certificate exam, common entrance exam, JSS exam into SSS, SSS NECO and WAEC for all school children in Imo public school system. If the governor welcomes the suggestion, he should sustain the practice and be in a position to win an award of excellence. It should not be turned into the usual “once upon a time the governor paid our external exam fees”.

 

In fact, I have learnt to laugh like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo when the issue of governor Okorocha and his interest in the education of school children is discussed. Is it right that the external exams covered by the agencies of the state government should charge fees in a free education setting? Without sounding immodest, the governor should not use external exams to reclaim what he lost in levies, dues and fees, which were abolished in the public school system. No sooner had he relished in the applause for abolishing the various payments in the school than he increased the fees for external exams in the public school system. For example, the fees for first school leaving certificate exam used to be N500 during Dr Ohakim’s administration, but now it tripled to N1,850. Also, the fees for the common entrance exam into the JSS was N500, but now it skyrocket to N1,750.

 

In addition, the common entrance exam into the model JSS was a preserve of pupils who scored 50% and above, but it is now for all and sundry, just for the sake of monetary gains. Previously, the exam fees was N750, but now it doubled to N1,500. Also, the JSS exam into the SSS used to be N1,500, but it is now N3,500. To abolish the development levy of mere N100 and stakeholder’s fee of N950, and turn round to hike external exam fees organized by the apparatus of the state government can be likened to the Greek gift of giving with the right hand, and retrieving with the left hand. Where is the justification for the shout of free education? With the trend of things happening in the contemporary Imo politics, one would be tempted at a first instance to say “no truth in politics”.

 

Furthermore, there is obvious need to improve the school infrastructure in a free education setting. But, the recent innovation in which the pre-cast system of walls is being adopted for school buildings in some parts of the state is giving serious cause for concern. The one at the Township Primary School along Wetheral road, Owerri is a discouraging pointer to an improvement in school infrastructure. It is hugely an economic waste and a death trap. The pre-cast walls do not seem to consider dead loads or the weight of the number of school children that will use the upper floor (or the upstairs). Under normal concrete practice, the reinforcement for such public edifice is determined by the size of rods and the ratio of the mixture of the concrete. One wonders why governor Okorocha preferred the pre-cast wall for school buildings than the usual block walls in vogue. I have never seen any of the residential or business buildings of the governor in any part of the country built with the pre-cast walls for whatever advantage he thinks desirable. Methinks, the mark of greatness is the ability to use powers to affect the course of history positively.

 

Also, the demolition of the New Face building for adult education located in the said Township Primary School is a practical demonstration of insensitivity to monumental structures. In addition to this are other demolitions across the state namely Ama J.K. recreation park, the various roundabouts in Owerri, the government house buildings, etc which cost the state unimaginable economic waste. Ponder: state funds were used to erect the structures, just as state funds were spent to demolish them.

I want to believe that it is the sheer awfulness of the moment that influenced governor Okorocha’s incurable addiction to doublespeak. How can   one explain the promise of free education and scholarship simultaneously to Imo indigenes in the state owned tertiary institutions as if the two issues are interchangeable? We must not allow ourselves to be misled by the shout of free education at all levels. Nobody in Imo State has told us more lies, and been more treacherous than the shouters of free education.

In fact, those who have free education always on their lips are the ones who turned our public schools into another arena of politics …. free uniforms, free sandals, school children’s salary and other ridiculous policies. The fanatics of free education at all levels are people of limited intelligence who want to stir everything in one non-descript brew. The moment the lies and deceit are left to settle, it naturally throws up the difference again. This is why Bryant William said, “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again”. Also, John 8:32 said. “And, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”.

 

Sometime in 2011, the state commissioner for education sponsored a radio jingle, which purported that the present state administration reduced the tuition fees in the Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri from N150,000 to N30,000. What a blatant lie! However, the tuition fees at IMSU had been N33,750 for old students, and about N53,750 for new students.

 

We are living witnesses to how governor Okorocha in 2011 hurriedly increased the tuition fees for old students to N53,750 just on a par with the new students. The lesson about the increased fees led to the bold inscription at the entrance gate of IMSU bearing “NO SCHOOL FEES, NO EXAM”. What a kind of hypocrisy! Yet, this is a philanthropist that wants the world to believe his sincerity about free education at all levels. Recently, the governor issued a scholarship cheque of N100,000 in a kind of random selection of Imo students at IMSU and the Imo Polytechnic, Umuagwo. One wonders what will be the fate of other Imo students in these two institutions that were not issued with the cheques. The funny story about the scholarship cheques dated 7th September 2012 is that none of the students is able to reap the proceeds of the crossed cheque. Each student yearns to have it in cash and touch and feel the scholarship spree. But, there is fear of the unknown, thence no student is reported to have parted with the cheque. What a free education wahala!

The next issue is the actual tuition fees at IMSU. When the Executive committee of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) paid a courtesy visit at the government house, Owerri on November 29, 2012, governor Okorocha promised that he will slash the tuition fees of non-indigenes by 50%. Certain opinion points to N180,000 as the new tuition fees at IMSU. Presently, a beneficiary of the scholarship cheque of N100,000 was said to  have been asked to lodge the cheque in addition to cash payments of N50,000; N20,000; and N10,000 at various points, which translate to N180,000. Is this the new tuition fees, which the non-indigenes will pay N90,000 (being 50%) as against N80,000 cash payment by selected indigenes?

At this final juncture, I do not intend to address the issue of law students of IMSU at the Nigerian Law Schools that were denied the bursaries, which previous administrations honored without delay. How about the de-registration of the law faculty of IMSU in an era of free education at all levels? It is painful and shameful that the more we look, the less we see of the free education at all levels. Many of us poured venoms on ex-governor Ohakim for not reducing the N30,000 acceptance fee for new students at IMSU. But in 2011, our mouths were shut up by governor Okorocha when he increased it to N50,000. Presently, it is further increased to N70,000. WHO IS NOW DECEIVING WHO?

I undertook this issue of free education at all levels because it is extremely important in human development – to offer learners the opportunity to study without tears and fears of cost of education. But, the manner of free education we have here in Imo State is one in which a future situation will be affected. Without mincing words, the future of our children who are the greater tomorrow is at stake. Therefore, it is not right and not just to allow the shouters of free education to mar the future of our children in the public school system, when their cherished children are in private schools or overseas. If Imo must be better, we need to redefine what governor Okorocha actually mean by free education at all levels