The resolution of the Association of Provosts of Colleges of Medicine (APCOM) to impose professional fees on students undergoing medical training in public universities is causing unrest at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile-Ife, Osun State.
OAU medical students have protested against APCOM’s recommendation, vowing to resist the school management’s move to impose the fees on them.
This is coming barely two months after the management of the University of Ibadan (UI) implemented the resolution, which stirred controversy and mass protests by its medical students.
The resolution, medical students said, transferred the government’s responsibility of providing facilities for quality medical training in public-owned institutions to them. They wondered why the association want students to bear the cost of their professional training, which is supposed to be provided free of charge.
At the annual APCOM meeting last September, provosts of public-owned medical colleges unanimously agreed that there was the need to save government-owned medical colleges from collapse by initiating the payment of professional training fees to prevent the colleges from losing their accreditation.
The association approved N75,000 for students in 200 to 300-Levels, and N85,000 for students in 400 to 600-Levels. The professional fees, the association said, must be paid with school fees in every academic session by medical students in all government-owned institutions.
Last week, when the OAU management reminded medical and dental students of the payment, the announcement was greeted with a protest.
At a meeting between OAU College of Health Sciences principal officers and the medical students representatives, the Provost, Prof T.K. Ijadunola, explained the reason for the implementation of the policy.
The provost said: “The professional fees introduced are not exclusive to OAU. They are to be paid by all medical students in all Federal Government-owned schools. Fatigue is beginning to set in for government-owned schools because of inadequate funding. It is high time students and parents began to have a say in the medical training by putting their money where their mouth is.”
Prof Ijadunola disclosed that the OAU medical college owed external examiners employed to grade the knowledge of the students, adding that workers of the school at various times contributed personal money to buy equipment and materials for practice in the laboratory.
The provost implored the students’ representatives to prevail on their colleagues to pay the proposed levies in order to give them the best training.
A teacher of Oral and Surgery, S.B. Aregbesola, told CAMPUSLIFE that the professional fees were inevitable, following the challenges of funding faced by medical colleges. He said students must face the reality that the professional training would not be provided free by the school, adding that every student would have to pay personally or be catered for through scholarship.
He said: “During the last administration in the school, Department of Dentistry did not have money to provide facilities that would accelerate its accreditation. Some lecturers contributed up to N2 million of their personal money towards procuring the required facilities. Dentistry has the most expensive training in the college today, yet Dental students pay paltry N33,000.”
Aregbesola said the college had the plan to set up a committee to isolate indigent students and subsets source funds to pay for them.
The medical students rejected the management’s explanation, vowing that they would resist further move by the school to transfer the responsibility of the government to them.
Medical, Nursing and Dental students held series of meetings after their meeting with the provost, where it was agreed that no student should pay the controversial professional fee. The students asked their representatives to meet again with the college management for further negotiations.
The students asked the management not to make them bear the consequences of poor funding by the Federal Government, urging the medical college to devise other means of generating funds for the professional training rather than ask them to pay the levies.
A student, who simply identified herself as Olaitan, said many students may be forced to drop out of the medical college, given that their parents are being owed salaries for months by their employers. Rather than meeting with students, Olaitan said the medical college administrators should have met with their parents, since the fees are to be paid by the parents. This way, she said, the school would be able to understand the students’ position better.
Speaking with CAMPUSLIFE, Ife Medical Students Association (IMSA) President, Tosin Agbaje, said all the medical students remained united against the fees.
He confirmed that the management was planning a review of the fees, which, he said, could be reduced, given the present economic situation in the country. He, however, vowed that IMSA would not allow students’ exploitation.
Reacting to the development, the Alliance of Nigerian Students Against Neo-liberal Attacks (ANSA), through its spokesman, Gbenga Oloniran, hailed the protest by the medical students against the proposed fees.
In a statement, ANSA said: “We see the introduction of professional fees by the association of medical colleges’ provosts as another means to extort the students and poor parents for a problem they have not created. The OAU Health Sciences College, students and the university administration should direct the problem to the government that is solely responsible for the establishment and funding. ANSA will not hesitate to join the students in resisting the fees at any level, as it remains unjustifiable and usual.”
OAU Public Relations Officer, Mr Abiodun Olarenwaju, declined to speak on the development, saying the management had not briefed him about the development. He said the school had been facing challenges in funding.
It will be recalled that OAU recently lost NUC accreditation for some professional courses, including Dentistry, Law, Fine Arts, Botany, Food Nutrition and Consumer Science. Also, Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) withdrew the license of OAU Nursing Department because of poor facilities, among others.
When the UI management announced the implementation of the resolution, students abandoned lectures in protest. The UI Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Idowu Olayinka, said the professional training fees were necessary because of financial challenges facing medical colleges.
He said: “The medical students have to do some professional courses and they have to do fieldwork too. Medical colleges are finding it unbearable to support these academic activities because of financial challenges. If students did not pay the professional training fees, we might end up producing half-baked graduates. We may end up losing accreditation by the National Universities Commission (NUC) or any relevant professional bodies.”