Students of Ondo state origin in higher institutions across the country have disrupted activities in Akure the state capital, protesting the "anti-student policies" of the state government.
The students who gathered together under the aegis of the National Association of Ondo State Students, NAOSS shut down the office of the Ondo State Scholarship Board in the early hours of the day disrupting daily activities in the office.
The protesting students carried placards with various inscriptions such as: "Governor Akeredolu pay our bursary, No school fee increment", "Poor parents cannot afford huge tuition fee", "Akeredolu: stop your anti-education policies" and "No payment of scholarship since you assumed office yet you are planning to increase tuition", "Akeredolu is a product of Awolowo's free education, what is our offence".
Speaking with SUNSHINE HERALD, the leader of the protesting students who is the National President of the NAOSS said all efforts to have an audience with the governor before now had proved abortive.
"The present administration of the National Association of Ondo State Students assumed office July last year, since then, we have been writing series of courtesy visit letters. making series of consultations on how to meet Mr. Governor to discuss the demands and requests of Ondo state students which have proved abortive.
"This is so much disheartening to the ears of students, for us as leaders to go and tell them that we have been finding it difficult to meet the governor. So we just hope the governor comes to us, see us, discuss with us and give us necessary way forward.
"We have not carried along during the education summit, it was like we gatecrashed the education summit. Because even evidently well, we all know, at the education summit, we agitated to even have a speech at the education summit. So government should not run an autocratic government, it should be an all-round government where all stakeholders are being called together before government policies are being made and implemented.
"So even at the education summit, we as law abiding citizens of the state, we have always been calm, and we have been quiet just to make sure that this our government is a student-friendly governor, let us meet him, let us discuss our issues with him so that he can attend to it. But all these have proved abortive, and at this point, we have no choice than to come out and express our grievances.
This planned increase in tution fees of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko is an anti-student policy. We all know the current economy of the state, even the state government is complaining of not having enough funds to carry out its projects. What about the citizens? What about the indigent students who are suffering on the street, who are suffering to put one or two things together just to get education?
If these fees are increased outrageously, what is the fate of these students which we stand for?
The students gave the state gave the state government a 7-day ultimatum to listen to their demand or risk a total shutdown of all activities by all Ondo state students across the country.
While reacting to the protests by the students, the state education commissioner, Femi Agagu who spoke with SUNSHINE HERALD in his office in Akure said the goverment is ready to meet with the students like all other stakeholders in the state, if they go through the right channel.
He said: "Those who have sought appointments to meet with us at the ministry level, we have been meeting with them. And I don't see why the scholarship board will also not be willing to meet with them."
Speaking on the demands by the students on non-payment of their bursary and scholarship, Mr. Agagu said the state government had already made provisions for them in the 2018 budget.
"I am aware that the scholarship board has made sufficient and adequate provisions for the payment of scholarships in the budget. Of course, you know as much as I do too that the budget, they are projections. So when government is able to raise enough money, just like any other aspect of government, the bursary issue will also be addressed. That it is in the budget, it shows government's willingness to pay when enough money is available.
This government is committed to meeting all its obligations, and the ones it has willingly contrated," Agagu also said.
On the issue of the planned increase of tuition fee of AAUA, the education commissioner said, "It is not the governor that is increasing tuition fee in Akungba, it is for the university to look at its finances, look at its income projections and try to find a way of meeting their expenditure.
"There is a limit to what government can give in terms of subventions. I don't know how much the university makes air records. This government has not announced any increment in the fees and the government of Akeredolu does not have any plans to increase any school fees.
"But if there is any plan to increase tuition, you will have to understand that Akungba is not the only institution owned by the government in Ondo state, there is Akungba, there is University of Medical Sciences, there is OSUSTECH in Okitipupa, there is polytechnic in Owo, so our own job is to constitute the governing councils. Universities and polytechnics are autonomous institutions, so it is now the duty of each of the institutions to determine how they will run there system."
After spending some time at the scholarship board, the students marched to the governor's office, moving through Bishop Fagun road towards First bank area.
The protesting students were however stopped from getting to the governor's office by men of the Nigeria Police, who formed a barricade just in front of the Ministry of Information.