I was surprised when my claim that Nigeria offers one of the cheapest tertiary education in the world was met with disdain. What worried me most was the fact that the disdain came from people who enjoyed and still enjoying the highly subsidized tertiary education. Some people who agreed were quick to label the Education substandard just to ridicule the country. No matter what we feel about the country, the fact that we all enjoyed cheap tertiary education cannot be controverted. The fact speaks for itself. I gained admission to the then Ondo State University, Ado Ekiti in 1996/97 session. My tuition was N5, 150. It was one of the most expensive in the country then. I paid N4, 850, N4, 350 and N3, 850 in second, third and final year respectively. I paid a total of N18, 200 in 4 years for a University degree. At that time, my counterparts in Obafemi Awolowo University were paying N500 as tuition.
You heard me right, five hundred naira. This token gave them access to the university health care as well as the library. N90 (Ninety Naira) was their hostel fees for a session. My mates got a University degree from OAU Ife with less than N4, 000. It may interest you to know that medical students in the school paid the same ridiculous amount. This is not a story of Lord Lugard Era. A Youth Corper allowee at that time was N3, 750. Which means, a corper can sponsor someone in the University without blinking an eyelid. By the time I started my youth service in 2002, a youth corper allowee has been increased to N7, 500. This means that my 3 months corper allowee was by far higher than what I paid in 4 years as school fees in a state university.
We are quick to compare Nigeria with the US, Canada, UK and other “saner climes”. Someone even said Nigeria does not have students loan. The loan system was instituted in these countries because an average citizen cannot afford tertiary education. It may interest you to know that Obama was already the President before he finished paying his student loan. I don’t think any bank will give you a loan to pay the ridiculous amount we pay as fees in Nigerian Universities. Till date the average tuition in public universities in Nigeria is N50, 000. Nigeria, arguably, has the highest number of University graduates per square kilometre in the world. Thanks to the highly subsidized education we all enjoyed. In saner climes, no middle income earner can sponsor a child in the University without resorting to loans that will take the student years to clear.
You need as high as $80,000 to study medicine and $60,000 to study law. This did not include hostel accommodation. You will pay as high as $14,000 per session for hostel accommodation. I am using Canada as a case study. Note that education is cheaper in Canada than US. A middle income earner in Nigeria will sponsor a child in a public university without any problem. In fact, a youth corper can afford to send his sibling to a university and afford the fees. As per the quality, UK has poached 7,000 Nurses from Nigeria within the last 12 months. Saudi Arabia, Canada and UK are scrambling to poach all our Doctors that were trained cheaply by our Government. I don’t think these countries will come to pack our “low quality” graduates to fill their “high quality” health institutions. We believe it is low quality because we got it cheaply.
Skilled workers trained by our universities are currently running the show in Canada, UK and US. I was present in a forum where Mr. Babalola, a leading immigration lawyer in Toronto, was delivering a paper. The first thing he did was to thank Nigeria for the cheap education given to him. Babalola studied law at the University of Ibadan. He knew he would have paid through the nose to get a Law degree in Canada. I deliberately posted this tertiary education claim on our independence day because some people said there is nothing to celebrate in Nigeria. If an ungrateful person gets to Paradise, he will find nothing to celebrate there. It is simply a matter of perspective. You don’t value what you have until you lose it. No country is completely good or completely bad. It depends on what you want to see. I have met Canadians who did not see anything good in their country. Someone said good people will always see the good in people. In the same vein, I believe good citizens will always see the good in their country.