They are currently in a dilemma and at a crossroads. However, the most worrying aspect is that time is not on their side. If the situation persists, they are on the verge of losing an entire academic section for no fault of theirs.
According to the University of Ilorin, they either pay an additional N1 million transfer/clearance fee in addition to all other tuition payments imposed by the institution or ship out. Others are asking for over N500,000, while some unconfirmed reports by the students put the request at N2.5 million.
This is the fate of over 500 university students studying nursing, medicine, computer science, Sharia Law and food science, among various other disciplines, who recently returned to Nigeria from various universities in Sudan following the war that broke out in the northeastern African country.
After their successful evacuation from the war-torn country, the affected students subsequently scaled the hurdle of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which confirmed their admission status, only to be told to pay the sum of N1 million each before they could resume their studies at the University of Ilorin.
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One of the affected female students, name withheld, while narrating their ordeal to Daily Trust, said it has been a double tragedy.
“They told us to pay N1 million, apart from the school fees, which we learnt is a little less than N200,000. Some of us whose parents can afford it have already started paying after the school refused to consider our plea, but the majority are at a crossroads.
“Even the few that have paid the money and the majority that can’t afford it have been told that we can only be admitted starting from 200 level, irrespective of whether we were in our final year or not, when we were forced to relocate from Sudan.
“For now, I don’t even know what to do, as dropping out of the programme is just staring us in the face. But we have also been making inquiries at other institutions to see if they would consider us, but we have yet to hear anything.
“Not all universities accept us ‘refugees’, so we look for those that do so through a group that we created and submit our CVs to their portal if they would consider us for admission.
“For now, the situation is very worrying; we are not from Ukraine for God’s sake; we are Nigerians; why will our transfer fee be N1 million? The money is too much. We are not supposed to be subjected to this kind of treatment in Nigeria after what we went through in Sudan.
“Before we applied, we were told the transfer fee was N350,000. But after we were given admission and wanted to pay the acceptance fee, UNILORIN brought up the issue of N1 million. Initially, we thought it was an error until we saw screenshots of payments made by some parents who could afford it.”
The students said they have written “several letters to people in authority within and outside the school, but nothing has come from them.
Also speaking, another affected student said the issue is really disturbing, and “we don’t know why they insist we pay N1 million just for the transfer/clearance fee.
“We are hoping they will reduce it, and if not, the other alternative is to seek admission elsewhere, but this is not fair and is grossly difficult to comprehend. After we scaled the hurdle of returning home from war, this one is equally a big one for us to cross,” he added.
An academic adviser for some of the students, Mr Gafari Lukman, confirmed to Daily Trust that he had written several letters to the Vice Chancellor of UNILORIN, Prof. Wahab Egbewole, through email, adding that apart from an auto-response, he had yet to hear from the school.
According to two of the letters sighted by Daily Trust, in which he also copied the JAMB Registrar, Lukman expressed “deep concern over the development that requires immediate attention and intervention”.
“These students have faced incredible challenges during their time in Sudan and are now looking to transfer to the University of Ilorin to continue their education.
“However, the recent requirement of a N1 million clearance fee has placed an immense financial burden on them. It is essential to emphasise that many of these students were recipients of scholarships in Sudan, and they do not possess the means to meet this substantial financial demand.
“Some of these students are now on the verge of being out of school for another year due to their inability to raise this amount. It is crucial to understand that these students are not financially privileged; they gained admission to their current universities in Sudan solely through scholarships, showcasing their commitment to education and their potential for academic success.
“In light of the above, I kindly request your immediate intervention and attention to this matter. The emotional distress faced by these students, who have already endured challenging circumstances abroad, is palpable. Your support and consideration in addressing this issue would go a long way in alleviating their hardship and ensuring that they can continue their education in Nigeria and possibly at UNILORIN.”
Speaking on the issue, Hajiya Asmaa Yarima, one of their coordinators whose two children are also affected, told Daily Trust that “initially, when we opened the university transfer portal, N350,000 was shown as clearance after admission was given.
“But to our greatest surprise, it showed N1 million after admission.
“Out of curiosity, I called the school to complain about the change, and I was told it was a mistake from the portal that the initial amount was an old fee charged for inter-university transfer, even after making some efforts to see if it could be reduced.
“Most of the students are on scholarships, which are at times sponsored by the university in Sudan.
“The issue is that most times, once agents in Nigeria get such opportunities, they call home to the less privileged to get some token for themselves as agency fee and facilitate the admissions for the students to get the scholarship.
“Others are on scholarships sponsored by the state governments. But those sponsored by the school in Sudan find it more difficult to continue.
“So for me, there was no choice but to pay N2m for my two children because they said the fee was there before we came for their university transfer.
“So people are very concerned, and one of the students who also applied to the University of Ilorin recently lost her father, and we have to open a contribution box for her with only over N500,000 realised so far through other parents.
“But we were not able to get the N1 million because the plan was to help her raise the transfer money and let her relatives take care of accommodation and other tuition and fees.
“Most of them don’t just have the means of paying that amount because the money is not just there. Asking somebody on a scholarship to pay N1 million is not easy, unlike those of us already paying our students’ tuition. But sincerely, I don’t know what will happen because most of them told me they have lost hope.
“I reached out to the DVC academics at UNILORIN, who told me it’s a management decision. But going forward, maybe we can try to open a discussion on how the school can assist the less privileged, as you have suggested. Most of the affected students cannot even pay N500,000,” she said.
Why we are charging N1m as clearance fee – VC
Speaking on the issue, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Wahab Egbewole, told Daily Trust that the situation was not one of exploitation, contrary to some narratives.
“I want to restate the fact of our commitment to access to education, and that is why we were the very first university that gave indication to absorbing them.
“But because of the admissions process, we discovered that we will be incurring a number of costs and the normal transfer fee of N350,000 was no longer going to be enough because there are some hidden costs that are not apparent to many.
“In the last 15 years or thereabout, we have been charging N350,000, and we must appreciate the fact that whatever we charge them cannot be sustainable in 2023.
“The N1 million is less than a thousand dollars, and where they are coming from and other schools outside the country, none of them paid less than a thousand dollars.
“The impression is that the University of Ilorin is just exploiting them, asking them to pay N1 million after they have suffered so much.
“So, it is because of the circumstances that we found ourselves in terms of the facility and distribution of other things,” the VC added.