VOX POP: Mixed Reactions as UIMSAites Report No Change in HPTL Fees

In April, 2018, the students of the college of medicine, university of Ibadan took to the streets of twitter to express their grievances over the proposed Health Professional Training Levy (HPTL) by the College Administration – 100,000 Naira for clinical students and 75,000 Naira for preclinical students. This was the #noto100k movement. Despite the online protests, the College Administration did not go back on their decision.

Now, over 6 years later, with the recent hike in school fees and the current state of the nation’s economy, lingering expectations had left many medical students in a state of limbo until the release of the fees schedule on the students’ portal revealed that the HPTL for the new session stood the same as last year’s. We took to the streets to gauge the pulse of UIMSAites, seeking their thoughts, concerns, and hopes regarding the HPTL and the recent developments. From frustration to resignation, their responses reveal the complexities of a situation that affects us all.

Q: With the increment in school fees, were you expecting an increase in the HPTL?

David: Yes, I was expecting an increment considering the fact that the Provost has always had words around increment in school fees.

Victor: I was expecting it to increase. I was even thinking 100k sef but thank God it didn’t increase.

Moses: Yes, I was expecting it to increase and this thought was influenced by a statement I had heard from a member of the college.

Ayomide: I was actually. But I’m still doubting it will be the same. I heard there’s a problem with the portal yesterday. So, let’s wait till next month first and see how things goes.

Chibuzor: Yes I was.

Oluwapelumi: Not really. I wasn’t sure, but was more inclined to ‘No’.

Oluwabimbs: I was expecting it to increase.

Q: Do you think it should be increased?

Oluwabimbs: I don’t think it should be increased. Unibadan is apparently a federal university, if anything, steps should be taken to prevent students from having to worry about fees, since the whole idea of a federal university is to make education easily accessible for all.

Moses: No, I don’t think it should. Interesting question though.

Victor: No.

Ayomide: No, it should not.

Chibuzor: No. Even with the assumption that the increased levy will be used only in aiding learning with the provision of new materials, I still don’t want it to be increased

Oluwapelumi: Nope. It will eventually be though, but not yet.

David: I don’t think it should be increased because if you see the result of what you pay for, you’ll be encouraged to pay for it again even if it’s increased. If we can’t see the results of what we paid for, then I think it should be reduced instead of being increased.

Q: Have you noticed any challenges or limitations in your training due to inadequate resources or facilities that you think would call for an increment?

Oluwapelumi: No comment on this. I don’t believe an increase in the levy will result in an improvement on facilities.

Oluwabimbs: None, yet. Probably because I’m just starting.

Chibuzor: I don’t know the state of COMUI’s finances. So I can’t really have an informed opinion. Things could always be better, whether an increment would be the best way to handle that is another question altogether.

Ayomide: From the little time I’ve spent in clinical, I would say we need a lot in UCH. UCH is government-owned, not student-owned. It should be funded by the government. From the Lecture room to the wards to the emergency unit, we need a lot. You know about the issue of light in UCH now for the past months. That’s one of the problems we are facing. UCH should be on 24hrs supply. We are dealing with life here.

Moses: Objectively, yes, we need improvement in everything. However, increasing these fees, what will be the impact on the students?? It’s basically a lot to be discussed. There are many things that can be improved here but it’s the funding. Increasing HTPL to meet those will be a like a + and – thing. The impact on students, how will it be?

Victor: For now I  haven’t noticed any one. We haven’t fully started.

Q: Given the dissatisfaction of many students with the current state of learning facilities, do you think increasing the Levy will improve the state of affairs?

Oluwapelumi: Increasing the levy would not improve much. When the levy was first introduced, a lot of promises were made concerning different aspects that would no longer require payment or improvements that would be made. So far, things have got worse instead of better.

Chibuzor: I can’t say for sure that increasing the levy would do that. Things could always be better, whether an increment would be the best way to handle that is another question altogether.

Ayomide: The current state of learning isn’t due to the amount of HPTL, it’s due to lack of adequate funding from FG from the beginning. Is it not CoMUI alumni (ICOMAA) that is now donating for CoMUI? How much will students pay to provide adequate learning environment? Lol, none of us will be here at all.

Moses: Yes, but with the current economic situation of the country, if there’s an increase in addition to the increased school fees, how many will be able to afford it comfortably? Who will use the facilities the increased fees seek to cater for? The facilities aren’t up to standard, yes but I think it’s the Government that should do more in that development.

Victor: We are in Nigeria actually. Even if the HPTL is increased to 100k or any amount above 75k, that doesn’t guarantee that our current facility will be better or that they will use the money to change the current facilities. So it’s better we just leave it at 75k.

David: The question shouldn’t be about increments. The question should be: after the increment, will the money be used for the benefit of the students? I don’t think any student will go against it if they see what they are paying for. If they increase it are we going to see the benefit? If the answer is no, then I don’t think there should be an increment.

Oluwabimbs: Maybe it will cater for it, but then again, there is not exactly any improvement all these while even though they’ve been collecting the fee, there is no guarantee that there will be improvement after increasing it too.

Q: How do you think the lack of increment will impact your academic performance and overall well-being?

Chibuzor: If I could predict things like this I would be a billionaire. But, if like you say, the increase in levy is used to aid learning, I guess that would impact it positively.

Moses: Hmm. This thing is a long road. Increase fees = better facilities, students who can’t afford are choked and likely drop out. No funding from government = schools in low state, less development. What should be done? The fight for education priority in the country must continue. Maybe one day, maybe by mistake, we’ll get it right. Education is of utmost importance and shouldn’t be limited to only those in the rich class. There should be development, yes. That’s the role of the government. At this point where the government isn’t doing much to help, I still do not think increasing the fees at the expense of the students will do justice. The fight to improve our education should be channelled in the right direction.

While many students anticipated an increase in the levy due to rising school fees, the majority agreed that such increase shouldn’t occur. It’s absurd to expect students to bear the burden of funding improvements in facilities and resources when the government should be stepping up to the plate. There is a general consensus among the students that the current state of facilities is inadequate, but many doubt that an increase in the HPTL would directly translate to improvements. The students also expressed concerns about the affordability of an increased levy, especially in the current economic climate.

Regarding the funding of medical education in Nigeria, should the burden fall on students through increased levies, or should the government take more responsibility? The students’ hope is that the fight for educational priority in the country will continue and that, eventually, education will be accessible to all.

Now that students have seen the levy amount on their portal, it’s time for our leaders to prioritise education and provide adequate funding, rather than relying on students to foot the bill. Anything less is a disservice to the future of healthcare in this country

Oluwagbolade Ajiboro and Esther Oyesade

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