The 10th substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Prof. Lilian Salami, has said she remains committed to driving change for the better of the great higher institution, even if outcomes are less favourable than desired, at times.
Salami, who is the second female VC of UNIBEN, after the no-nonsense Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, said that the N20,000 late registration levy led to significant growth in early registrations, not seen at the Federal Government-owned university in decades.
She said that the good news was that the significant growth in early registrations, from last year’s rate of 35 per cent to 93 per cent, was a UNIBEN record.
Salami spoke at the weekend in her office at the Ugbowo campus of UNIBEN, on the Benin-Ore-Lagos Expressway, while addressing reporters during a news conference.
The students of UNIBEN at the two campuses: Ugbowo and Ekenwan Road, on the way to the Nigerian Army Barracks and the strategic Gelegele Port, protested last Tuesday and Wednesday over the late registration fee, which was increased from N10,000 to N20,000.
UNIBEN’s vice-chancellor said: “I will like to address the recent event that has spurred a lot of news and brought attention to our great Institution. The issue at hand was and remains the increasing rate of late registration by students of the university. This behaviour continues to have a negative downstream impact on our institution’s operations and ability to deliver the quality of education and students’ support that I promised and remain committed to as Vice-Chancellor.
“Beyond university operations, research shows that there is a direct correlation between late registration and poor student academic performance. The sad fact is that less than 25 per cent of our students register on time yearly. No functional or high-performing education institution can thrive with such lacklustre statistics.
“Early registration is critical for effective operations of the university, it provides insight into the students’ volume/demand and allows for smarter planning to ensure that we have enough staff, courses and funding to support our students accordingly. It is important to note that in the past, other non-financial interventions in attempts to urge early registration have failed.
“On the 2nd of August, 2021, the university’s Senate agreed to increase the existing payment of a late fee of N10,000 to N20,000 on all students, who passed due registration period, as another attempt to further encourage early registration among students.
“The good news is that we saw significant growth in early registrations – from last year’s rate of 35 per cent to 93 per cent. We have not seen this rate of early registration in decades. It is a UNIBEN record – without question. Kudos to those students, who chose to make their education a priority.”
Salami also stated that she was not against the students’ massive protest, but declared that freedom of speech did not and should never amount to chaos.
She said: “In the same token, some students protested the imposition of the late fee and took to the streets to make their voices heard. Protests and freedom of speech are a critical part of a well-functioning society. I continue to be an advocate for creating an environment where all members of the UNIBEN community can have a voice.
“While most protesting students acted peacefully, a few turned violent – endangering themselves, their fellow students and our staff, including myself. I am glad that the protest concluded with no one being hurt. As the Vice-Chancellor, I will continue to encourage fair, open dialogue, but violence in any shape or form has no place in UNIBEN and will not be tolerated. Freedom of speech does not and should never amount to chaos.
“As a result of the outcry from the students, the university’s Senate reversed the decision to impose the late fee of N20,000. It is important to mention that this reversal in position will not break UNIBEN. I fundamentally believe that there are very few decisions that are irreversible and this is definitely not one of them. At this time, the N20,000 late fee is reversed and it is a closed case.
“UNIBEN is resilient and we will continue to move forward, with a strong conviction to ensure that the university reaches its full potential, as a premier academic institution.”
The vice-chancellor also stated that she would continue to be proud of the progress that her administration had made over the last 20 months and would continue to make, in improving student experiences in the areas of constant power and water supplies, renovated and livable hostel spaces, clean and beautiful environment, improved teaching and learning conditions/materials, improved students’ work-study programme and academic excellence
She said: “Over the next few weeks, my administrative team and I will reflect on the lessons learnt from the last few days.
“I have no doubt that the lessons will shape our policies and back-end processes, how we gather the voice of the students and how we leverage technology to address these kinds of issues in the future.
“The goal remains to ensure that our great institution continues to strive and create an environment where all can succeed.
“As the Vice-Chancellor, I remain committed to driving change for the better of our great institution, even if outcomes are as less favourable than desired at times.”
Salami also assured that she and other members of the management team of the higher institution would learn, adjust and continue to find ways to thrive as one UNIBEN.