There were two other people seated in the room besides the man, ladies both. Fatimah was one. She and I had been running around – hobbling, in my case as I had just coughed out an arm and a leg in fees to UNILAG – fulfilling UNILAG’s labyrinthine registration requirements – now, to the department, across to the bursary, and down, way down, to the Postgraduate school, and back again, where it all started. Fatimah’s mouth ran at a hundred kilometres per hour, as always, even though the running around had slowed the rest of her considerably.
We should have arrived at the departmental office at about the same time. But in trying to pre-empt a familiar (unfamiliar, in hindsight) bureaucracy, I detoured to buy files from my trusty bookseller, one for myself and one for Fatimah, before attacking the small problem of stairs that go on and on and branch and twist so that a newcomer is suitably frustrated. Back up, I learned that my quick thinking had in fact been folly. The department provides fit-for-purpose university-branded files free of charge (terms and conditions apply). I seethed at myself beneath a stone face. Fatimah and the other girl chuckled at my expense. The man, the department’s extortionist-in-chief, threw flat jibes at me. I cut him short with an I’d-like-to-submit-my-registration-whatever-thank-you.
He was about to hand me one of the University branded files when he looked up at my face again and stopped. Housed in the man’s full face was the enthusiasm of a boy. His eyes, dour and unremarkable, fastened on me like gun sights. Out came the shot, target sufficiently acquired.
Have you registered?
Well, that’s all I’ve been doing all day, I replied, with disdain that I hoped was sufficiently disguised in my voice and on my face. The unremarkable eyes gained some remark, remarkably. He knew he had felled a prey. The correct answer should have been yes. His brand of registration – officially sanctioned I must add – wore quotation marks for headgear.
Have you registered?
I don’t understand, I replied. But, see, I did. I had been warned that I was expected to pay two thousand naira, for which I would be furnished with a departmental handbook (printed for less than a hundred naira I’m sure) and right-of-way to complete my registration.
What is your name?
I told him. It did not sound familiar to him. That much you could tell from his expression. And so to confirm his hunter’s hunch, he brought out his list – superfluous and useless in the proper scheme of things – and ran a corpulent index finger through it.
Your name is not here.
(Well, of course, Captain Obvious.)
That will be two thousand naira.
Two thou… Jesus! Do I get a receipt?, I said, throwing him a curveball.
Look, are you ready to register or do you just want to sit there? And if you just want to sit there, you’ll be cluttering the office…
Welcome to UNILAG, where collective Promethean energies are intensely focussed, like laser beams, in pursuit, service and worship of Extortion. Welcome to the Mecca of Extortion.
In 2012, while enrolling for my postgraduate diploma programme, the departmental office was ugly, unruly, cluttered. It was lorded over by two women, one thin as a reed, the other stout as bamboo, both as fearsomely lazy and unhelpful as they were unsmiling. Then, “registration” was five hundred naira, no receipt of course, payment of which was the Open Sesame! that melted their otherwise glacial expressions.
These days the office wears new paint. Its floor is newly tiled. Furniture is new and shiny. Clutter has magically uncluttered itself. (Meanwhile, classrooms remain untouched.) The “glacialities” – Their Glacial Frownesses – have been moved, perhaps to terrorize newly unfortunate human beings elsewhere.
Economists may find this useful in their contemplations of inflation: in two sessions – with a considerable helping of ASUU Strike – the price of “registration” had gone up 400%. (Another useful tool should be postgraduate admission form fees, which grow at an alarming rate year-on-year.)
I hear it is a university-wide malaise. And it is.
At the Postgraduate School, you’re required to present a receipt (for five thousand naira) for your purchase of an unwieldy, poorly produced prospectus whose only use is to gather dust wherever you dump it. The woman who (wo)manned the till handed me a Christian tract, blissfully ignorant of her part in a grand unchristian machine. When she wasn’t looking, I binned the tract in her bin. In 2012, I paid ten thousand naira – for a prospectus (I did not collect because it was unavailable at the point of payment) and some other cruelly overpriced unwieldiness which continues to gather dust wherever I dumped it.
I am a part-time student. My classes are Saturday only. I am charged a good deal extra in tuition fees to offset the nuisance value I constitute. This I understand. What I do not understand is, as part of an obligatory fee structure, being compelled to contribute to the university’s endowment fund. For the avoidance of doubt, an endowment is a donation, and no one from UNILAG asked my opinion in the matter.
And I mean to ask someone what the precise fuck a fee for Information Technology is for, what sport I’ll be playing as a Saturday-only student and why the university did not see the need to spell out what TISHIP means. Hopefully it doesn’t mean Training in Sheating Postgraduates, because I just made that up (apologies for the sheating; I had nothing to go on).
Fine, universities need to get creative as regards funding. Inventions are one way of being creative. By inventions, I don’t mean that universities should pull fees out of their arses. And even if you’re going to pull shit out of your arse, please don’t break it down so that busybodies like me can’t write stinkers like this.