I rushed in to the five thousand- siting capacity Amphitheatre with the expression of “fulfilling all righteousness” that could be felt through the gloomy visage. The orientation lecture for fresh men goes on for three days as part of the one-week long orientation exercise in Obafemi Awolowo University.
I needed not a Vox-Pop to know that the thousands of students present were bored already. I can not speak for those who had gist partners by their sides. I mean those who fortunately made friends within the first week of resumption.
After two boring lectures from a senior lecturer and a principal officer, I could not stand the boredom and needed to leave the scene. Of course, I have some able-bodied Man o’ war folks to explain why I will be leaving the venue at that premature time to should in case I have to escape. To me, spending four hours at such programme should be rewarded with a Grammy.
“I want to go and drink water. I have a health challenge,” was the concocted lie presented to the para-military man manning the gate. Like a bonafide Nigerian, he did not fall for that. I persisted and the young man was so obstinate. Then, I remembered that the second speaker mentioned in his lecture, saying; “We are your parents on campus with the function of in loco-parentis."
Although I had no inkling of what the last foreign word implies, I leveraged on that by giving a shout to those on the podium to save me from the unrepentant devil at the gate, not minding the catcalls from my colleagues. Lo and Behold, my campus parents responded and ordered that I be granted exit from the venue.
I was happy that campus is an extension of home. “My parents are truly here,” I muttered to myself. I bounced to my hostel beaming with smile.
The parenting role of the management is one that is preached to students in every tertiary institution. These officials talk about their joy to see you graduate on time, be a good leader for the future as a great ambassador of your Alma mater but their actions over time has betrayed their words.
In the last two years, the clampdown on student leaders, unionists, activists and even budding journalists has been on the high side. This is not limited to any region in the country as it is perceived to be a national phenomenon. It is a case of a ‘parent’ with ignominy and intolerance for his/her children when notable universities in the country have their students’ union structures suspended and denied a voice when cogent decisions are taken.
The expulsion of six student activists in the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, in 2017; the arraignment of three students of Obafemi Awolowo University who resisted an anti-student policy of the management in 2018, the rustication of a student journalist in the University of Ibadan, the recent case of UI’s student’ union President, Ojo Aderemi, bagging four-semester rustication for joining a protest and myriads of cases of victimization in schools are worrisome. These are issues that made headlines in top national dallies. What we can call the outpour of love the supposed parents express towards their wards.
This repelling stance against students and their agitation has caused the victims psychological trauma while many have suffered setbacks in their academic pursuit. Those who are to guide and mentor their foster children have turned oppressors and tyrants.
The success of some policies and reformation in the past is not unconnected to the support of the students’ union structures and the vibrancy of the student leaders in protest for a better society. The Ali-must-go protest of 1978 against the 50 kobo increment on the cost of students’ meal was spearheaded by the leadership of the National Union of Nigeria Students (NUNS). The protest shook the nation and led to the shutdown of universities across the country.
Away from Nigeria, students played a key role in the anti-apartheid protest of 1976 in South Africa, one of the mass action felt in the world and the Vietnam war protests of the 1960s, which was part of the reasons why the American troops withdrew in 1973. The campus is meant to raise leaders and not dummies. Those that can ask questions and hold authorities accountable.
A truth hidden in Nelson Mandela’s quote, that says “education is the most powerful weapon to change the world” is that the change can either be negative or positive depending on how the weapon is deployed. This explains the maxim that if you want to attack a country, go through the education sector. This is not magical but a process of bad indoctrination. It in turn affects the products of youths in the society.
A cursory look in to the trends in tertiary institution has shown that majority of these foster parents have successfully achieved their aim of promoting docility amongst students. There is little or no resistance against outrageous fee hikes, poor learning environment and deplorable welfare state; thus killing the consciousness of students with the promise of a stable academic calendar. The implication is that the presumed leaders of tomorrow want to graduate at the expense of the reformative effect and sense of critical thinking that education should reflect.
The problem becomes fully blown when this set of graduates turn out to be complacent about the paltry budgetary allocation to the education sector, not worried about the growing rate of unemployment and satisfied with the development of corruption in every sector. With no hope of a better tomorrow, they grow up to join the frustrated population and may end up seeing an option in crime. Then it will dawn on the university dons that they were baking potential terrorists when given the chance to educate them.
This is a call to administrators of tertiary institutions that the impression of a future is an illusion because the future is a culmination of what happens in the present and the succeeding minutes. The four walls of the university, polytechnic, monotechnic… is a microcosm of the larger society and whatever problem we are facing in the country emanated from there. They should guide and not oppress, they should nurture and not repress, they should educate and not suppress.
I seek solace in the words of the foremost American activist, Martin-Luther King Jnr, that says that “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Students, quality education advocates, human right activists and civic groups should not be weary in holding these university officers accountable because the rot we are battling currently starts from them.
Alfred Olufemi is a journalist and a final year student of Obafemi Awolowo University.
He tweets @iam_alfred1 and best reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Link To Article: https://youth-journal.org/of-studentsrsquo-victimization-and-my-parents-in-the-unive