By Oloniniran Gbenga
If one is to begin by listing data of academic related suicides in tertiary institutions, the essence of the points intended here could be defeated so soon. Obafemi Awolowo University’s recent data of such suicides would be enough to exhaust a whole page, and this piece would have been boring to the lovers of the deceased students, who might read and find the names of their loved ones listed here again. It would be a sad reflection.
As conscious and concerned students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), not less than four years of our stay on the campus did we spend campaigning against mass failure, against its causes and suggesting possible solutions. Perhaps, our view was merely to prevent our students against ‘just’ poor academic performance, because drastic failures leading to suicides as we now have it, was rarely in view. Unlike what we now have as rampant in the institution, it appears the insignificant “Iroko plant” that was unnoticed has grown into a full blown Iroko tree that now requests sacrifice.
Final year students now write dissertation on mass failure in the OAU’s faculty of pharmacy, apparently, the poor academic performances of students in several institutions now kill at faster rate than the recorded deaths from illness and accidents among students.
The number of protests we had in Ife was channeled towards demand for improved learning, living and teaching conditions for students and staff of the university, by extension, we called for sufficient funding of the institutions by government and for an end to mismagement of funds. From our little understanding, it is this chain of negligence and maladministration from government and administrators of institutions that finds its end result in the terrible performance of students. Any brain would be strained when a thousand students or more receive lectures in a 500-seater theatre, or when they write examinations without common water and light to take care of themselves. It is even worse with the most recent accommodation crises in OAU, FUNAAB, UNILAG, among others, where, asides the retarding standards of learning and teaching, majority of students who lack abode on campuses have to fight their way like Lagosians to get transport to, and from their town residences and equally come for examinations the next day.
If we would also consider to chip in sentimental arguments that some lecturers are sadists and this is why students fail, yes we can agree, just to be fair to the iota of truth that forms these sentiments for some students. To be objective, the lecturers are everyday unwillingly distant from the proper conditions of teaching. After shouting out their intestine, out of the remnants of love for students’ understanding, in a lecture hall of over a thousand students and without a megaphone at least, they resort to abandon the students to their fate in the examinations, while the students equally leave their own fate to God when the lecturer marks the scripts of over 1000 students because there are not enough staff too. But after all, we shall all lift up our faces to the mountains, from where our help shall cometh.
Our generation protested sudden deaths of students resulting from poor facilities on campuses such as the health center, among others, but the current layer of students might be protesting against recurrent suicides resulting from academic performances, however, they all have the same root cause, rottenness in the educational system (poor funding and maladministration). It only appears suicide is the new method of massacre on students.
We may continue to preach that suicide should not be the option. For a youngster, whose toiling parents sweated blood in the hard Nigeria of today, to pay his tuition, and he equally does bricklaying job when chanced to repay the debts of securing the expensive apartment off campus after being kicked out of the campus hostel by the Vice Chancellor, he later fails examinations while trying to meet these hard conditions, and also has to repeat this phase under a worse conditions. A lot goes through the mind, how to deal with the carry-overs, how to face his toiling family with the failure, and also, thoughts of when he would ever graduate to help his needy siblings. Of course, the option should not be suicide, it would only be meaningful if the Vice Chancellor had not kicked the students out; if the government had funded the schools adequately to make education qualitatively affordable and not commercialized; and if they had stopped the diversion of funds meant for our institutions’ upkeep. The students are not dull, the system generally frustates.
Oloniniran Gbenga. (Alumnus, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria).