Maybe I am getting things twisted, but this is how they appear to me.
The management of the University of Lagos is a hypocrite; it pretends to be what it is not. It pretends to be in love with the students whereas it is not — in more ways than one.
I have often thought and believed (as much as I have heard said and claimed) that the management of the University of Lagos has the best interest of the students at heart and that such interest is the driving force behind its rules and policies. We may pretend the truthfulness of that assertion but the facts do not support it. The aim of this little write up is to point out these incongruent facts which I am unable to reconcile with the aforementioned claims and hope that those concerned reconcile them.
I am pessimistic that this write up may turn out a failure in the end for three reasons. One, it is not likely to get to the proper parties; two, that if it does, it might not be addressed; and, three, that the reader may not find it interesting enough to indulge his time in. But a necessity is laid upon me, and whether my message is heard or not, I must speak…
Are laws in a civilised society made to harmonise the lives of the people or to catch and punish unfortunate ones? I should like to think the former, but the trend in the University of Lagos points to the latter. A few of these rules, I hope, will suffice to illustrate my point.
It has been set out and emphasised that squatting is ‘illegal’ and carries with it a threat of sanction. The reason behind this, I have been made to understand, is the welfare of the students. Too many people in a room would make it unhealthy for the students. I believe in this and applaud it, at least for its ‘scientificality’ . But the logic of it quite eludes me. How is the rule of ‘non-squatting’ supposed to be for the benefit of the students when the available hostels are not enough for them? For we must allow a little statistics here, albeit approximate. There are about 8000 bed spaces for about 22000 students. Subtract the number of bedspaces from the number of students and you have a staggering number of those who will never stay within the school if the rule is to be obeyed. Even if we are to further subtract a few thousands who may not be interested in staying in the campus — say, 5000 students to be generous, we still have about 9000 ‘hostel-less’ students. Is this the interest which the school claims to represent in its policies? Res ipsa loquitur.
Don’t get me wrong — I see nothing ethically wrong in the policy, except for the claim that the University of Lagos is the best in Nigeria, which claim I respectfully bow to. If the claim were right, it would naturally follow that students from all parts of the country would be trooping to the school. This, thank God, is right, and the school boasts of having not just students from other parts of the country but also from other countries. Since we have this multinational studentship in the school, how are they to cope without hostels? It should not be a problem if the school were a local university confined to the studentship of people from Lagos State. But as its international reputation is obvious…
The irony of this squatting prohibition, or rather its wickedness, is further accentuated by the fact that instead of giving priority to people from far places in the balloting process, priority is rather given to the staff children who turn out to be either living within the school or its environs. Perhaps there is a reason behind it which I do not know, but it defies moral comprehension from my perspective.
Another rule, incidental to the first, is that students are not to buy or sell hostels. This rule is aimed, I am compelled to understand, not just to maintain the ‘landlordship’ of the hostels but also (most importantly) to keep the students away from fraudsters. These are marvellous reasons, but would it not be better to have more hostels and more honest management?
I sometimes think that these rules are meant to be breached rather than to be observed – pardon me, no matter how crudely I seem to have put it. What, for instance, is the meaning of the rule stipulated in the hostel clearance that students are not to cook in their hostel rooms when, as far as boys hostels are concerned, there is not a single kitchen in the hostels? This was once a puzzle to me until I decided to find out. When I got my first hostel and read the rules in the clearance papers, I approached the porters and asked for where to cook (for there is no ban on cooking). The man looked at me, shook his head and said dismissively : ‘go and cook in your room and get out of here’ – his exact words, mark it. But it was I, not him, who was to blame – I was still green and unused to the fact that some rules are meant to be breached rather than to be observed…
I strongly think that other rules with respect to hostel management follow this trend. I should be very grateful if the management can correct this impression of mine which I believe a number of students also share. I therefore kindly ask of the Dean of students affairs (if he be within listening distance) to please set these matters straight.
I am hesitant to talk about the subtle exploitative policies of the school management, not for the dearth of examples, but for the frank reason that I cannot pretend to understand its economic organisation. For instance, the school is notorious for letting out halls for outside events while denying them to the students for lecture purposes. If one bothers to poke one’s nose a little, one will discover how much the school makes from these ventures – which is not at all reprehensible, except that too much sacrifice in the regard does not say well of the school. The one really startling aspect of this exploitation is the imposition of TSHIP fee on the students. I understand that it is a national health scheme – but is N5000 not too much to be demanded from students for whose interest the school is acting? I learnt that University of Ife is playing about N2500 for the same TSHIP. Perhaps that school has made some subsidies to its students. Why can Unilag not do the same? If it cannot, I implore it to honourably desist from pretending that it loves the students because it does not!
Let me come home, to the faculty of law. Really, what I have to say here may just turn out to be duplicates of what obtain in other faculties. The faculty of law purports to be emblematic of law abidance but its deeds show otherwise. I will point some of these deeds out and let the students in the faculty agree or disagree with me. My real objective is to have either the Dean or other qualified persons in the faculty address the issue.
A circular once went round the school, which circular I also saw pasted on the faculty noticeboard. This circular addressed the issue of mandating students to buy books. I believe one can still get it under archived news in unilag website. Some days ago, as I was passing in front of the bookshop, I saw on the counselling unit noticeboard another notice encouraging students to report any type of harassment, including being mandated to buy books. This notice I also believe can still be found on the said noticeboard. These go to show how serious the management is towards ensuring that the students are not exploited in any way, especially by individual lecturers.
But these warnings are not to be heeded in the faculty of law. It is being blatantly disobeyed not by individual lecturers but by departments who produce journals and compel the students to buy them by threatening (and fulfilling) not registering the concerned courses for the students who fail to pay for the journals. A specific example in this regard is the department of jurisprudence and international law which, last semester, mandated all students taking courses from the department to buy its journal. A few feeble voices did protest, but that was all – the rights of the law students, I am sorry to observe, end in their classroom. At any rate, the department sought to justify its imposition by claiming that the policy was aimed at promoting the department’s journals. Doing this by putting the students under duress does not seem to me the most honourable approach, not talk of its apparent illegality and conflict with the school policy on harassment.
This trend is continued in the faculty at large by insisting that students pay for a particular journal before they can be registered in the faculty. One may manage to understand the insistence on such payment for the prospectus, but for that particular journal, it is beyond irrational, particularly as the students have previously paid for and gotten it. The object of this foisting is shamelessly obvious in the admonition one gets by protesting – ‘you may leave the journal so long as you paid its price.’ How the faculty dues are calculated to amount to around N6000 I am yet to understand, I can only say that it is outrageous, compared to the school fees (N9500). I will say nothing of the steps which the school has failed to take in ensuring that the banks do not impose extra charges on the students while making payments, and how the students are so subjugated in this regard that they are at times grateful that they are even allowed to pay…
With all due respects, I implore the Dean of the faculty of law to explain why all these are going on in the faculty – the faculty of law of all places. I shall be very glad to understand the rationale behind it all. Perhaps it should help to add that the law students are enduring these travails not because they are unaware of their rights but because they are afraid of the sanction that might result from protest. I have a higher regard for the faculty to suppose it tyrannical and in capable of listening to reason. Which is why I have taken the pains to air my view in the hope that it shall be looked into.
This is already too long to accommodate concluding remarks. However, let me be indulged to reiterate how it would gladden me if all the parties concerned should do something about the issues raised.
I am, as Socrates would say, a gadfly to propel the school management into action; and if my views are wrong, it would suffice to have them corrected, for which I would be grateful. May there be abundant grace to all patient listeners to these rantings.
As originally published on lss blog.
Edited by Eso Blog.