By : Alapa Peters Odugbo
We are pushed out of priorities, all of us Nigerian students. How we are taught, by whom, what we are taught, and where we are taught, no longer counts. In fact, anything that points to schooling is now secondary in our country. Had they not coined the cliche: “it is not the education, but the certificate and what could be accrued from it that counts”; to point at all these? Shame to Nigerian leaders! Shame to your being, you who shut your eyes on education, or play cheap politics with the lives of students! With their future! What have you ever handled well enough: our roads, that have become death traps; water supply, when our villages consume mud; electricity, when darkness stab our nights at the death of candles that keep sapping our savings every night; agriculture, when food is prized out our reach; health, when you yourselves circumvent our hospitals to treat minor headaches abroad? We have lost yet eleven students to your sheer senselessness. Take our fists of praise for we cannot hold them back. We fear not of death any longer, but of living in our own land.
The ASUU strikes may remain completely cureless. A terminal malady, a punctuation of fits and starts in school sessions, orchestrated by your greed, wickedness and corruption. You pull us into one, and then find a placebo to keep it down, and move on, without turning back, that is how it goes. Or at best, sweep it under the carpet, to be saved of its troubles and all businesses go on as usual. Of course, to people who do not have school at heart, education may be a generous gift of a basin of smiling fresh faeces, filled to the brim. To fix its disrepair once and for all may seem like sleeping on a bicycle. Your lives are prized above education. Once ill, no amount of wealth will be spared until you are brought back into shape again.
Early this year, UI’s school and accommodation fees were iniquitously raised. Disturbed, we wailed, protested and sent our cries abroad, placing hopes in fate that somehow some good Samaritan will take up our issue. It was a careless waste of time and energy as all our efforts came to naught. Everyone left us to our hut, even you in whose care we are placed. Nothing came from the Senate of our country. Nothing from the Presidency. All of you, too absorbed in representing your individual interests to turn a listening ear to our cries. A handful of news houses had to give the issue a hot chase at first, but dropped it after a while, realizing that the struggle was tantamount to fighting a lost battle. The University’s Medical college was shut down by students for days. To clear its conscience, the management had to come to the open with its position, and how it had lacked options but what it did. Most of us were scandalized by the knowledge that everything was to remain; that the rubicon had been crossed. Some of us from very humble backgrounds, sons and daughters of ordinary primary school teachers (not paid for months), drivers, petty traders and farmers, living from hand to mouth, combining schooling and petty jobs to sponsor ourselves, had cried for days on end, until providence walked in and turned things around for very few among us. Lautech is likely to smell our fate, or worst.
Caught in this web, are our lecturers, who keep breaking their backs, toiling daily without their just rewards. Promotions come hardly and without substantial increments in remunerations. All their other allowances turned to once-upon-a-time. Frustrated, some of them had had to pack hurriedly when hope seemed out of sight, to accept better opportunities outside. Leaving us behind to wallow in a lack that was not lacked. A dire lack of facilities and the use of antediluvian equipment stares our universities in the face. We are now gnawed by the jaws of over-congestions of unimaginable magnitude in classes that lack the desired creature comforts to give learning the meaning and respect it deserves. Our equipment, outdated and falling short of contemporary times standards truncate meaningful experiments in our Labs. Most of us had to push their samples through their pockets abroad to save time and to rule out the inaccuracies inherent in the use of what we have in these Skelton labs at home. Offices are equally insufficient and inadequately furnished. Lecturers have to bite the bullets, sharing offices, a circumstance fraught with numerous disadvantages to concrete research. What have you done? At least one thing: simply shut your eyes or turn them the other way, while you cut your slice of the national cake; and then return with pockets of promises only when your time in office is up, to seek our votes.
It was in the hands of this struggle that eleven students from the University of Maiduguri, had on their way home last Tuesday lost their lives in a ghastly automobile accident. All their labours, all their dreams, their patience and zeal sustained by high hopes and spirits for greatness and a better tomorrow, went shattering into smithereens that moment. Their tears went rolling down as they sucked in their last breath. For home, they had cried. Panicking at having nothing to bequeath to the breasts and hands that had nursed and pampered them. For our sake they had cried: seeing the emptiness of the future ahead of the young who shall forever remain young to rule. Before running into the cold hands of death, when each night returns, and the breeze blows down the distant thunders of gun-shots to plague their ears and minds, a ray of hope speeds in, casts it beams in their minds: soon, they had felt, quite soon they would finish school, and leave this death’s zone, and everything will heap up somewhere in their minds as long history. Alas they were the Victims not of the fears (the vicious Boko haram attack) they had entertained for years, but of a struggle forced upon our lecturers! Their blood like that of our beloved father Festus Iyayi was spilled for nothing. Not for what we lack. Put the life of a politician at stake and the country’s treasury will stand to its feet to protect it. Not education. Not security. Not agriculture. Not anything. The life of the President, the Vice, list them!
For these comrades, do I crave for a minute’s silence.
MAY THEIR SOULS AND THE SOULS OF ALL THE DEPARTED REST IN PEACE. AMEN.
Rest on, till we meet, to part no more.