These are very interesting times to be a student of the University of Ibadan, “the first and the best.” We are currently drawn back in time to the Lawrence Anini days, with the Shina Rambos of the underworld engaging us in a Royal Rumble to which we have become defenceless. Yet, even in these precarious times, our dons, acting in loco parentis have decided to leave the issues that bite and have heaped upon us the most bogus and vague fees of an already-ambiguous list of charges: the N6,500 compulsory technology fee for all students of the university.
But more than the announcement that we live in perilous times (and beyond the oft-repeated announcement of there being a technology fee), the proverbial rooster has matured and it is now tell for it to let the university’s management know what time of the day it is. Before delving into the crux of the matter — and for the sake of a clear sense of direction — it is only proper that we examine critically the reasons the management have given for the introduction of these fees and juxtapose it with what currently obtains in the university.
After a number of not-too-justified charges that have remained on, or found their way into the tuition bill — and to which ABSOLUTELY NOTHING has been done—students found out, as they usually do these days, that a new sheriff was in town. A N6,500 technology fee had been introduced. When defending (rather than announcing to the university community, it bears mentioning) the introduction, the management mentioned that it was to “provide fast, reliable, and robust internet services to students.” There was a lot of talk about shouldering the costs of a bandwidth increment, too, and later a change of narrative from bandwidth increment to portal maintenance, further obscuring the purpose of the levy.
Having mentioned these minor details, we are stuck with the Nigerian factor that usually becomes the waterloo of every “well-meaning” levy: we are heading towards to latter half of the first semester of the session and not a single student has his or her own customised password which grants him or her access to the internet, and the silence from the senate building is so loud that it can deafen an elephant.
To put it in the nicest way humanly possible, “fast, reliable, and robust internet services” is a hallmark of a world-class 21st-century institution that is in tune with the realities of the present day. However, these services cannot be atop the priority list in an institution where six thousand or more attend classes in lecture theatres built for two thousand at the maximum; the adjective “robust” should be used to describe the state of the facilities in our laboratories and libraries before it is used to describe internet provision, and “reliable” should embody manner of instruction, its relevance in a fast-changing world, and the quality of instructors at the university’s disposal. Of course, question marks hover above us like the Sword of Damocles in these areas, and until they have been well answered, internet connection should have little connection with our tuition bills.
For the benefit of clarity and the avoidance of being misconstrued, this piece is by no means casting an affirmative verdict on the appropriateness of the initiative. But we must set our priorities right. When the toilet of Kenneth Mellanby hall is as neat as the Ayo Banjo Lodge, when the general chemistry lab begins to play host to ground-breaking research and not just threadbare burettes and pipettes, when students are no longer being thought about bacteria with lecture notes from 1987, then the internet will truly be a right matter to discuss at the roundtable.
In a clime where nobody is wont to taking responsibilities for structural and organizational failings until they are dragged and dragged into making a final — if not always late — apology or explanation, questions need to be asked. At what specific time will students begin to reap the benefits of the technology fee? If that time is not in the foreseeable future, why would it be so? If the bandwidth expansion, as it is claimed, is in the offing, how far or how close to the promised land are we? Or are we likely to see an unneeded ID card 2.0 showdown? All these are questions which hang in the air with very conspicuous question marks begging to be answered.
In the last paragraph, the use of the word “unneeded” is entirely deliberate. This is because, as has been written about before (and should be glaringly obvious for all to see), adequate and timely dissemination of information as well as answers to questions is one thing that fosters trusts and endears followers to the leaders, something that UI students have not seen so much of in the past few years. A lot of the insurrections that have turned the university’s calendar into a stagnant slug were entirely avoidable were the appropriate gladiators involved ready to shelve underlying interests for proper dialoguing and conflict resolution.
The university sits atop a keg of gunpowder. And, this time, its explosion is going to be especially heart-wrenching because another showdown — due to growing frustrations over a perceived lack of value for money for a second time (the non-issuance of ID cards for two sessions being the first), and a perceived lethargic approach by the decision-makers of the university towards securing the lives and property of students and staff alike—will be especially detrimental seeing that the ‘rascals’, as the authorities see the Students’ Union leaders, are back. Once bitten twice shy, they say, but twice bitten, all the ugly beasts begin to fly.
A hackneyed African proverb suggests to us that the elders, while sitting, can see what a young one cannot see while atop the tallest iroko tree. Whether the elders have truly seen this well or whether the young ones atop the iroko have a better view of what is to come remains to be seen. Time, after all, is the greatest prophet.
See you next week. Till then, stay focused, stay conscious.
Chidera ANUSHIEM is a third-year student of the faculty of pharmacy. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Indy Press Organisation and is a former politics editor of the Union of Campus Journalists. His works have been published on such media as: The Nigerian Tribune, The Cable Newspapers, EduCeleb, The Nigerian Voice, Opinions.ng, amongst many others. You can reach him via his email: email@example.com or 09055875874.