By Kareem Shamusudeen
On Tuesday, 13 April, a report surfaced on social media that students of the University of Ibadan were forcibly used as labourers to cultivate hectares of land close to Awba Dam. The report added that the land where students are used as labourers was a fully funded project.
This, according to the report, meant that the project has been paid for, but the students are used as serfs. The affected student are of the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources.
Contained in the statement, “We’re really in need of your help. I mean students in Faculty of RENEWABLE NATURAL RESOURCES.
“Please come to our aid and help us trend. We’re really being used as salves in the name of practical.”
The statement added: “The faculty is in charge of a project along Awba dam. A project that has been already funded, but students are working there as labourers under the scorching sun.
“Less than 100 students are clear to clear over hectares of land filed with bushes and trees…
“Please help trend this, we’re really suffering in UI
This statement generated controversy on how the University has generated to such despicable level.
However, when UCJ UI reached out the affected students who are willing to speak on the issue, their revelations were completely different from the statements above.
Owo Matthew, a 400-L student of Fisheries, who was part of the land cultivation, said the students were not being used as labourers. He added that the Practical Year Training Program (PYTP) which students in RENARSA as well as the Faculty of Agriculture embark on is usually very stressful.
“If you ask anyone in PYTP, they will say they are used as labourers. But the fact is that it is always stressful.” He said.
Matthew went further to say that PYTP is not for the weaklings. He said what might have contributed to the report was that some of the students were asked to clear an almost-cultivated land, while some were not.
A 400-l student of Social and Environmental Forestry, said the land cultivation is an “added advantage.”
“Truly, we are asked to cultivate [the] land which will be sued for [the] school/faculty project,” the student said.
“As we all know that 400-L in my Faculty [RENARSA] is for the Practical year which requires us being on the field/farm,”
The student continued: “Personally, I don’t see it as student-labourers but as an added advantage of being exposed to practicals. Although, it’s kind of stressful but it’s going to be an eye opener for us.”
When UCJ UI contacted the Dean of Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Professor E. K Ajani, he described the report as “disheartening.” He added that the students were not used as labourers. He also said the project was not a fully funded one as the university just allocated “N2.1 million to plant trees.”
Prof. Ajani said the reason why the students are involved in the project is for academic rigour. “There’s what we call academic rigour, so the students can learn to become responsible men and women in the future. It will be a great injustice, even God will punish us if we don’t put them to that kind of training,” he said.
The project is planting of trees, he said. “We have what we called the water catchment management.” A catchment is an area where water is collected by the natural landscape,
Prof. Ajani said it is the kind of training the students are being exposed to is what he was exposed to too as an undergraduate in the university. He added that the training helped him in his career. “It is the kind of training that my lecturers in those days exposed me to. I have been doing consultancy in this line (field) to so many many nations, not only in Nigeria. I have been to Uganda, Rwanda for consultancy.”
Prof. Ajani said when he heard the report, his intention was to ask the lecturers to withdraw the students from the project. But for some lecturers who appealed to him, he had to shield the decision.
He queried what the current youths are now becoming, harping that “things are more competitive now.” He said “the (education) system will even collapse if we are not training our students properly.”