Since the beginning of this year, hardly does a week pass without the incident of the death of one university student or the other. This is not however to say that the problem has not been with us for a very long time. Recent times signaled the beginning of the alarming proportion of what one can safely describe as a hydra headed challenge that has gradually crept into our national life.
Sadly, the appropriate authorities have been very mute, at best inactive to a problem of this magnitude. No serious attention has been paid to it or action taken to reverse an ugly trend that has the capacity to spell a doomy future for Nigeria and her human capital development.
How many parents will be happy that their children who have gone to acquire education for a brighter future were brought back in body bags? How many parents will cheer at the news that the body of their children could not be recovered in a certain river after s/he has gone missing for three days?
In our usual life, this will sound like tale by the moonlight, we feel entertained, gloss over a national tragedy and move on with our lives as if nothing has happened till the children of the high and mighty are struck before we could wake up to a terrible reality steering us at the face with ignoble impunity.
The catalogue of young men and women who have lost their lives in very avoidable circumstances is not only startling but scary and must get any well meaning Nigerian thinking how we managed to find ourselves where we are today. No nation tampers with the welfare and general development of her youths and come out of it better. With our dear nation on a full throttle to the rock, whatever becomes of the future of our youths is still shrouded in fear and uncertainty.
Just few weeks ago, Benue State University was thrown into mourning following the death of a 200 level student of Library and Information Science department of the institution whose name was simply given as Jeff after allegedly engaging in a marathon sex with his girlfriend whose identity till date has remained a mystery. This happened just few days after two students of the same institution Adekole Christopher and Emmanuella Mson a 100 level medical student and the only child of her parents allegedly drowned beside BSU water works, an area close to the river. According to reports, the students had visited the area on grounds of playing football and to enjoy the cool weather at the riverside before the sad incident happened.
This is aside the figure that voluntarily took their own lives out of frustration and hopelessness from various higher institutions across the country. For instance, a final-year student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, identified as Kolapo Olowoporoku, reportedly committed suicide after several attempts to make his outstanding courses – CVE and CSC 517 – as an extra year student of Computer Science at the University. His self-esteem was bruised and lowered to the base, seeing his mates take part in the school convocation and mobilise for NYSC.
Whatever the underlying facts are, the truth remains that the authorities of the schools have not really seen the students as stakeholders, or the main reason why they are in the business of teaching. They labour to ensure that the students are sufficiently abused psychologically in such a way that self worth and confidence will be far from the psyche of such students.
Some lecturers go as far as threatening the students with failure at little or no provocation at all. While the male students suffer constant harassment for gratification from the lecturers, their female counterparts have been made objects of sexual harassment, extortion and obnoxious demands. Again, the attitude of some educators has reinforced the need for a proper profiling of the kind of individuals that should manage our education. It shouldn’t be left in the hands of sadistic elements who derive joy in bullying students both emotionally and psychologically with utmost impunity. Kolapo Olowoporoku is no more to state his own side of the story. He obviously couldn’t have been the worst of students in his category.
There was a time in our academic and indeed social environment when suicide was seen as a no-option. Unfortunately, these days, at the slightest emotional breakdown, either from a lover, missed expectation or other mundane factors, suicide becomes the only escape window. Now, one can simply ask, what kind of orientation and re-orientation does these school authorities give to their students? What kind of counseling do they receive to enable them manage unmet expectations and new challenges?
The students who leave the hostel at will, what kind of orientation were they given? The three FUTO 100 level students who allegedly took excess hard drugs before engaging in an aggressive sex romp that turned out to be their last on this earth, were they properly briefed on life in the campus? Why has the death of our young ones suddenly assumed a mind-boggling proportion in the university environments?
Some cases that could have been salvaged were equally lost on the account of non availability of first aid treatment for emergency cases, casting a dent on our response capacity to urgency when it really matters.
The school authorities must rise up to this serious challenge at hand. They must identify and show the way out to lecturers who have distinguished themselves as albatross to the psychological welfare and self esteem of their students. The higher institution should be a place for breeding bold and courageous young men who will be fully equipped to confront the challenges of the future and not a place to make them feel like less human, peddling timidity and lack of confidence.
The ministry of youths and sports has not paid adequate attention to the well-being of our university students, their welfare and development. Sadly, so much is being appropriated to the ministry on yearly basis without much to show for it apart from the embarrassing football outings the country has faced over the years. The ministry and indeed the National University Commission (NUC) and other stakeholders should have a close synergy with Students Union Government (SUG) in various public schools, have a regular meeting, harvest a first hand information from them and seek ways students can have a conducive learning environment devoid of emotional and psychological bullying.
It is worthy of note that no religion in our environment encourages the act of taking one’s life under any circumstance. The campus fellowships must do more to ensure that students at all levels are counseled and given proper moral orientation to face the business for which they are in the school. The students themselves must abide by the rules and regulations guiding movements within and outside the schools for their own safety. They must shun illicit drugs and social vices that could put their lives in danger.
While I deeply sympathize with parents who have lost their children to these painful deaths in our institutions of higher learning, I must urge them to train their children in the way and admonition of the lord. Well trained children are blessings to them, their schools and indeed the society at large. We must do more to inculcate the right moral attitude in them.
To deal with accident related issues, the schools must have functional first aid kits that could enhance the chances of survival of accident victims before accident they could be rushed to medical facilities. The life of every Nigerian should matter and must be guarded with jealousy. The era when our undergraduates die like chickens must be put on check.
Ifeanyi Okali is the Editor in Chief ABN TV