Tuesday, March 15, 2011

School Closure: A Tool To Be Used With The Greatest Of Caution

(Tiwanijesu... Read through the post to find out who she is)
Her first daughter's name is Fatimoh, which makes her 'Iya Fatimoh' in Yoruba parlance. She sells akara under the Students Union Building at the Obafemi Awolowo University. She does not make much profit on a daily basis, but it is enough to put food on the table for her family of three – herself and two children – she is a widow. If you are wondering exactly how much profit (before billing) she makes daily during an academic session, it averages N700 per day.
His name is Malik. He is a Part Two student of Biochemistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University. He lost his father when he was only two years old, and his mother is paralyzed from the waist down – so he shoulders the responsibility for his family of three – his mother, himself, and a sister. He rides a commercial okada between classes; and over the years he has saved enough to 'employ' an uncle of his riding a second okada and making daily deliveries. After paying the bills, he manages to save an average of N500 a day. That may not sound like much to you, but those savings mean the world to him.
His name is 'Biola, and he is in SS2. He is not sure exactly which day he was born, but he knows it was just before Babangida annulled the 1993 elections. That makes him somewhere around 18 years old. He drives a commercial bus, popularly called 'town igboro', and he plies a route spanning from SUB to General after school hours. Of course, he does not have a driving license – and the bus is not his. After making daily deliveries to the 'baba isale' and frequenting his favourite night club (where he splurges on a girlfriend who is roughly twice his age), he manages to save N400 a day. One day, he plans to buy his own bus – so that he can gradually rise to the upper echelon of the NURTW (at N400 per day, he will need to save for about 3 years and 6 months to buy a rickety (by my own standards) bus). Yes, and did I mention that he wants to study Mechanical Engineering and become a Registered Engineer?

Her adopted name is Tiwanijesu, but I would rather call her 'Iya Simisola' – because of the same reason why the akara seller is 'Iya Fatimoh'. She sells Plaintain, Bananas, and 'agbalumo' on the stretch of road between Moremi hall and the MTN mast.  Simisola is about five years old, but has not yet had one day of schooling – because Tiwanijesu cannot afford to send her to 'jeleosinmi' (the cheapest and basest form of Nursery education available in Osun State). She does not have savings, because she defines what it is to live from hand to mouth. On a good day, she manages to make profits of N200.
Time and space will not allow me to write in detail about Yemi, a tailor at the Aluta market; Mrs. Goodluck, a storeowner at Old Buka, and Iya Ibeji, a 'risky' seller at Awo bus stop. These are people who have to make sales EVERY day to make a living.
Over the past two-or-so weeks, it has become painfully clear to me how much the economy of Ife town depends on the continued steady running of the Obafemi Awolowo University. If Ife were a car, then OAU would be everything except the seats. Families who run business in or around the OAU campus have practically had their livelihoods taken from them in the wake of the recent closure of the University.
I have severally refused to become involved in the 'morality' of the closure – both offline and online, but for the records I must state this: the closure of OAU is a tool that must be used with the greatest of caution and as a last resort.
With all due respect, sirs, I have 'heard' your reasons for the closure of the school – and I do not disagree with you on any of the points you have listed. Furthermore, I agree with you that it is high time a lasting solution is found to this recurring problem. It is high time we started to pay more attention to the image of this University of ours. It is high time we stopped being known as the University that gets closed down every other year – at least I have now witnessed closures in my Part One, Part Three, and Part Five.
Of course, closures are part of the Greatness of Ife. The average student of OAU budgets for these 'breaks' right from when they gain admission. From an unbiased point of view, even I must state from experience that closures afford the average student with an opportunity to develop themselves outside of their academic pursuit. However, the same could be achieved during sessional breaks in the event of a stable academic calendar.
I have heard it said once that we choose our actions, but the consequences – they choose us!
Should I tell in detail the story of the Deltan student who lost her life while travelling back home after the closure? Or the story of the students who sustained massive injuries on their way to Lagos after the closure? No, I will not – because it brings tears to my eyes to even think about these sad happenings.
I make a passionate appeal, sirs, for the reopening of this University – and for the commencement in earnest of Academic work. I do not speak those words because I want to graduate this year, no, not at all. In fact, I do not speak them only because they represent the interests of the students whom I represent – although that is the major reason why I am even here in the first place.
For Fatimoh, for Malik's mother and his siblings, for Simisola, for the first-semester extra students and their parents, for the storeowners whose livelihoods are dependent on the large market represented by students of this Institution of learning, for students like me who were denied the opportunity to vote in 2007 and who stand a chance of being further disenfranchised this year, for final year students who hope to finish before December and make the February service batch, and of course – for the students who had no part in the events leading up to the closure – I ask that you reconsider your stance, and reopen this school as soon as possible and convenient.
I perfectly understand your 'fears' for the image of the school, but I also know that the students are major stakeholders in this 'image thing'. Student input is needed to make lasting changes, and I ask that we be granted another chance to provide constructive input to the making of a great Institution. The truth remains that while students may cope with anything (in the way of stringent rules) on resumption after a long break, with time they will inevitably clamour for a return to the status quo.
We can make this happen, sirs. We can rebrand this school, yes, and we can all play our part in the making of a continually great institution.
Thank you.


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