By Adejumo Kabir
“It is not my nature, when I see a people borne down by the weight of their shackles – the opression of tyranny – to make their life more bitter by heaping upon them greater burdens; but rather would I do all in my power to raise the yoke than to add anything that would tend to crush them* – Abraham Lincoln
A lot of questions have heaped around my neck from different quarters as ants surround cubes of sugar on how ‘menstrual blood’ become norm in Nigerian tertiary institutions. The ‘menstrual blood’ here is how authorities substitute students rights for suspension rites.
Historically in 1994, the gun-free school act (USA) required schools to expel students caught with gun for a year in order to kick off the movement of zero tolerance. However, it is sardonic today that Nigerian tertiary institutions now suspend students for minor offenses such as refusal to go to religious ground, protest against poor welfare and articles revealing the ills and odds of authorities. Meanwhile, Tony Blair said that “anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.”
Readers will agree that on many occasions when tertiary institutions workers are at logger heads with the government, authorities don’t suspend them even when they go on strike for days and months. It would rather be settled in a round table discussion where parties involved will present their case (s) and necessary measures would then be followed to restore normalcy.
ASUU is radical, NASU is radical, SSANU is radical, NAAT is radical as well as other workers union in polytechnics and colleges. The big question here is why then should radical students be suspended for putting managements on their toes? Under no circumstances should students rights be substituted for suspension rites. Investigation has proved that schools with higher rates of suspension are not safer for students. Institutions should not encourage students to accept things dogmatically because such policies will not help Nigeria as a country, it will further lead to accepting the promise of building castle in the air by government.
“Researchers suggest pairing in-school suspension with regular counseling, or offering so-called positive behavior support classes, which teach appropriate conduct in the same way schools teach writing or mathematics. Other creative solutions include youth courts, in which students sit in judgment of one another, or restorative circles”
Often, authorities are responsible for 60% of the reasons why students protest. Every case is worst than the previous. There is a fast growing ‘monkeypox’ in our educational system. How? Students now swallow their coughs because they fear to disturb management. On many occasions, the right of students have been trampled upon by authorities.
Some time in May, Covenant University suspended 200 students for missing Easter ‘ Youth Alive ’ programme. In fact, report has it that the school had earlier organised a four- day Easter retreat for the students and had also made attendance mandatory.
“Meanwhile some of the students were fed up for various reasons – with going for church services in the morning and evening for the four uninterrupted days, they couldn’ t but miss some days out of the retreat. Surprisingly and unfortunately for them, they have been punished through suspension by the school management. Some were suspended for a year” – excerpt from Punch newspaper.
Several union leaders were suspended in University of Lagos and if we don’t remember them all, Adeyeye Olorunfemi rustication which was connected to the article he wrote on facebook to reveal the ills and odds the varsity authority cannot be forgotten.
What about the case of final year student in Kwara State Polytechnic who was suspended even after submitting his final year project for leading protest against poor welfare condition. Just of recent, one Debo Adedayo of Redeemers University was alleged of portraying the university in bad light on social media and for that reason, was expelled from the institution.
In Obafemi Awolowo University, postgraduate students who protested against fee hike have also seen their ‘menstrual blood’, not forgetting other four undergraduate students in the same catastrophe. If the institution management can applaud students for storming High court, Ede in August, to force a sitting judge to reverse an order which was earlier against their wish to a later that favoured them during the trial of immediate past Vice Chancellor, it will be wise for tertiary institutions to also temper justice with mercy if at all students even go against university code of conduct at the cause of demanding their rights.
It is high time, authorities took more diplomatic approach in addressing issues and not substitute students demands for suspension. Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended says: “the primary purpose of government in a country is to provide good welfare and security for the people”. Therefore, under no circumstances should ‘menstrual blood’ become norm.
Adejumo Kabir is a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, a Journalist and a Public Affairs Analyst