The Vice Chancellor of the Ajayi Crowther University (ACU), Oyo, Right Reverend Prof. Dapo Asaju, was in the news recently in what could be described as an altercation between the university and some parents over some rules and regulations introduced by the institution to ensure discipline and smooth running of the academic engagements of its students.
Ordinarily, the VC should not have been in the direct line of fire from the agitating parents over an action duly approved by the University authorities if he had stuck to the usual practice of mandating the Public Relations Unit or the Office of the Dean, Student Affairs, to engage the reactions. But he chose to take responsibility, perhaps in the belief that his explanation of the rationale behind the action taken by management would convince the parents that it was in the interest of all stakeholders, namely the students, their parents and the University.
Unfortunately, he was viciously misunderstood by some parents who seemed unimpressed by any intervention that will involve strict control of the lifestyle of their wards even if such was designed to improve their character and academic training. However, the parents did not dispute the observations and findings of the University which led to the introduction of the said regulations. They only quarreled with the solutions prescribed by the institution. Ironically, they have not proferred alternative measures that could help address the issues.
For those reading this piece who may not have been following the trending story, let’s have a quick look at the major issues. The University observed that most students were missing classes, yet they were in school preferring to stay indoors in the hostels or loitering around engaging their mobile phones. Students hardly used the library which was fully equipped with a hefty investment. And some students were caught engaging in immoral activities such as having sex in class. Now, which reputable institution worth its name would discover all these then keep quiet and carry on as usual?
These revelations ought to have alarmed the parents and guardians. And one would expect them to have resolved to support the institution to correct the anomalies because it is the future of their children or wards that is at stake. Sadly, some of them rejected the measures introduced by the University such as keeping hostels under lock for certain hours of the day when students were expected to be in class and the compulsory observation of reading hours in the evening/night especially when the power generators were running to bridge the usually epileptic public power supply experienced all over the country.
The reaction of the parents to these measures, which they reportedly described as too strict and akin to treating their wards as secondary school students, is shocking and unbelievable. It also must have been so shocking to the VC as to make him indicate that he would stop further personal interaction with parents. He also advised those who were not in agreement with the institution’s decision to withdraw their wards if they so wished.
As the VC rightly pointed out, there are many private universities in this country which operate more stringent rules and regulations. It only makes their students turn out better groomed and we can see them flying higher than their contemporaries in various spheres of life. Some of these universities topped the list of institutions with the most employable graduates in vital sectors of the economy in a credible national ranking done sometime ago. Therefore, I would like to advise the VC and ACU not to compromise the new rules and regulations until the purpose of promulgating them is achieved and there is a satisfactory change of attitude and orientation.
I have read a few public commentaries on the issue and I am surprised by their views. They took the matter too lightly, almost blaming the VC for being too worried and concerned about the moral and academic well being of the students in a country where moral decadence and indiscipline is widespread across several higher institutions. But they missed the point. If something is bad, it does not have to be accepted or tolerated because it is common place or happening everywhere. It is the responsibility of right thinking people to stand up and effect a change for the overall good of the society. The educational system will continue to decay if we cannot stand for change because we are afraid of what some people will say.
One of the commentators even went as far as criticising ACU for spending its resources to make rented hostels befitting and comfortable for its students. There is nothing wrong in the University setting a standard of living environment conducive for learning for its students just as it sets academic and character standards. Perhaps the commentator is not aware that most hostel accommodation across the country built by private developers have poor finishing. The developers are concerned only with the structure so that it does not collapse and put them in trouble. The basic fittings and amenities such as water supply are treated with levity because they know that there will always be a scramble for the few hostels available.
As for the parents, I have some questions for them. Do they understand the purpose of sending their children and wards to the University to be trained by competent professional educationists? Are they just interested in passing their children through the University simply to acquire paper qualification needed to gain employment in future? Do they want the University to pass through their children and mould them into great men and women of integrity who will also be outstanding professionals in their various fields? Food for thought.
My advice to the VC is not to terminate personal communication with parents and guardians as he threatened or indicated. But there is need for the University to streamline this and other modes of communication with them noting that social media platforms of communication are always open to abuse.
Finally, if my guess is right, majority of the students may be from families who belong to the Anglican Communion and other denominations of the Christian faith. In view of this, it is good for the Anglican Church, proprietors of the University to speak out on this matter and educate parents on what it takes to raise great leaders of tomorrow from our younger generation of today. In these end times, we should not submit our children to the world because we want to be trendy.
*Folu Olamiti, a Media Consultant, writes from Abuja.