Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Survival is a fundamental human trait. In fact, it is our adeptness at manoeuvring things, and finding our way around difficult situations that gave us humans the much-coveted space above other earthly beings. It is this same fundamental human trait that has manifested in UItes – students at Nigeria’s first and acclaimed best university.
Agbowo – as a point of call for all areas close to and not so close to the University of Ibadan – has become one of the most densely-populated student areas, following the University of Ibadan’s decision to opt for online lectures during the first semester of its 2020/2021 session. Following such a decision, the demand for accommodation somewhere close to the university campus skyrocketed, with students not minding the stupendous amounts that house owners and agents alike set their rentable rooms at – students, being students, still paid.
The mind-boggling question ever since this surge in demand has been: if lectures are going to be fully virtual during this first semester, why the high demand for accommodation around the university campus? The answer is not far-fetched: the makeup of this virtual semester is such that it is practically impossible for a student to claim self-sustenance and stay away from collective and concerted academic preparations.
On Wednesday, 10th March, 2021, the acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, during an interactive session with 300 students, stated that students are not expected to be on campus. He also stated that he was aware that some students have rented rooms and apartments in the school’s vicinity and how it is unnecessary for them to be around. In his exact words, ‘’we are putting in place online mechanism to enable students take part in lectures, interact with lecturers, and perform other activities.’’ The University management would be like the ostrich which rushes to hide itself, and in so doing, buries its head and leaves the larger part of its body susceptible to attacks if it thought that its Pilatian-handwashing directive that no student is expected to be around the school vicinity will be enough to absolve it of the blame when fresh issues surface.
The University management did say that students should stay with their parents and not somewhere around the school campus. However, we know that such directives have not held thirst-quenching water chez the students. Many are scattered across locations around the school, hardly different from shepherdless sheep. There are directives, yet the directives have not been followed. Does that mean that we can absolve the director of blames should the directed encounter problems? No! And why is that? Whatever happens, the news would be: “UI students…” “10 UI students…”, which means that that the institution chooses to self-absolve of responsibilities with its directives as justification does not mean society would absolve the institution of blame, should anything happen to the “disobedient” students. Therefore, we do not expect the university to look away as regards the welfare of the students staying off campus, most especially in the area of security. It is the responsibility of the school management to be concerned about the welfare of students whether they stay on or off campus. The AOOites and CMFites alone do not constitute the student-body; the neglect of students staying off campus has led to increasing numbers of security-related cases, most especially in Agbowo ( a community directly opposite UI) where the security of students is not guaranteed.
Agbowo and Its Agelong Student-targeted Robberies
This past week, Agbowo has witnessed gruesome cases of robbery, with the University of Ibadan students mostly being the victims. Robbers are thinking thieves; we want to believe that these bandits are working with the information that there is a surging number of students residing in the community due to the unavailability of accommodation – perhaps we should say lack of enough accommodation space, since the private hostels are opened – on campus, and from all indications, they might just be getting started.
One of the victims of the robbery on Monday the 15th , who pleaded anonymity, shared her experience with us:
‘’It happened on the midnight of Monday, 15th of March, 2021. Those guys were many. It’s so unfortunate because I recently just brought the phone they stole. They robbed almost everyone in our apartment and also in my room where we were three. They took our phones, they collected my purse which had my voter’s card, library ID card, University ID card, Departmental ID card, even my debit cards were also in the purse. I’m somehow sad because I don’t even know how to go about them. During the robbery, they also used their cutlass to injure me. I have lodged my complaints at a nearby police station. I hope they can find something to do about it, but it’s annoying. UI should please open hostels for we the students because the robberies are becoming common because they are aware that hostels were not given to students. I stay around carpenter area, in front of Allahu Nuru, the mosque that also has a primary and secondary school’’
Read this related post: Of Blackouts, Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching, and the University of Ibadan
We also got into contact with another UIte, a victim of the most recent robbery in Agbowo, which happened on Saturday, 20 March 2021:
“My roommates and I had slept off at around 10:30 – 11 p.m. There was no light at that time. Later on, I woke up at around 1:30 – 1:45 a.m. to press my phone (reply to messages and see what I had missed online etc.). All that time, as I was on my phone, I was hearing gunshots, but from a distance. I didn’t think much about it because I thought it was just the security people doing their jobs and all that. That was how, almost around 2 a.m., while I was getting ready to go back to bed, I heard repeated bangs on the front door of our house (there are 8 rooms on my floor, it’s a Face-Me-I-Face-You kind of house). Anyway, I heard the bangs and then I heard the rod that we normally use to block the door fall to the ground. That was when my roommate jumped up. Immediately, he blocked the door with our bags/boxes and he stood at the door. Meanwhile, the intruders were in one of the rooms on our floor and they were shouting for money of the occupants. That’s how there were shouts of “ole, ole” and a lot of noise and the guys went away. Some moments later, we heard a loud gunshot, probably from a local gun. Few moments later, my roommates and I came out of the room and we checked out the other occupants in the other rooms. But when we came outside, we heard that the rooms upstairs were all robbed fully. Luckily, no one was hurt on our floor, although a girl had her phone and bag taken. We stayed outside from around 2:21 a.m. till about 4 a.m. because the door on my floor was broken, and we couldn’t just go back in like that, and also, we didn’t know if any other thief was lurking around. Later on, we heard that a man was shot and that he had died, at a place not that far from ours. My house is around Major Salawu area in Agbowo.”
It is saddening that students’ tortuous ordeals have gone beyond frequent data subscriptions, unstable internet connection and inadequate power supply to fear for their lives, property, and sanity. Robbers know the student population in Agbowo has greatly increased, and while we would love to be optimistic, the bitter truth remains that students are at risk of being robbed, raped or maimed. What is the essence of online classes if gadgets are lost in their numbers? We do not want to imagine the othee two situations that might befall some students, one of which already befell the lady we spoke with. Today it is the case of a man shot dead, tomorrow it could be the case of a UIte if nothing is done about the security of students living in Agbowo and its environs.
The Way Forward: Thoughts on Solution-bound Actions
In setting security measures in place, we all have roles to play. The university management should seek the assistance of the state government concerning the deployment of security personnel to patrol Agbowo area and its environs, most especially at night. This may not totally curb the incidences of robbery, but it will reduce it to the bare minimum. Peradventure this suggestion may get clogged up on the wheels of bureaucracy, the university management can implore the use of vigilantes or private security agencies at least for this semester. There are vigilante groups that will willingly work for a competitive fee. The chicken may come home to roost if the management continues to feel less concerned about the welfare of students off campus.
Students staying off campus should also remember that they are no longer on campus where security is assured to a certain degree. Cliché as it may sound, do not stay out too late into the night, and lock your doors too. Students could also jointly lodge complaints to their landlords, who would likewise table their grievances at the Landlords’ Association meetings and perhaps get a lasting community-sponsored solution to the problem.
May things get better from now on!
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