I went to a federal university, University of Jos.
And like many in its category; it was prone to ASUU strikes, which is why my four-year Bachelor degree ended up being a five years plus grind; it seemed we were staying more at home due to lecturers’ strike. By the way, I sympathise with the lecturers.
When I became a parent, I didn’t want these serial strikes that have plagued our university system for decades to affect my child, so when he passed JAMB (in flying colours, I must say), and was admitted immediately into a private university, I was sure that his four years course would not be extended to five years or more…all things being equal.
We celebrated this admission, though this child of mine wasn’t too enthusiastic about going to a private university.
I berated him for his ‘ingratitude’. I told him had I had this opportunity in my day, I would have jumped at the idea of going to a private uni; I would have completed my four years course as stipulated; I would’ve been dancing for joy that I got my admission just a month after secondary school education, (I stayed home for three years after secondary school, trying unsuccessfully to pass JAMB, until finally, I passed in the fourth year only to be given the wrong course). I narrated how my parents had to squeeze money literally from their behind just to send me to school.
My son didn’t see any of these things. All he saw was, ‘…a glorified secondary school.’ He told me when we went to inspect the school before resumption. He had also taken time to ask about the school’s system from a few of his seniors who were already at the university.
‘Their rules are ridiculous.’ He informed me. ‘Can’t I go to Unilag or one of these other federal universities?’
‘No! What is wrong with you?’ I was angry with him!
Me, I liked the rules – kids can’t leave the university premises without approval, lights out at 10 pm, hair cut down, no smoking, no alcohol, no being overly friendly with the girls, meaning, no kissing, no smooching, no hugging, no short skirts, no jeans, no coke (azin coca cola o), no coffee, no hanging out late in the night, no night out in town partying or doing stuff your mama shouldn’t catch you doing. You can be randomly selected for a urine test for drugs and if caught you not only lose points that add up to your academics, you could be expelled!
There are cameras everywhere watching the students.
The rules work for me. Just forget that I am not a student!
He agonised over these for some time, ‘Aren’t these the same rules we were made to observe at secondary school as boarders? We are supposed to be in the university now, and we are still being treated like kids, when will I become an adult that can do things for me? How will these rules help me?’’
My response: ‘I haven’t sent you to school to be going upandan like a fever: the rules are for your own good!’
‘What good, if you have pampered me from nursery, through secondary, now university, I can’t make my own mistakes? There’s no fun. So when will I truly become an adult if at almost 18, they still dictate what I eat, when I sleep and I hear they mark notes! Are we still in secondary school?’
I no sabi, but the kid had a point and rather than agree, I replied, ‘you aren’t the only one there.’
Then his words got me thinking; I want my kid to learn; learn from his mistakes and from others, too. Learn that at the university, you are supposed to be solely on your own, being considered an adult, who should be able to make rational decisions as to whether he should attend classes, write his notes, study and pass his exams.
I know what freedom or should I say, sudden freedom does to a young adult. The first time I lived away from the prying eyes of my parents was at 16 years doing my A levels. I could eat, sleep, wake up, go anywhere without any supervision. I lived in a girls’ hostel where you could easily mistake for a brothel at night with men of different shades milling about looking for girls to take to town for the night or an entire weekend.
I saw over and over again several girls get pregnant, abort these pregnancies and would often vow never to befriend particular guys or men…they didn’t stick to these vows. They got pregnant months later!
There was no one to caution anyone, save for the home training that had been drilled in some of us from our parents and for me, the constant fear my father carrying out his age old threat of burying me alive.
I did parties, I missed classes, I failed my first year A’ levels!
I knew shame. My parents weren’t rich, so what was I thinking messing up?
I grew up that year. I became mature. The most important thing for me going forward was my education and I fought to ensure I didn’t disappoint myself or my parents.
So when my son talked about mistakes, I knew I made a lot and thanks to those, I learned a lot too.
How will a student learn the difficult part to success if he hasn’t been allowed to slip down the valley of failure or see how difficult the climb back to success can be when his or get the benefit of watching another slide down a rough path?
How will they learn how to court when they aren’t even allowed to mix freely with the opposite sex even at 18?
Why should an 18-year-old be told to get a haircut simply because authorities think it’s too full, this isn’t military zone, is it?
Why are girls prevented from wearing jewellery, even ear rings, and the rest prevented from bracelets or shambalah?
Why prevent students from drinking coke, if the reason isn’t because of too much sugar? I hear the reason is because of the caffeine!
I depended on coffee to study during exam periods. Take the coffee out and I would sleep like a log till the next exam.
As for the haircut, I experimented with the wildest hair styles in my university days; I was always colouring it to different shades of weird, until maturity set in and I settled for the acceptable.
Wearing jeans of different codes, talking to the opposite sex, going to parties, waking up late, sleeping late were all part of student life at the University of Jos. To deny students these is to stunt their growth. They are like rites of passage to becoming an adult in Nigeria.
Leave them with those stifling rules, and the students become adept at devising ingenious means of circumventing the rules and often times with disastrous consequences.
But here’s the thing, these universities aren’t forcing anyone to come to them. We went to them, we selected them as our choice when we filled the JAMB forms, we agreed to abide by their rules and regulations but should there be any reason not to, the gate is open, take a walk.