By Abibat Jimoh

On the 9th of February, 2022, the students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) lost Miss Ajibola Heritage a 200-level student in the Department of Linguistics and African Languages to the cold hands of death.

An avoidable death, if there was adequate maintenance and the existence of affordable and adequate hostels accommodation that is not spurred by the motive to accumulate profit while spending little or nothing to maintain the hostels as currently defined by the school management.

Miss Ajibola from eye witness slipped and fell into the soakaway through an open part only covered with planks when trying to spread her clothes. This unfortunate incident, which claimed the life of this promising young lady happened as part of the negligence of the Bver’s hostel authorities and failure to provide proper sewage covering and its maintenance. 

If students’ interests are put forward ahead of profit and regulations of the hostel’s activities by necessary authorities are adequately put in place under the democratic management of teaching and non-teaching staff, students elected representatives including working-class parents; this wouldn’t have happened. 

These deaths are one too many. Prior to this incident, there are several other related issues which show that students’ welfare on campus is not taken seriously. The case of Miss Adeshina Aishat, a final year student of the university who died due to the negligence by medical personnel and the lack of proper medical facilities from the school health centre. This loss led to a peaceful demonstration by the students on October 1st 2021, a protest that was merely seeking a change in the pathetic way by which the university administration is run and to seek avoidance of future occurrences. 

However, the management responded in a diversionary manner that rather than addressing the issues and complaints by students, the school was shut down on the excuse of disturbance of the peace. Also, the university authority further victimized some students’ by issuing query letters for “disrupting the university and destroying” some ‘acclaimed’ properties. 

Shutting down the university has been a tactic used by the school authority to continuously clamp down on students’ voices and the democratic rights to organize when crucial issues affecting students are raised.

The October 1st, 2021 case was not an exception. The OAU management has failed to solve the problems that led to the October 1st protest, it only diverted attention to the building of a new school gate. This is a project that is not necessarily of importance at the present time considering the numerous issues that need urgent attention.

For example, the welfare of students, which the OAU management through its outrageous policies has neglected. The general living and learning condition of students on and off-campus is nothing to write home about.

Ranging from the unjust fee hike for fresh students to the transportation crisis to the high cost of accommodation, overcrowded lecture theatres, and unequipped health centres both in terms of personnel and facilities, to inadequate laboratories, insecurity of lives and properties on and off-campus. 

Unfortunately, the present union leaders haven’t been active in tackling and providing the leadership with which to take on these numerous problems. The only action taken by them is releasing statements online without follow-up practical actions.

The lack of a clear and directional leadership both at the CEC and SRC levels of the students’ union has created political apathy among students. And this has affected the level of consciousness, especially of the fresh students.

Most of the fresh students have heard few things about the radical nature and the vibrant student unionism the university has experienced over the years. These students were enthusiasts on the resumption to this great citadel of learning, longing to be inducted into struggle and write their name into history sustaining the aluta tradition of the union, what they have beheld is a union and leadership that is not unseen, leaving student most of the time to their pains.

The need to demand adequate funding for public education by joining forces with staff unions (ASUU, NASU, SSANU, NAAT) is necessary and urgent. Crucially, progressive, pro-students and socialist groups must take up the mantle of building solidarity with students and organizing on the need for independent student unionism.

Also, demands should be made on the need for democratic control of tertiary institutions by elected representatives of workers, students and other stakeholders like elected community representatives and parents. It is necessary for students’ unions of universities across the country to join forces to change the narrative of government underfunding of public education. 

We in the MSA-OAU empathize with the families of the deceased and we join students’ in OAU to place unconditional demands for adequate compensation to the families of Miss Adeshina Aishat, Miss. Ajibola Heritage and other victims whose aspiring dreams met death at the hands of a system whose lack of proper management and implementation of students’ welfare are not taken seriously.

Along with this, we urge students not to get tired of the struggle. Rather, they should draw lessons from a past event and use them to organise themselves, now and the task ahead. The proper funding of public education with 26% budgetary allocation must be an unconditional demand student must also struggle for along with ASUU.