I am seized by this happenstance at the University of Lagos and it is my obligation as an active citizen to bring to the notice of other active citizens the situation at the University, especially what the scholars who are managing the University have invented as a solution. The “solution” after many months of academic stagnancy due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough and wobbled online classes crowned now with an invention of an indemnity form that contains irresponsible and exculpation-from-irresponsibility statements. In summary, this form was designed for students to sign off their rights to learn under a safe environment. This attempt is not just inhumane but criminal. 

If nothing has concerned you before, the situation at UNILAG should interest every stakeholder in and outside Nigeria as it concerns public health. 

The University is a place where both the young and old meet to learn , so if it was a claim that the young have got strong immunity, what about the old? It has been reported in the news how the school lost 2 (not exact figure) Professors to the corona virus in the space of a month; adumbrating the fact that the University does not exist as a separate entity from the rest of the World. People who attend the school come from all over the world and they move around the world to interact. More reason we all need to pay attention to this whole issue. 

The online learning system that came months after the lockdown was eased has continued to be awful with many complaints over the whole scheme. This is expected in a country where “can you hear me?” takes half of our zoom meetings and the cost of data is pocket-tearing. Till this moment, some lectures have not been completed. Yet students are forced to sit tests and now, exams. 

Many lecturers are not digitally inclined. Many can’t use WhatsApp let alone a learning management system that requires uploading of course materials, grading and all sorts. Some reach out to students to help them with the uploading. If God would shower blessings on students this semester, same lecturers would forgetfully give the exam questions to students to upload. 

The recent GST online exams have been greeted with protests. The GST office responded with wrong statistics of the success rate and have now classified complaints of students who had varying issues as “genuine” and “not genuine“. This is just failure being transferred. 

The twist in all of these drama is now the physical examinations being forced on 300 Level to 500 Level who also studied “virtually”. I used the word “forced” because the management can not tell me that there was a full consensus among all stakeholders; students inclusive that exams should hold physically. I sent a message to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Toyin Ogundipe wherein i highlighted reasons why it was unfair to do such. As expected, he ignored. 

To solidify the preparation for physical exams, the management has now come up with an indemnity form to shield itself should anything go wrong when students gather to sit these exams. Physical exams that involve students from 300 Level to 500 Level is not just a gathering but mass gathering. 

To clearly understand this inhumane invention of the Management, here are some of the questions the whole world needs to ask the University of Lagos management- 

1. What are the measures they have taken in line with the protocols of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 asides providing 1 wash-hand basin per faculty? A faculty has an average of 5000 scholars. 

2. In line with the PTF guidelines, will less than 50 students be arranged in our halls. The halls we know. If that would be done, how long will the exam period be? 

3. The rulers of Nigeria celebrated the arrival of vaccines recently. Has the UNILAG Management met with the Presidential Taskforce to see if vaccination can start from schools? Would all students coming to sit exams be vaccinated as a measure? You can’t just heap irresponsibility on students while you run away from your own responsibility. 

4. What’s the level of hygiene in these halls of residence? Are they the halls we know or new ones have been built? 

5. On the aspect of bed spaces, most rooms in halls of residence are to accommodate 8 persons (undergraduate) - an already uncomfortable arrangement. For this invention, what the Management has not said on paper is that they are allowing squatters “officially” this time, for the sake of the exams. This would now make the uncomfortable 8 to increase to an average of excruciating 16. There was a room in 2014/15 at Biobaku Hall where 36 students (bonafide, squatters, floaters, hangers, standers) housed themselves. Yes! 36 human beings in a room. I’m not exaggerating at all. There are witnesses here. Yet the management is already extenuating itself if any student contracts the virus or spreads it during the exam period. This is illogicality that went to Harvard! 

I await answers to these questions and more. 

Like I have said in a previous article that COVID-19 has only come to expose us, our generational failures, our corruption and dysfunctionalities. We are now caught in the dilemma of doing what is right or running away from responsibilities. It is not supposed to be a dilemma but because doing what is right is not in our DNA. 

Finally, are our schools; UNILAG in this particular case, about learning to make human living meaningful or we just want to generate funds that will be mismanaged by Ogundipe-ism?

 

- ‘Femi Adeyeye 

   Lagos, Nigeria

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