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Season of tumult, as varsities rumble


Deserted...A section of the UNIPORT campus, following closure of the school PHOTO: ANN GODWIN

Deserted…A section of the UNIPORT campus, following closure of the school PHOTO: ANN GODWIN

• UNIPORT, UNILAG shut down, Benue in protest
• UNICAL Med. Students decry poor facilities, fault ‘100 students per two cadavers’

At the University of Port Harcourt, things are no longer at ease. The institution was closed last week, following protest by students over increase in tuition fees.

The students had decried the hike from N15,000 to N45,000 and announcement by management that persons who failed to comply would not sit for the semester’s examination. A student was killed in the disturbance.

Less than a week before, the University of Lagos (UNILAG) was also closed, following protest by students over what they described as poor living conditions. They cited lack of electricity supply, shortage of water and rise in prices of commodities on campus.

Last week also, students of the Benue State University blocked the busy Makurdi-Gboko highway in protest over hike in tuition fees. They cited the harsh economic climate in the country and called on the institution’s management to have a rethink.

In what is fast becoming a season of tumult in higher institutions of learning across the country, students at the College of Medical Sciences, University of Calabar are already decrying what they say is inadequate facilities and an environment unsuitable for learning. They are also calling on the National Universities Commission (NUC) to reverse its decision to elongate years of studies in medical schools to eleven.

One 200-Level student of Anatomy, who spoke to The Guardian, described a laboratory session as “a stuffy room where formalin smells everywhere with over 100 students and only two cadavers. It’s not right. When you travel out of this country to study, what you find is five persons to one cadaver. And when teaching is going on, you see everything clearly. But here, you will find over 50 students clustered around one body. Sometimes, at the end of the semester, we end up not having done any dissecting, as only about five people get opportunity to work on the corpse.”

Criticising the eleven-year policy, the student said: “The system is crazy. Why will they bring what is happening in the Western world to Nigeria and expect it to work when we do not have facilities to work with. Even in the United States, a course of four years may last two because they have all it takes to cover the syllabus and produce quality professionals. What are the authorities adding to the school in terms of facilities to warrant spending 11 years? In the Gross laboratory, we don’t have fans; the place is stuffy and people end up fainting during practical. Of course, I fainted too.”

Another, a 300-Level student in the Department of Medicine and Surgery, complained: “Today, we had two cadavers. But there were more than a hundred students in the lab. People were sweating because there were no enough fans. And most people couldn’t even see what went on in front because everybody stood. I think they need to do more to improve on the facilities, so that this country can produce quality doctors in the future, rather than elongate the years of studies. That will definitely not change what we have on ground.”

The university’s Information Officer, Mr. Eyo Effiong, declined to comment, as at the time of going to press. He, instead, referred The Guardian to the Dean or the Provost. Both were, however, said to be having a meeting and would not be available for comment until tomorrow (Monday).

While the students of UNIPORT are missing out on their academic activities, however, some of their ‘non academic’ neighbours are beginning to feel the pinch of a community without its main actors.

The institution’s host communities, Choba and Aluu in Ikwere and Obioakpor Local Councils of Rivers State, have become deserted. Food vendors, owners of business centres, drink sellers, recharge card dealers and others, have folded up temporarily, as no one patronises them any longer.

Commercial drivers and motorcyclists also are lamenting the sad development. A visit to the popular Delta and Choba Parks showed that taxi and bus drivers who often had their vehicles filled up with passengers in less than three minutes now wait for almost two hours to do the same.

Some of the motorcyclists said the crisis has impacted negatively on their family’s welfare, coming especially on the heels of high cost of fuel and consumables. They contemplated relocating elsewhere in order to make ends meet.

The university’s Obi-Lulu Briggs Health Centre is also bearing the brunt of the closure. The guardians of sick students have taken the ill away. The health workers, meanwhile, were seen idling in front of the complex, apparently discussing the situation.

One fruit seller at Delta Park, Miss Agnes Woke, pointed sadly at her bucket, saying that under normal circumstance, her apples and oranges would have finished. According to her, “It is UNIPORT students that make this area lucrative for business. Right now, we are going hungry. Things have been difficult since the students left. This place used to be very busy. The Federal Government and the school authorities should do something urgently and bring back the students, for the sake of people who live off the school.”

A food vendor, Mrs. Pauline Akpan, was equally unhappy. She stressed that since the incident, her business has slowed down, as the flow of people has ebbed greatly. The situation, she said, has made living for her family tougher.

Recharge card seller, Mr. Johnson Eze, said he graduated from the school but since he found no job, he decided to keep himself busy with the business. He cried that the crisis has set him back seriously, adding that he now struggles to make a paltry N2,000 per day,s unlike when the boom fetched N10,000.

Some traders who sold clothes, cosmetics and beverages around the campus also regretted the crisis, and blamed the Vice Chancellor of the institution for being insensitive to the plight of the students.

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