Our nation is yet to overcome the shock of the recent event in Aluu community in Rivers State involving students of the University of Port Harcourt. From the avoidable but most unfortunate situation that took place in Aluu, where 4 young Nigerians were murdered, the National Universities Commission should not remain asleep about the state of universities in Nigeria any longer. In particular, the NUC need to really look into the issue of university students accommodation and security. I was really taken aback by the treatment on the 4 students who could not be helped by anyone to be alive to tell their stories. I also expected the NUC to take responsibility and apologize to Nigerians for failing to take care of our children that were entrusted to them to education, which they have not been able to inspire enough and also not been able to provide adequate security and accommodation for.
I have been wondering why the NUC should still be waiting for what the Police will do about this matter, when it is obvious that the highest the Police will achieve is to arrest all the people involved and charge them to court. There is no assurance that such efforts by the Police will prevent a re-occurrence in another university community. This makes it necessary for the NUC to begin to seek for proactive measures that will utilize the findings of the Police to prevent similar events in the future again.
I therefore submit that there is the need for the National Universities Commission to urgently develop a nationwide University – Community Relationship Education Program (UCREP) that will educate host communities of universities and university community members on the mutually beneficial relationship between both sides. Host communities need to be educated to realize that visiting students are their own children entrusted to them by other community members and their presence grows their local economy but yet have some challenges in areas of violation of traditional values and ways of life.
University community members also need proper education on the sacrifice that host communities continue to make to provide opportunities for them to learn. In most cases, children of host communities are unable to secure admission in universities within their communities but yet have others from far away. Again, university students need to appreciate and respect host communities and see them as their parents. In this way, both sides will appreciate the presence and sacrifice of each other. From such respectful position, the community will protect the students and the students will serve the community, and each will exist, relate and utilize all opportunities for the sake of the other.
So, we need to create a program of education on university and community relationship to enable people see the mutual benefits between students and host communities. The feeling around most host communities is that they are doing so much for the visiting students but they fail to realize that students are adding value to their lives too. The Aluu incident shows clearly that the general community’s view of the students was not very good. If the students were from Aluu, I am sure they won’t do the same thing to them. There is a missing gap in relationship there and I think they need an intensive relationship education program.
If the NUC is able to develop such a program and designate some persons as university community relationship educators and mobilize them to all universities in Nigeria, it will add more value and make the death of the four a more heroic sacrifice that gives a new direction to all universities in Nigeria. We need to recall our universities back to the path of knowledge and not allow them remain as merchants of certificates, and home of criminality and all kinds of social vices. If we must save our future, the time to renew and resurrect the universities is now and I hope that the sacrifice of the Aluu 4 can become the supreme price for a new beginning where no such thing shall ever happen again.
Raphael Ogar Oko
Global Educators for All Initiative (GEFAI)