At 12:20pm on 15 April 2018, Ayobami Ojebode, a professor at University of Ibadan posted a conversation on his Facebook timeline. It was the conversation between the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Idowu Olayinka and a withdrawn medical student, Olanisebe Adetunji.
Olanisebe Adetunji in the conversation said he had failed MB I examination because he suffered from Pelvic Muscle Wasting and Chronic Sinusitis. Pelvic Muscle Wasting is a medical condition that could happen as a result of disease or injury which makes it difficult or impossible for an individual to move an arm or leg; while Sinusitis is a condition in which cavities around the nasal passages become inflated and could lead to difficulty in breathing through the nose, pain and swelling around the eyes, cheeks or forehead.
Responding to the student’s plea to save his truncated academic sojourn, the Vice Chancellor, said: “This is most unfortunate. I believe we can still salvage your academic career. Would it be possible to contact me by Tuesday 24 April 2018? All will be well. Please send a WhatsApp message to me… Meanwhile, take good care of yourself and relax your mind. All will be well.”
Encomiums poured like rain drops on the post on ‘Zuckerville’ as many commenters commended the Vice Chancellor’s humane response. Notably, some individuals extolled his use of social media to enhance communication and resolving students’ complaints. Meanwhile, like every individual, the Vice Chancellor has his good and other sides.
In recent time, the University of Ibadan Senate under the chairmanship of Professor Idowu Olayinka had been hit with sharp criticisms for unpleasant hike in fees which was by 114 per cent in accommodation and a strikingly outrageous one hundred thousand naira addition to medical fees payable at the University College Hospital. With peaceful protests by the medical students and online campaigns of #NoTo100K, there were unofficial reports that the University Senate had later resolved to reduce the one hundred thousand naira to eighty-five thousand naira; while the accommodation fees remain unchanged.
In a chat with this writer, Olanisebe Adetunji identified himself as a former student who failed out from 300L Medicine and Surgery. He revealed that he had been battling some ailments. Subsequently, the state of health affected his psychology; he could not think properly. Even though he sees himself as a youth who deserves to live, he did not have right access to proper healthcare. Sadly, his parents could not figure out he was going through some situation from his tender age; amidst other issues they had personally. The whole condition aggravated when he got admission; it affected his interaction with environment. It was almost like he was not living.
Despite negative reports about the person of the Vice Chancellor, Olanisebe said he was determined to put forth his challenges to him. To him, the world is negative, and nothing positive about it. “The world is so full of negativities, and we who dwell in it. I mean there’s something negative about me, if I think there is; likewise, you. But the ability to look beyond the negativities of the world, and feel its energy is LIFE and VIGOR. Besides, I did not hear anything so negative to debar me, from approaching him as a father,” said Olanisebe.
According to Olanisebe, none of his withdrawn colleagues have been reconsidered or given another chance. Meanwhile, he is really hopeful that the Vice Chancellor would help him get another chance. “All I can do right now is PRAY,” he stated. However, if he does not get another chance to resit the MB examination, he may have to pick another course; precisely, Physiology. That means, he would have to join the 200L students of Physiology for the 2017/2018 academic session.
Olanisebe further divulged that the Vice Chancellor’s response revivified his spirit and hope in our academic system. In his words, “It was heartwarming, really heartwarming to get a statement ‘all will be well’ from the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan.” His submission brings to the fore the dire need for academics and administrators of tertiary institutions to be more humanely responsive to students’ complaints, requests or agitations; as against the pervasive practice where students are seen as a bunch of ungrateful children who like to foment trouble every now and then.
Furthermore, Olanisebe seems to have grasped the full provision of Matthew 7:7 which states that: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Many students have burning issues which affect their academic careers but they are either scared or aware they may not get satisfactory responses to resolve these issues. But their perception should be changed. They should be spurred to channel their grievances assertively but with necessary courtesies. They should always remember that the door of opportunity won’t open until you push.
Likewise, findings show that many tertiary institutions do not have distinct ‘Guidance and Counselling Unit’ which hinder many students having psychological challenges from making their cases known. There have been pathetic cases of students committing suicide in Nigerian tertiary institutions; some of these students were very bright and intelligent. But intelligence is not an immunity from psychological stress or pressure, which can lead to avoidable trauma or suicides.
For instance, the University College Hospital has an ‘Academic Unit’ but to see a ‘Counsellor’ requires that one will be directed by an official; there is no distinct office for such purpose where students can go anytime. The situation is same on the main campus of the University as the Counsellor’s office is confined to the Student Affairs Division. While the office has been trying in helping final year students in areas such as career development, there is need to decentralize it so that each faculty and/or hall of residence can have a Counsellor to help students from time to time. This will go a long way to curtail psychological challenges and even student crises.
In reality, the Vice Chancellor’s response is commendable as it accentuates empathy; a core quality missing in Nigeria’s leadership today. While it is hoped that Olanisebe will get favourable consideration to resit his MB examination, there no is better time than now for leaders of tertiary institutions to always remember Abraham Lincoln’s saying that: “I have found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”