It is said, you can take a villager out of a village but you cannot completely get the village out of a villager. Nowhere is this more fitting than in our hallowed institutions of higher learning where students from all walks of life, both civilised and uncouth, come together.
Universities, especially public ones are the ideal demonstration of how difficult it is dealing with students in the process of imparting knowledge them.
University students anywhere in the world are (supposed to be) the best brains a country can produce. It’s the factory of future doctors, engineers, lawyers, journalists, teachers and of course politicians, who are to oil the development of a nation. It’s, therefore, not surprising that they are cautiously revered in many circles. Be it in the village where most of them come from or in the towns.
While they are undeniably intelligent, beyond the lecture halls they are different animals altogether. And the people who are acutely aware of this fact are the members of the support staff who deal with them on a daily basis in ensuring that life runs smoothly.
Be they the librarians, cleaners, watchmen, custodians of the halls of residence and others who interact with them at different levels, all have a story to tell.
“It is a delicate balance we try to strike to ensure that everything is settled as calmly as possible,” says a chief security officer of a public university who declines to be named.
“We cannot cane them for the petty yet annoying mistakes since they are certainly above that. And you cannot rush the students to the police without causing a stir,” goes on the security officer
Petty mistakes! No it is not about tacking in shirts or making noise in lecture halls. It is about getting drunk and disorderly every Friday. It is about shouting and throwing things out every time there is even a slight power blackout.
Yet more of such black outs are as result of cooking (which is banned in all universities) in hostels using high voltage coils. They can put the blame on everyone but themselves. The list goes on.
The things they write on walls or doors: “Silence; great minds at work (this on a door to a room that is playing an appalling deafening music) or “Jesus loves you but everyone else thinks you suck”.
Some of their writings cannot be mentioned in such respected space.
By the time male students wear their colourful graduation gowns they would have caused many a sleepless night to the workers of the university. No sooner is a condom dispenser put in place, fully and functional, than it is vandalised and condoms strewn all over the corridors.
“We are dealing with kids who are pretending to be adults,” says Sankara who works as a custodian at a university.
“They can’t use the available resources responsibly. They tamper with streetlights, knock down taps, break the furniture with impunity and steal anything that can be stolen.”
While some things border on pure indiscipline, some of their ‘petty’ mischief is simple question of manners and upbringing. To date, they have never learnt how to use toilet properly. To many of them they are like advanced pit latrines.
“Hardly do you finish washing than they soil them. They don’t want to flush the toilet. It is not a wonderful sight to behold and when you confront a supposedly mature person he takes it personally,” laments a disgusted Onesphore, when I approached him one evening after he had just finished cleaning the male washrooms at a local university.
Granted hygienic standards in such highly public places is never guaranteed, but some misuse them in the most bizarre of manners
At places where they are expected to exercise maximum self-discipline, they will respond in exactly the opposite manner.
A glance at the institution’s computer centres, they are mostly on Facebook or visiting the barred pornographic sites.
They have uncanny ways of hacking into them. And to think that the computers are mainly for research work. Very few students can dutifully use the facilities for the purpose they were initially intended for.