The Roots of Student Unrest in African Universities

Topics: University, Protest, Riot Pages: 7 (2253 words) Published: October 10, 2010
1.1. Introduction
The current search for excellence in higher education in Nigeria has concentrated primarily on institutional issues such as input resources, rapid expansion of higher education, managerial and allocative efficiency, programme relevance, and output mix in terms of students’ employability, research, and service. lndeed, overwhelming evidence suggests that there has been a dramatic decline in the quality of higher education and in die general performance of institutions of higher-learning in the last decade. Solutions being articulated include improvement in funding, management, revamping of die curriculum and retention of quality teaching staff. However, the broader issues of the social context of higher education, especially the social role and the qualitative impact of students and faculty protest in the improvement of the climate in the delivery of quality higher education has not been adequately addressed. The phenomenon of student unrest has persisted since the inauguration of universities in the early 1960s and has defied ideological boundaries and university site, such that each year resources are wasted due to recurrent cessation of teaching and learning, which sometimes results in the closure of universities. Yet not much has been done to locate the phenomenon in its historical and social contexts with a view to evaluating its merits and demerits. And unfortunately, student unrest has been conceived and portrayed mostly as a negative and disruptive process. As Peter and Mvungi (1986) asserts “little attention is given to its importance in the democratic transformation of the society and qualitative improvements in higher education, except in the broad context of the class struggle”. Meaning of Student Unrest

Students’ unrest is the indiscipline shown by students. It is shown in schools in the form of riots, demonstrations, protests, boycotts, harassments, and cultism. it is becoming a disturbing trend in the economy’s socio-political life. It is essential that students’ unrest is checked before it reaches an alarming level and it poses a great treat to our social development.

Student’s unrest is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, it also happens in Europe and America. However, in Advanced Countries, students’ unrest is not conducted in a violent manner. The students protest using means such as placards display, peaceful rallies, and letters to parliament, etc. The students in Nigeria need to learn how to protest in a non-violent manner. They protest by burning lives, destroying property, and this is quite appalling. Student must be free to exercise their rights. But they must not take things too far. Students are the leaders of tomorrow, so they must be disciplined now, so that when they grow they will continue in that path.

Origin of Student Unrest In Nigeria
In Nigeria, cases of student unrest were reported as far back as 1945. Ezera (1960) as cited in Onwuejeogwu (1991) posits that between 1940 and 1945, the West Africa Students Union (WASU) had agitated in pamphlets and public lectures for political reforms in all British West African territories. In doing so, they aroused a fairly enthusiastic audience of the British public opinion in favour of Africa freedom. Similarly, Ajuluchukwu (1962) as cited in Onwuejeogwu (1991) note that from the inception, the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) embarked upon deliberate campaigns of fostering national consciousness and inspiring a strong sense of militancy in the Nigerian people’s liberation struggle. Babatope (1974) and Onwuejeogwu (1991) opined that “the students’ union was born and nurtured in the womb of colonial protest”. Hence student unionism was more of a protest union rather than student union, which was aimed at far reaching changes in the society.

One incident of student unrest in 1960 was essentially due to students’ dissatisfaction with government insensitivity to national issues, and its...
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