STUDENTS’ RIGHTS: MYTH OR REALITY?

DELIVERED IN REPRESENTATION OF THE FACULTY OF LAW AT THE 1ST SCOLA INTER-FACULTY ORATORY CONTEST ON APRIL 1,2016.

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To be or not to be. That was the question that bothered the mind of Young Hamlet in the day of Shakespeare. It is a question which has lingered in our hearts for centuries without an answer. But it is not our problem today. Today the question is – has it been or has it not. Students’ rights: a myth or a reality?

Ladies and gentlemen, speaking is Adebajo Adekunle Adefisayo, a representative of the faculty of law here to dance with my lips to the melodious question – student rights: a myth or a reality. Do students really have freedoms? And if they do, do they have them merely by a stretch of imagination or in the actual recognition of our dear nation?

You may ask – what do we speak of here. What even are students’ right? Well, students’ right is our right to attend classes and not have to leave home extra-early because the hall is not big enough. Students’ right is our right to peacefully express our grievance and not get served a hot meal of SDC letters. Students’ right is our right to an environment that is conducive for learning, where there is ventilation, whether from ACs or fans. And I do not mean hand fans. Ladies and gentlemen, it is our right to pay tuition and not have to struggle to pay attention while getting doses of education.

Kay Granger once said, ‘human rights are not a privilege granted by the few, they are a liberty entitled to all.’ And so, students have rights just like everyone else. But the point is; are we getting them like everyone else? For it is one thing to have a first class pedigree and it’s another to have a first class degree. It’s one thing to be eligible for bed space according to the porter and another to be eligible according to UI portal.

Fellow students, today’s topic calls to mind some agonising ironies in our world.

Do we have rights in reality? Yes we do. In the reality of section 295 of the Criminal Code which provides in clear terms that everyone above the age of sixteen may not be corrected by a blow or other force; and that excessive force shall not be used in any case. However, in the reality of NASU members, students are never too old to get a taste of the cane. In the reality of Professor O.M. Ndimele of the University of Port Harcourt, there is no wrong in tattooing the skin of students with parallel lines.

Do we have rights in reality? Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Yes we do. In the reality of section 36 of the constitution which guarantees for every person the right to fair hearing. But then in the reality of Almighty Student Disciplinary Committee, a student case is nothing but a case of two foxes and a sheep voting on what to have for breakfast. In the reality of our lecturers, you are not innocent until proven guilty. Rather you are guilty with no chance to prove your innocence.

Do we have rights in reality? Yes, we do. We do in the reality of the case of Garba & Ors v University of Maiduguri where the Supreme Court held that the expelled students were not granted justice by the university. But what we find in the reality of the school? We find numerous miscarriages of justice and somersaults of fairness as we found again two days ago in the case of MOTE & Ors v. the SDC. One wonders if the Disciplinary Committee itself has discipline. One wonders if it is even a committee or a martial court.

Friends, the rights of students sometimes is like a dancing mirage which dances energetically in the pages of our laws and on the tongue of our leaders; but which never gives an harvest of laughter. When it comes to our rights, our politicians and professors have a high blood pressure of vocal expression but an anaemia of profitable actions. Our rights are the cars which ferry Student Union leaders to their coveted offices during elections. But after elections? After elections, we will hear that there is hike in fuel price and so this car can no longer move. We hear that the bank of justice has been robbed and is bankrupt. We hear that the buttery of impartiality and welfarism has caught fire. Ladies and gentlemen, we hear all kinds of things.

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When I saw the topic, what came to my mind was – how can we reduce something as fundamental as fundamental human rights to the fabulous tales of Ijapa tiroko oko yanibo? How can we reduce it to the fantastic legends of the seeker? Why should we have to doubt and debate whether or not we have rights? Why do we even need SCOLA to advocate vehemently for our rights? Why? Well, I’ll tell you why. We need them not because our rights are a myth or a reality. We need them because our rights are a myth in reality.

Malcolm X once said; nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it. And so, ladies and gentlemen, greatest Nigerian students, if you want to see your rights in 3D and not just on paper. If you want freedom, you must take it. If you want victory, you must struggle – why because as we all know; aluta continua victoria ascerta.

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