Effecting change in Africa: A rallying call to Student leaders
“We are only as strong as we are united; as weak as we are divided.” – J.K Rowling
“If we can make substantive and quality changes in higher education then I think, collectively we would be happy.” – Tebogo Thothela
No sooner had it been revealed that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had finally reached an agreement with the Nigerian Federal Government as regards their demands, the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) went to the press in what has been viewed by some people as a cheap attempt at rescuing their image following the embarrassing position they took as regards the strike. The situation isn’t peculiar to Nigeria, all over Africa, emphasis isn’t placed on education, and student leaders and ideological activists that address real issues are thinning out.
With the victory that ASUU won in Nigeria, it’s a message to student activists that no sacrifice is too great to make in the struggle to revitalise the educational sector. Student leaders need to understand that anyone who tries to stop youths from having access to education is an enemy; no more no less and any union that is trying to make it accessible to ordinary people must be supported totally. Some student leaders are however too scared of altercations with their school management and government that they clamp their mouths shut and forget that they have a responsibility to society and have an obligation to speak truth to power.
April this year, a friend and vibrant student activist, Comrade Orapeleng Matshediso, was suspended as President of the Student Representative Council of the North-West University, South Africa for ‘asking questions’ and demanding that action be taken as regards the death of one of his students. Because he was on the part of truth, he won at last. Student leaders must realise that no government will willingly give you what you want, you’re the ones to go after what you want without fear.
Student leaders must remember that the democracy that most African countries enjoy today has its victory rooted in student struggles, the students must now more than ever recall the historic roles played then and be prepared to play those roles in ensuring that the poor gets educated and in wresting power from the few who want to keep the children of the poor in darkness. Nigerian students under NUNS fought the military to a standstill, risked their lives and ensured that democracy reigned. In South Africa, the students and youths fought the apartheid regime, sacrificing their lives so that others may enjoy a society that promotes equality. The pre-independence and post-independence history of Zimbabwe locates student activism at the core of the struggle.
Today, student leaders in Africa need to awake. History once again beckons, Africa has found itself in the same spot where it was back then, only that now, it’s not foreigners who are oppressing us, neither is it the military(in most cases at least), it is our own leaders dressed in the garb of democracy that now tie the noose round our necks. History once again calls on student leaders Africa-wide to collectively reject the new wave of repression that is going on, the new wave of denying education to the poor and implementing policies that make education inaccessible. To keep silent will be betraying the roles that history has called us to play. Once again, Africa awaits the revival of vibrant and ideological student activists to pursue her liberation; Africa awaits its youths to give voice to her cry.
For Africa to arise; its youths must awake.
God bless Africa!
Ogunjimi James Taiwo
Follow me on twitter: @hullerj; Google+: James Ogunjimi
James Ogunjimi is a student of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Nigeria. He’s the Coordinator of the Committee for the defence of human Rights (CDHR) in Olabisi Onabanjo University.