Afe’s Ivy League

CHIEF Afe Babalola, legal silk and university investor, is angry — angry that university final-year students were not among those to resume school, this COVID-19 season, like primary 6, JS 3 and SS 3.

His ire is especially directed at the “all-mighty” Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which he guessed must have muscled the Federal Government, from extending school resumption to the university finalist

Even then, in a statement signed by Tunde Olofintila, Head, Corporate Affairs, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Babalola propounded a rather weird policy, that pretty much equates education apartheid, in a pandemic.

He (well, the ABUAD spokesperson, speaking in his name) wished the Federal Government would grant private universities’ final-year students a waiver to resume, leaving their public university counterparts in the lurch.

And why?  The legal silk’s Nigerian Ivy League theory: “Already, in the private universities in Nigeria, an Ivy League similar to that in America is emerging.

To me, the top ranking private universities should be the mirror or the template for resumption of students because of the hygienic, safe environment and the undoubted discipline amongst students and teachers.”  Still, what of private universities outside this “Ivy League?”

Now, that well-serenaded “discipline” must have emerged from this beautiful ode, in the same statement, to private universities, by the ABUAD founder: “Most private universities are reputed for their moral and physical discipline, quality and functional education, hygienic and safe environment, predictable academic calendar, absence of trade unionism, committed teachers, modern teaching equipment and laboratories, and adequate preparation to prevent COVID-19”.

Fine traits, to be sure — except that “absence of trade unionism” smells like the university staff in a military barrack; and “moral and physical discipline”, a euphemism for the university churning out zombies — youths who even need to take exeats, before leaving campuses, like some secondary schools or monasteries!

Need Hardball state the two — staff regimentation and students as virtual zombies — buck the very essence of the university, where young adults are allowed to make youthful mistakes and self-correct?

Still, it is legitimate choice: splash the cash to train your children and wards as university zombies or mount a vigorous campaign to fix public universities, even as both compete for student intakes.

To be fair, Chief Babalola has been consistent in pitching his university — no crime!  When COVID-19 broke out, he lashed at the Federal Government for shutting universities when his “all-mighty” (ah, that word again!) ABUAD students were writing their semester examination!

He said that action would make his ABUAD calendar less “predictable”, as public universities.  But had the government cowered and ABUAD was struck by a major COVID-19 crisis, who would have borne the blame?

Let the chief market his investment as much as he wishes — that is legitimate.  What is not, is using public universities, which most Nigerian homes still patronize, as a battering ram.

That is not only insensitive, it is provocative in a region where Chief Obafemi Awolowo left a legacy of education as a right for all, not some special privilege for some moneyed class.  And no — nothing can justify educational apartheid.

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