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ARTS, EDUCATION and ENTERTAINMENTS => EDUCATION => Topic started by: cooljoe on January 30, 2014, 09:19:37 AM

Title: A Lesson In Crisis Management
Post by: cooljoe on January 30, 2014, 09:19:37 AM
A lesson in crisis management

THE Lagos State University (LASU) was in the news for the right reasons on Monday, last week. It had successfully conducted the Students? Union election online simultaneously on four campuses using software applications developed by two of its students. The exercise went without hassles. It was well reported, and the university was applauded from various quarters.
Unfortunately, it did not last. The euphoria was ruptured two days later by a violent protest by students against the closure of the school?s registration portal. Like students are wont to do, some of them had not registered despite several extensions of the deadline by the university. And finally examinations came, and about 1,300 students were left in the cold.
Many had complained that the difficulty of raising the fees, which ranges between N180,000 and N350,000 was the reason for the delay.
They pleaded for another period of grace to complete their registration since they had paid the fees, but the Vice Chancellor, Prof John Obafunwa, would have none of it. Hoping against hope on the day the second semester examinations were billed to start (Wednesday), the students still pleaded for clemency. However, they felt certain it would not come when the Vice Chancellor, who they expected would address them after attending a Governing Council meeting, entered his car and drove off. That was when things went awry and the demon of destruction possessed the students.
Students? unrest is any Vice Chancellor?s nightmare. Those who have experienced it never pray to witness it again during their tenure. Prof Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe will not forget the students? violence that resulted in the burning of his official quarters in 2005 when he was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos. Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof James Epoke, and his counterpart at the University of Uyo, Prof Comfort Ekpo, will likely shudder when they remember the wanton destruction of university and personal properties visited on their institutions in August 2011 (UNICAL) and June 2013 (UNIUYO) by the same students who sought their admission with tears.
Many years ago, I was at a forum where Prof Rogers Makanjuola, former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, recalled how students kidnapped him from his office and dragged him down the multiple-storey building, rough-handling him in the process. He was bitter about the experience.
We have read of Obafunwa?s experience in the papers. Had LASU students reached where he was hiding, I do not think they would just have rough-handled him. He himself said ?we would have been talking about obituaries?.
The experiences I have recounted are proof that authorities of our tertiary institutions ought to invest in negotiations, conflict resolution and crisis management skills and strategies. While I do not excuse violence by students under any premise, I also think that the situation that leads to violence can be checked if only the authorities would be a little more sensitive.
For instance, in the LASU case, the Vice Chancellor had already received prior warning from the Students? Union President, Mojirade Hassan, that trouble was brewing. But he waved it off. He told her to handle it. I think the straw that broke the carmel?s back was when Obafunwa failed to address the students after the council meeting. He and the Governing Council Chairman, Mr Bode Agusto, drove off. Trying to decipher what must have gone through the students? mind, I conjecture that they must have thought of the consequences of not being allowed to write the examination after eventually paying the fees ? a repeat of the semester next session. A repeat means that they would have to pay another set of tuition fees ? fees that they have been complaining are too steep in the first place. That was an unpleasant reality.
This is a lesson for all school administrators: do all you can to nip crisis in the bud; keep communication lines open; do not underestimate students, especially when they are acting as a group. This is because, as they always claim, the protest can be hijacked by unruly elements and spiral out of control.
If the Vice Chancellor had addressed the students, things may not have got so bad. Again, if the university had stopped accepting fees from the students yet to register, they would not have been able to use the closure of the portal as an excuse for violence. That was a mistake on the university?s part.
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