By Adams Lateef
Coordinator, ERC UNILAG
Students at the Biobaku hostel on Tuesday May 13, 2014 staged a peaceful demonstration to the residence of the Dean of Students Affairs of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to register their grievances over neglect of hostel facilities.
This protest came just few days after the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) issued a statement on campus over the poor welfare conditions of students on campus. The statement which was posted in all the male hostels of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) caught the attention of some change-seeking students yearning for better facilities on campus.
Condition of hostel facilities is fast degenerating. For instance, among the two sets of toilet in Biobaku hostel, one part has been locked up and was yet to be fixed by the time students resumed this semester. Presently, students at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor all come to the ground floor to fetch water for cooking, bathing or for other domestic use and this shows the extent of neglect of students' welfare in the hostel.
Our statement titled "Poor Welfare Condition of Students: It is Time To Cry Out" had among its demands calls for proper fumigation of all hostels, repairs of damaged facilities in the hostels such as the toilets and bathrooms, provision of adequate water supply for students use as well as provision of tanks for storage of water among others. No doubt this statement was well received by students and it made them conclude a protest was necessary.
Students had gathered by 7 pm to begin the protest but the members of the Hall Executive came out trying to discourage them. Several minutes were wasted arguing on while the protest should hold amid the counter responses from the executives. By this time, the school's CSO had intervened and succeeded in dispersing some students. However the intervention of ERC comrades built the momentum as we led chanting of solidarity songs. This eventually led to a resolution for the protest to go ahead.
The protest started with a march to nearby hostels for solidarity with placards reading "DSA BRING BACK OUR WATER AND TOILETS". This solidarity visit was necessary as the poor welfare condition was not the problem of a single hostel but a problem biting hard on majority of students on campus. Many students could not join for fear of being victimized by the school authority. However those that could not join encouraged the protesters. The protest ended at the residence of the DSA which is about 15 minutes walk from the Biobaku hostel. On getting there, the protest was received by the Engineer handling the contract at the hostel.
The following day, work on repair of the facilities was reported to have commenced which shows that struggle pay. We in the ERC call on students not to relent on the demand for better welfare condition on campus. This protest is significant because since the ban on students' unionism in 2005 by the management, the University has not recorded any students protest demanding for better welfare conditions in an organized way.