At this stage, it is now beyond every sound argument that education in Nigeria is on a downward spiral. Having cupped many years of decline and neglect to go with incessant interruptions, it is clear by now that it takes courage to go to school in Nigeria.Yet, as ever, education remains the key to so many possibilities that bother on development.
However, those who summon the courage to be educated in Nigeria often know that they will bear witness to all manner of things in the course of getting educated. If they do not know before they start, they are soon rudely awakened by the realities they have to confront.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities only recently ended the eight months ordeal of Nigerian undergraduate students which began when the union embarked on strike on February 14, 2022. Many universities have since resumed academic activities with students scrambling to go back to school from all over the country.
Yet, for many of these students, it is a lot of uncertainty that they will go back to, especially as it appears some universities are altering the definitions of what is acceptable and what is not.
There is no doubt that for many years now, moral decadence has slipped in and has continued to seep into the fabric of the Nigerian society. With the institution of the family, that cradle of life where children are expected to be taught right and wrong from so early in their lives crumbly badly, morality has somewhat become a free for all in the country.
In recent times, teaching morality has become a focal point for those who instill discipline in schools. Sound education can never be complete until character is equally formed along the line. However, the question remains to what extent should schools go to police morality and at what cost, especially within the university setting given that education which finds its highest ideals within such settings puts freedom and expression above many other ideals?
A long list of prohibited clothing recently hit the public space at the instance of the Rivers State University, Nkpolu- Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt. The internal memorandum titled `Ban on indecent dressing by students on campus,’ and dated 19th October 2022 prohibited colouring of hair among male and female students, tattoos, spaghetti gowns, short skirts, sagging trousers among a host of other things no doubt considered reprehensible by those in charge.
It would be understandable if institutions of higher learning in Nigeria take measures to ensure that those who pass through them leave with some measure of decency ingrained into them as human beings who have undergone scholarship. However, extreme care must be taken to ensure that the atmosphere which promotes freedom, academic and otherwise, in those institutions is vigilantly maintained lest the ideals of freedom of expression in its richly varied forms are lost to the theatrics and histrionics of those who mask bigotry and extremism behind noble masks.
Also, the religious bigots who whip up draconian codes of conduct in secular institutions and seek stringent enforcement should take a moment, examine what the Rivers State University has done in this instance, and divine for themselves whether there is really any correlation between tatoos, eyelashes, spaghetti gowns and academic performance.
As always, eternal vigilance remains the price of freedom. May that day never come when such a price will become too steep to pay in academic institutions within Nigeria.