Although Yaba College of Technology is in the heart of a city as social as Lagos, it is a no-alcohol institution for students and lecturers alike.
Segun Olugbile writes on how the college community are coping with the policy:
Kola, Austin and Femi (not their real names) have just finished some bottles of beer at Viginis, an event centre that is just about 15 metres to the main gate of their institution, Yaba College of Technology, Akoka. Unknown to the first two, Femi, a roommate of theirs, had packed four cans of beer in the bag strapped to his back before they started the short journey back to school. His intention was to smuggle in the alcohol to their room to continue their drinking escapade.
But unfortunately for Femi, the security man who noticed that they were drunk insisted on frisking them before they could enter the campus. An argument ensued as the three students threw verbal missiles at the “overzealous” security man. The security man insisted and Kola angrily threw the bag at him. The imprisoned cans of beer flew out of the bag, rolling into different directions.
“Contraband! So, you are carrying alcohol, I’ll take you to the CSO; and from there whatever happens to you, you will blame yourself for it,” the security man shouted. Their hitherto alcoholic-inspired boldness suddenly disappeared. They started begging the security man, with some other students joining in the plea. After much persuasion, the young security man released the embattled students.
“So, what if tertiary institutions students take alcohol?” a man in his mid-40s asked. He had parked his car after he noticed the commotion caused by the incident.
One of the peacemakers, a part-two Higher National Diploma student of the college, Lanre, quickly walked up to the enraged man, calmed him down and said alcohol was a taboo in YABATECH, Nigeria’s first tertiary institution.
“Please, join us to beg the security man. Otherwise, these students could be suspended for bringing alcohol into the campus.” The surprised outsider who claimed to be a graduate of a first generation university just walked up to his car and drove off.
But public tertiary institutions’ students anywhere in the world are considered to be schools for adults, so why ban the sale and use of alcohol on the campus of a public institution, more so when social clubs, including the Kegites Club, the JayCee and Havannah Club, thrive in these institutions across the country?
The college’s Spokesperson, Mr. Adekunle Adams, said, “This is YABATECH and not just any other institution. Look at our nation: are you happy with the rate of crime, immorality and lack of creativity among our youths? Are alcoholism and immoral practices things that we should be encouraging now or nurturing our youths so that they can be focused and productive? It’s a regulation here. Nobody sells alcohol here and nobody must be seen with it on campus. If you want to drink alcohol, go outside and get drunk there but you must sleep there too. Otherwise, if you enter the campus drunk and you are caught, the full penalty will be applied.”
But are the students happy with the regulations? The students and even traders on the campus that answered this question expressed divergent opinions.
For some, there is nothing wrong in the rule. Others argued that it impugned on their fundamental human rights. The majority of those who support the regulations are religious enthusiasts while those opposed to it have liberal views about religion.
“You don’t legislate over such things for adults. That is why they said under-aged candidates should not apply for admission. So, if you have offered me admission as an adult, why again saying I should not take alcohol? But anyway, I don’t have a choice because it’s in the student handbook given to us during the matriculation and I have to abide,” a HND 1 student of accounting, who pleaded anonymity, for obvious reasons said.
However, Babalola Afeez and Damilola Akinlabi said the regulation was in consonance with the dictate of their religions. Afeez is a Muslim while Akinlabi is a ‘Pentescostal’ Christian. According to them, the authorities of the college should be commended for instituting the legislation as they believe it would discourage immorality and violence on campus.
“Some people are naturally gentle and shy but by the time they take alcohol they develop the boldness to bully and even molest female students. Some cannot be violent if they are not drunk. So, I think it’s a good policy that should be emulated by other institutions of higher learning in the country,” Akinlabi said.
The Social Director, Students’ Union of the college, Mr. Martins Afolami, traced the history of the regulation to the era of the former rector of YABATECH, Mr. Olubunmi Owoso. According to him, the regulation was initiated by the students as a way of eliminating the challenges of cultism prevalent in the institution before Owoso became the rector some years ago.
“The students’ union started it as it was one of the student’s representatives in the congress (lawmakers) that raised the motion for the adoption of the rules to regulate alcohol consumption and students’ conduct on campus. Though I cannot say whether the student was working for management then, the other members of the congress approved it and since then, it has become a regulation for all the students here,” Afolami said. But he added that as an individual, he would not oppose the regulation because alcohol is bad.
“Alcohol is bad. It affects learning as no drunk student can understand whatever is being taught in class; it also affects the human health and social relationship,” he said.
But a member of the Kegite Club – otherwise known as the Palm Wine Drinkers’ Club – who pleaded anonymity for fear of possible persecution by the management, said that the regulation promotes hypocrisy and should be reviewed.
“Yes, they do routine check at the main gate to frustrate importation of alcohol into the campus and they also keep an eye on students at the portal’s lodge in our hostels. But some smart students still bring in these things regularly. If that is the case, they should review the regulation to allow us enjoy ourselves.
“Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that students should be irresponsible, at least even in our club, Kegite, we don’t encourage irresponsibility. Members who get drunk are sanctioned. Those who are not doing well in their studies are disrobed, that is, they are expelled. What I’m saying is that they should stop treating us like secondary school kids,” the source said.
Another student of Banking and Finance, Muiz Komolafe, argued that if it allowed members of staff to take alcohol in their staff club, the students, whom he said are adults, should also be allowed to do same on campus.
But a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Mr. Samuel Adelana, noted that the policy was in order. He said it would promote sanity and learning. Adelana added that lecturers who wants to take alcohol do so outside the campus.
When our correspondent visited some stalls of traders around the hostels, none of them was selling alcohol.
Afolami, who spoke on behalf of the students’ union , said that since management started the implementation of the regulation, his colleagues had resorted to visiting joints located around the institution.
A female student, who simply identified herself as Sade, said rather than raising unnecessary issues about alcoholism on campus, the management should work harder at establishing more hostels to accommodate the about 16,000 students of the institution.
“We are about 16,000 students and we have only about seven hostels that can only accommodate about 5,000 students. Let them build more hostels. They cannot stop some of these male students from taking alcohol,” she said.
Asked whether the regulation affected the lecturers and other members of staff too, the institution’s rector, Dr. Kudirat Ladipo-Adeyeye, said the policy was all encompassing.
“It affects everybody, including the rector, the registrar, the bursar, the portals, students and lecturers. The members of staff have their staff club and it is outside the campus, so they can go there but they must not drink alcohol on the campus let alone getting drunk. It is not acceptable,” she said.
Concerning the genesis of the regulation, she said the urge to bring sanity and to encourage scholarship and innovation among the students informed the decision.
“Our mandate is to produce globally competitive students that will form the core of the nation’s search for technological and economic development and not to breed drunkards and irresponsible people. There are a lot of works to be done and we are just doing that,” she said.
When reminded that such a regulation should be for students in faith-based institutions and not the public, she said nothing could change the policy. She added that even lecturers and other members of staff are also not allowed to take alcohol on campus.
“I’m a mother and as a mother I don’t want my children to become irresponsible adults. And if I don’t want my own children to become irresponsible, as a rector, I should not breed irresponsible children here too. If the policy is not good for them, we would not have started it and if the students are not in support of it, they would have protested it. But you see, students are responsible and considerate when they have the understanding of why a regulation or policy is being formulated. My students here are extremely responsible,” she said.