THE FREE SOUL: A MYTHICAL MAN
(The transformation I will invent as a leader on campus)
“Come here my boy” the man said. He was a tall, gruffly and white haired old man. He sat under a large mango tree in a sparse land with a hill close to the tree. Taken unaware by the sight of the man, I turned sharply in surprise. “Come” the man repeated, “don’t be afraid”, I won’t hurt you. He smiled as he repeated the last word and that invited me over. Holding my hand affectionately, the man said “my dear boy, climb over to that hill there and tell me what you see”. I did as instructed and came back to the man saying “I see nothing but a sparse land and people going about their businesses”. The old man smiled knowingly and said in a croaky voice, “Tell me what you know about this place”. After a pause, I replied “nothing much, just what everybody else knows”. “Sit my son, I have something to tell you”. Intrigued by whatever the man was going to say, I crouched at the feet of the man and listened attentively.
The man cleared his throat exaggerating the process “I have lived for long and yet knowledge about this place never ends. As a young boy, I learnt that the people in this place came from different parts of the land but still played together, set traps for wild animals and even ate from the same bowl. A campus comprises people of diverse interests, cultures and backgrounds, and like the larger society, it exhibits a discernible system of relations and behavioural patterns”. “Hmmn” I murmured in approval and understanding. I wondered how they can be so different and still live together. “The people here are strong, they adapt and survive wherever they are. Their love and passion for a bright future binds them together” the man explained.
Like a bulb suddenly lighted over his head, the old man said “Ah!” He continued by lamenting to me “My son, let me show you critical challenges facing the country’s university system. It is a combination of limited access, increasing cost, decreasing quality and inflexibility in course selection. We all know that an educated citizenry is crucial to the social, political and economic vitality of our communities and country as a whole. Struggling economies, outdated academic equipment and obsolete organizational structures are among the issues facing university education in Nigeria today. Perhaps the most formidable task confronting higher education is to articulate the triple relationship between the mission of the university, specific needs of university’s political, social, economic and cultural environment, and the characteristics of a rapidly changing world.
“The infrastructure inadequacy is another problem that poses hindrance to learning and research work. Tertiary institutions have become modern-day ghettos. These problems include; continued power failure, absence of drinkable water, non-provision of effective transportation system to convey students who commute to school, inadequate hostel accommodation, overcrowded lecture halls and halls of residence to the extent that students living on campus are compelled to make their needs. It is certain that students studying under these dehumanizing conditions are forced to behave in manners different from the school’s set standard which ought to include respect for authorities, submission and adherence to school rules and regulations”. I smiled in silence and understanding.
As the man cleared his throat once more and smoked from the pipe he brought out from the breast pocket of his traditional gown, he said “Now, how do we begin to address this challenges? Transformation on campus will require deliberate collaborative efforts by government, academia, student leaders, etc. This cannot work unless relations among university authorities, faculty, students and government are redefined on the basis of mutual respect and collaboration. Students need to become familiar with the freedom of choice and expression, the free flow of ideas and access to systems of information and means of communication based on new technologies. Students need to have all the basic infrastructure and conducive environment for active learning to take place. Students need to be prepared not only as professionals but also as citizens who are able to act intelligently and live in a democratic society. Doing so will make our campus a rich and stimulating environment for learning and producing knowledge”. “Okay” I replied, trying to assimilate the information.
Then the man said “I am to take my leave now, duty calls. But before I go, let me tell you something. These are not just empty hopes. As a leader on campus vested with institutionalized responsibilities, you can achieve these things, thereby bringing about the needed transformation. Students on campus have many concerns. Thus, as a leader you would be wise to routinely assess students’ challenges and make available information and services that would be helpful in alleviating their problems. Workshops on time and stress management, career planning and job searching could be offered to students as an adjunct to their academic work”.
Instead of brain drain, our campus can be magnet for bright minds, our executive can be a citadel of hope and accountability, our legislature can be a chamber of integrity and purposefulness, our judicial system can be model for fairness and incorruptibility, we can collaborate with the management to implement strategic, evidence-based and innovative policies which will strengthen good leadership and improved service delivery to the students, our habitat can be clean with abundant municipal services, we can diversify our energy, by focusing on things that can generate revenue needed to implement our plans, we can engage our human resources to further the course of sustainable development, we can be the cynosure of all eyes and a lot more.
“But”, I asked “who are you and what do you want me to do?” The man replied saying in a laughing manner “I am a free soul”. A gush of wind swept by and when I turned, the man had disappeared.
Author: OLAKUNLE JOSEPH O.