The Students’ Union of University of Ibadan (UISU), being the political governing body of all undergraduate students of the institution, did not stop working subsequent to the total lockdown inspired by the Covid-19 outbreak in late March 2020. After the Federal Government of Nigeria declared complete closure of universities and other public places, all students of University of Ibadan had to retire to their respective homes and give up their presence in the school’s halls of residence. The total lockdown apparently caused a full abolishment of academic activities within the University, however, this was not the case with the Students’ Union.
Saddled with the responsibility of overseeing student-related affairs within and outside the institution, the need for action of the Union persisted during the Covid-19 lockdown. Fortunately for UItes, the university community, and the residents around Unibadan, UI Students’ Union activities were not abandoned into a total lockdown. Many matters arose during Covid-19 which required urgent attention of UISU and the Union was able to plunge into action in most of them.
Throughout the country, the principal side effect of Covid-19 lockdown – regardless of the possible health complications – was the vast hunger caused by the economic shutdown consequent to the corona virus pandemic. Knowing the possible ripple effects of this Covid-19-triggered hunger on UItes, the Students’ Union, under the presidency of Akeju Olusegun, sought for help from the Oyo State Government. The Union later succeeded in getting palliatives for UItes, especially those still living within the campus and its environs. The palliatives, procured for stranded UItes who were not able to go home due to some reasons, were handed over to the Union through the office of the Special Adviser to Oyo State Governor, Hon. Victor Olojede. With compliance to Covid-19 safety measures and the University identification protocols, the palliatives were successfully delivered to students and the package included foodstuffs and other consumables.
Also in the eve of Covid’s preponderance unto the globe, Nigeria faced an acute surge of rape and sexual harassment issues. After Uwavera Omozuwa, a microbiology student of University of Benin, was brutally raped and murdered by some unfortunate culprits, the clamor for an immediate action against rapists and sexual harassers intensified throughout the country. In fact, the dreadful tide also swept onto the University of Ibadan when, Shomuyiwa Azeezat, a postgraduate student of Unibadan was sexually assaulted and murdered. In response to this plague of perverts, the UISU commenced a 25-day campaign against rape and initiated a Sexual Harassment Complaint Committee.
Kick-starting from 4th of June and running till 30th of June, the 25-day campaign attracted many prominent Nigerians and organizations. Part of the activities embedded in the campaign was a webinar organized by the Union which enlightened the public on rape and gave an in depth look into the importance of consent in sexual relationships. To further express the Union’s displeasure and dissatisfaction on rape using an on-site approach, the Students’ Union, on the 26th of June, undertook a day walk of 30 students tagged “Walk The Talk Against Rape.” This walk, carried out in full accordance to Covid-19 safety precautions, was aimed to reorientate and sensitize the society against rape.
In order to integrate the knowledge of sexual and reproductive health on a greater scale, the Union, released an invitation to apply, signed by UISU Vice President, Oladiti Temilade Aisha. This invitation, being an Amplify Change Program of Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right (SRHR) Champions, was designed to increase awareness and uptake of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and products among young people in tertiary institutions in Ekiti, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, and Lagos states. The participants shortlisted after the selection phase will be trained to develop youth-friendly SRHR information and services throughout south-western Nigeria. This, the Union believes, will bring their advocacy of sexual and reproductive health to a more national coverage.
It is without a doubt that the invasion of Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown also halted academic progress of many Nigerian students, including UItes. After being forced to retreat into their parents’ abode, many students spent a large chunk of their existence outside the radar of academic enhancement and vocational empowerment. This birthed an urgent and widespread need for remote access to academic and vocational skills. Interestingly, the UISU through its concerted effort to uplift UItes intellectually, took the bull by the horns by partnering with Jobberman, Nigeria’s foremost online recruitment company, on soft skills training of UItes. After passing through the series of trainings and tests, successful participants were awarded certificates of participation on the 18th of July. This would ultimately proffer a greater advantage to the participants and set them up for a favorable spot in the labor market.
Being a new and foremost administration after a 3-year long abolishment of Student Union activities within the University of Ibadan, the “Integration Team,” championed by Akeju S. Olusegun, proves that the presence of UISU is far better than its absence, even in the face of a global-scale pandemic. As UItes, the university community, and the whole nation benefitted from the fortunes of UI student unionism in a period of total academic and economic lockdown, there is a glimmer of hope of greater privileges when all and sundry are present within the walls of the university post-Covid.