Osun Poly unruly lot: Where is place of criminality in studentship? 

The condemnable event of June 1 within the campus of the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, was a bad dream that one would not like to remember like. However, for certain reasons, it has refused to disappear. One, the memory of the unrelated, but unscrupulously annexed death of Aminu Sheu, a Higher National Diploma (HND) student of the institution, will linger in the minds of members of staff and management of the institution. He was a student of the institution, and so, his death was painful and regrettable. Once again, may God grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss.

Two, the level of damage the hooligans, hiding behind the facade of students congregation, caused the institution is so embarrassingly high, that it will cost the school scores of millions of naira to replace all the burnt, vandalised and stolen equipment and other materials in the health centre by the marauding students.

Third, and most instructive, is the falsehood being peddled about in the media and on the social media by this category of students perhaps, in an effort to escape the consequences of their actions. They have been going about to twist fact, feed the press with outright falsehood and blackmail the management of the institution in order to curry the sympathy of the public. For the umpteenth time, it is necessary to state clearly that it is total falsehood that the Health Centre lacks adequate services.

The institution started the implementation of the Tertiary Institutions Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP) in 2017 and in accordance with the guidelines on the implementation of TISHIP, all students are required to pay a fee of N2,000.00 only, but not N5,000 as alleged by some media.

In addition, fresh students are required to pay N1,000.00 only for medical tests that normally cost about N6,500.00 in private laboratories. Therefore, it can be rightly said that they enjoy free medical services at both the primary and secondary service levels.

In furtherance of this social intervention, a Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) was appointed to oversee the implementation of the TISHIP, among other responsibilities.

The HMO has been footing the bills of students that require secondary level medical care in line with the TISHIP policy. To complement the primary care being provided by the Health Centre, a service agreement was reached with Labab Hospital, Inisha and Osogbo, for the provision of Primary healthcare in emergency cases that may occur after the close of work in the institution, as it is non-residential.

This year alone, about 20 students have been referred to the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital and Labab Hospital for secondary healthcare services at no cost to them. The statistics of students and staff attended to at the health centre for the period of January and March 2019 is on record. That is for the beginning of this year alone. A total of 472 staff, 1,206 students, 158 casual staff and, at least, seven other category of members of the polytechnic community were treated as outpatients by the health centre during this period. This is in addition to six emergency cases the facility handled within the period.

We are talking of almost 2,000 cases handled by the facility within three months. Also, within October and December, 2018, a total of 1,615 staff and students were attended to at the centre. These data clearly show that the health centre was highly patronised before the ugly incident. It is also untrue that there is inadequacy of personnel at the centre; it is well staffed. The centre boasts of two locum doctors, one volunteer doctor, one National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) doctor, a chief nurse, two staff nurses, one medical laboratory scientist, five medical laboratory technicians, two medical record officers and eight health assistants. That makes 23 personnel in there.

The doctors are drawn from the state Hospital Management Board (HMB), LAUTECH Teaching Hospital and private hospitals. The health centre opens by 8.00 a.m. and closes by 5.00 p.m. on weekdays. The closing time is usually extended during examination periods to 6.00 p.m., while the institution’s ambulance and of recent, the state government’s O’Ambulance, are on stand-by for emergency cases.

In the same vein, the facility has adequate and quality drugs. The fact that about 1,849 staff and students were attended to at the health centre between January and March alone is an indication that there are adequate drugs and equipment in the clinic.

The health centre, prior to the destruction by the students, had a fully equipped diagnostic laboratory, a well-stocked drug store and two four-bed observation rooms for male and female patients. It was comprehensively rehabilitated by the institution early this year.

Since the implementation of the TISHIP, adequate drugs and equipment have been provided for the facility. The last batch of drugs, worth over N32 million, was purchased a week before the ill-advised students went to vandalise and burn down the facility. The result is that what is left of the medical facility, a revelation of massive looting of properties and drugs conservatively totaled about N100 million, is a carcass of the once fledging centre.

Burglar-proofs were forcefully removed from windows and carted away alongside diagnostic laboratory equipment. Files, medical records as well as other useful documents were flung away. Many school vehicles were not spared as well.

They set ablaze only those items they could not carry. To underscore the fact that it was a predetermined criminal act, one of the culprits was arrested in the bush when he returned to carry another item they hid there. How do we differentiate a criminal from a student with genuine grievances, when the Dr Jacob Olusola Agboola-led management of the institution has left the door ajar for all the students of the institution? Student and staff welfare has been one of the strong points of the administration that has witnessed tremendous development and, particularly, peace, until this twilight of the tenure was blighted by these elements.

It is instructive that an era where students’ unionism is used as a pedestal to inflict pain on others, steal and waste government and school properties and disrupt the academic calendar is gone. Aluta of vandalism is no longer in vogue. This should be more pungent as the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree has succeeded to become one of the leading institutions training responsible graduates; graduates who would not necessarily wait for paid employment before performing responsibilities.

We have been, and we still are, producing such highly reliable graduates with character. On this extant case, we believe that some bad company must have corrupted good manners. The continued peddling of falsehood by the errant students is a pointer to the attempt to cover or divert attention from a well orchestrated criminal action. And the institution shall be vindicated in the end.

It is important to stress that the Polytechnic is committed to producing excellent students in character and academics. Once again, the demise of the young Aminu is painful and regretted.

Abiola is Media Relations Officer, Osun State Polytechnic, Iree.