Monday, 6 June 2011

Riotous Assembly

 I may have inadvertently fuelled a minor riot today – and it’s not everybody who can say that!
I was minding everybody else’s business, looking out of an upstairs window at a raucous assembly of students demonstrating outside the admin building at Oro College. I had been delivering a presentation about VSO and the new ERC to a group of lecturers and senior management. Suddenly they got up from their seats, some went towards the window while others made for the stairs. I know my presentation wasn’t riveting stuff, but hey guys, I’m doing this for nothing – give me a break! Actually,  I didn’t think my presentation was so bad – not so bad that delegates would be drawn to throwing themselves out of upstairs windows or over balconies, so it was a little disconcerting to say the least. As my voice petered out I realized something was going on below. There was a lot of chanting and waving of branches torn from nearby trees. I have seen this before. Why do people think they are going to get their voice heard more effectively by ripping a branch from a tree and waving it about? One of the branches was dead ie, it was a stick, basically, whereas most had little clusters of leaves on the end that made the waving activity look almost cute and friendly. 
I crossed the room to the window and decided it would be a good idea to take a photo of the scene below. Why, I do not know! Anyway, I must have been observed by some members of the swelling crowd - Ooops! Seconds later a stone crashed through the window inches above my head and loads more started to rain down on the roof above where I was standing – presumably because they missed the window. The gathering seemed to increase in density and in volume and by now,  senior managers were out of sight.
I considered it unlikely my presentation would resume so packed my bag and awaited guidance. Then one lecturer came back in and said we would continue, so in mild surprise I unpacked my bag and stuck my flip charts up again. Then it was decided we would be safer off the premises after all. Our driver, like a knight in shining KIA,  was at that very moment,  making his way towards our ambushed building to rescue us. Like a Barcelona supporter running the gauntlet of a crowd of Man U fans, I emerged from the building and half ran towards our rescue vehicle and the relative safety of the Oro – Ilorin road.
The question is, was I perceived by the students to be ‘on the side’ of management and therefore somebody against whom they may have a grievance, now or in the future? No doubt I shall find out when next I visit.
In fact, I have great sympathy with the students’ anger. Their lecturers have gone on strike again - refusing to supervise forthcoming exams or mark answer papers –  over a pay issue that has been smouldering for the past couple of months but which had been damped down during the election period, now reigniting with the appointment of a new government. Surely it would have been wise for the union advice to recommend waiting for the new administration to actually get a cabinet in place, or at least put some shelves up, get their bums on seats and be given the chance to mediate in the dispute rather than attempt to force the issue in a way in which all involved will suffer – including me and my now somewhat tired-looking flip charts.    

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