Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gangs take over in Nigeria's Universities

When I was in university, gangsters were considered to be people from the bottom of the lot who'd usually never make it through high school, much less university. In high school I used to hear of gangsters pissing on the cars of teachers they didn't like and for a while there was a spate of students scratching the principals' or discipline masters' cars with keys.

In Nigeria though, gangs in university make what the "Ah Bengs" and "Ah Lians" here look like child's play. The Economist reported this week that Nigeria's universities are now festering with "student fraternities turned into powerful well-armed gangs". According to a lobby group called the Exams Ethics Project, inter-cult violence killed 115 students and teachers between 1993 and 2003. What started as harmless student groups in the 1980s and 90s became political and violent when military leaders started exploiting these groups to confront the leftist student unions, often aligned with pro-democracy movements.

The magazine says that Nigeria's university system used to be the finest in west Africa, but languishes in overcrowded classes, deteriorating facilities and an outdated curriculum that hasn't been changed for years. Yet money from politicians has been feeding these university fraternity with cash and arms.

We live in strange times when politicians finance violence instead of vocation in universities. But such is the intrinsic nature of politics and the selfish nature of politicians.

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