Academic journal article College Student Journal

Towards a Psychological Frame for Explicating Student Unrest in Nigerian Universities

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Towards a Psychological Frame for Explicating Student Unrest in Nigerian Universities

Article excerpt

This paper focused on three dominant psychological theories--Cognitive Dissonance, Relative Deprivation and Campus Ecology that have been evolved to explain student unrest, to determine their ability to account for the phenomenon in Nigerian universities. It found that none of the theories could all alone holistically account for all the causal factors (non-participation in decision-making, academic stress, welfare problems, changing value systems of students, parental influence, teacher influence and contemporary national issues) in student unrest in Nigerian universities. A synthetic theory, which embodies the three theories examined, was therefore advocated to account for all the causal factors in student unrest in Nigerian universities.

Introduction

Student unrest has become a common phenomenon in Nigerian universities since October 1, 1960 when the country attained independence, even though its earliest manifestation was pre-1960. Since independence, the phenomenon has come to be a recurring socio-political problem in Nigerian history. In recent times, however, student unrests have acquired national scale and mobilizational capacity, that they constitute serious threats to the political authority and perhaps national security (Ikelegbe, 1992, Onwuejeogwu, 1992)

The incidents of student unrest in Nigerian universities which have assumed a greater enormity and significance, is according to Aluede (1995) and Aluede and Aluede (1999) precipitated by several factors: non-participation in decision-making, academic stress, changing value systems of students, teacher influence, parental influence, contemporary national issues, and welfare problems. Today, student unrest has come to be recognised as one of the most visible perennial problems of significance in Nigerian university campuses. Thus, if there is anything predictable among Nigerian university students, it is the fact that they would riot in any academic session. As a consequence, there is the incessant closure of schools whenever there is a demonstration, which adversely affects the scope and curriculum of programmes offered in Nigerian universities.

The import of this paper is to provide a frame of reference that can holistically account for all the causal factors in student unrest in Nigerian university campuses. Though, several theories of student unrest exist i.e. the Rift-Raft theory, the theory of Aggression and Frustration, theory of Disequilibrium, etc., three specific theories: theory of Cognitive Dissonance, the theory of Relative Dissonance, the theory of Relative Deprivation and the theory of Campus Ecology have been of popular usage in Nigeria and all over the world. Despite the popular usage of any of the three theories, the usage has met with lots of criticisms.

This paper therefore, intends to:

(a) to give a succinct meaning of the theories of Cognitive Dissonance, Relative Deprivation and Campus Ecology, particularly as they relate to student unrest in Nigerian universities;

(b) to highlight the basic tenets of each of the theories popularly used to account for student unrest:

(c) to expose the inadequacies in any one of the theories' ability to account for all the causal factors in student unrest in Nigerian universities; and

(d) to recommend a theory that can holistically account for all the causal factors in student unrest in Nigerian universities.

The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance:

According to Festinger (1957), people strive to achieve a state of equilibrium among various attitudes (or learned predispositions to persons, situations or things) and behaviours. This is because people prefer consistency or consonance, to inconsistency or dissonance. Therefore, whenever people have a thought that is not consistent with their behaviour, they experience cognitive dissonance and are motivated to seek means of restoring equilibrium (Sprinthall & Sprinthall, 1987). …

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