Protest and collaboration

‘we will sue ya, we will sue ya, we will sue ya, we will sue ya…’

Protest – I have ‘witnessed’ three youth related protests since my stay in this country. The first was student protests against fee increases and funding cuts to the education system. The second was the widely publicised protest against police killing of Mark Duggan in London. The third against the planned closure of UEA’s music school by 2014. The students ‘collected’ around 7,000 signatures and organised a protest rally on November 8 featuring various speakers. Their call was simple, leave the music school open, as a cultural legacy and for posterity.

I have been thinking about the student movements here and in my country and the similarities and differences between them. In both countries, students are averse to fee increases; the Unions receive some kind of subvention from their home ‘authorities’ and students use protests to express their grievances. However, there are marked differences in their approaches, for example the difference between a well researched signature campaign versus break the window ‘aluta continua’ which ends in wanton destruction of University facilities (that is not to say this does not happen here, but it is not the ‘norm’ as in my country). Many thoughts are running through my mind: is it a result of differing education systems?; an outcome of the different social, economic and political environments?; is it just ethical? An outcome of deprivation and frustration on the other side? Or is it history? Student activism here started during the 1880s, ours only started in 1945. Perhaps the long history has created a ‘system’ here, which is yet to manifest in ours? I wish we could borrow a thing or two from this side and share on the order in the pursuit of various desirable causes.

Collaboration – HIV remains a humongous public health challenge in Nigeria and the government adopted a multi-sectoral approach bringing together various actors to tackle the challenge. HIV counselling and testing (HCT) is an important medium to encourage people to know their status, and reduce progression to AIDS, since people could be put on anti-retroviral medicine once they know their status. It also contributes to reducing further infections as positive people are encouraged to adopt safer sex practices like condomising in order to prevent others from being infected, or themselves from being re-infected. However, counselling psychologists appear to be missing from the action. As long ago as I remember, I have been calling for better engagement of counselling psychologists in the provision of HIV counselling and pre-test and post-test services. This is pertinent because counselling psychologists deal with a range of issues from the psychology of learning, behaviour modification to adjustment.

So beyond HCT, they could play important roles in other areas like: monitoring drug adherence and factors that inhibit or promote the behaviour. Their roles can also extend to the study of life quality of life of PLHA, for which I am yet to encounter any data from Nigeria. QoL data serve important purposes in health policy decision-making and have been found to provide guidance in medical decision-making. It would serve some purpose in AIDS related care within hospital settings. QoL data could also provide needed information to understand the relationship between post traumatic stress disorders, other co-occurring psychological conditions such as depression and HIV. So far, I do not personally see clearly how the counselling association of Nigeria is engaging to play any significant role in tackling HIV, but I believe that their role is crucial, and a collaborative effort between health professionals, counselling psychologists and other actors would produce valuable results.