Hundreds of students at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) in Nigeria’s Ogun State missed class for wearing palm slippers and slides – flip-flops with a single strap or a sequence of straps across half of the feet.
Students were asked to form a queue at the institution’s entrance for screening as security guards, alongside the university’s new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Agboola Johnson, turned back those wearing slippers.
“I was going to class on Monday [31 October] morning in my normal slides. When I got to the gate, the new VC chased [away] students with slides and palm slippers. Only those who wore shoes were let in. I was so pained because I had a class that morning,” a 200-level, or second-year, student, Ibrahim Adeniyi, told University World News.
Afeez Akorede, the president of the Students’ Union Government, said the vice-chancellor had expressed concern over “indecent dressing” among students when they met recently.
Akorede said he sought time to meet with the students, but was surprised that the school management went ahead to enforce aspects of the dress code.
He stated that female students were also prevented from wearing tinted hair to the campus, noting that the management was unwilling to repeal the rule, despite repeated agitations.
Akorede said: “To me, indecent dressing is relative and it depends on individuals’ perceptions. The vice-chancellor has said slippers won’t be allowed on the campus, but there is a need for clarification. Are we talking about bathroom slippers or palm slippers, which are different [from bathroom slippers]. There should be some deliberation.”
A third-year law student, Aishat Ogundimu, also lamented that there was no prior communication with students before the school management took the action.
“Telling students what not to wear without having proper communication is authoritarian,” she told University World News.
But the OOU chief security officer, Adekunle Rasheed, justified the management’s action, saying the policy is enshrined in the school’s code of conduct.
“There are so many things not allowed on the school campus – tinting of hair, wearing of shorts, using tinted glasses for cars, and wearing of palm slippers among others,” he added.
Following the university’s actions, Ogundimu said, the students’ union had a meeting with the school authorities on 1 November and another on 4 November, adding that the union had requested that the “no slippers policy” be suspended. The decision after the last meeting was that students can wear palm slippers made of leather for now, but slides remain banned.
Festus Ogun, a human rights activist lawyer and alumnus of the school, described the policy as rash and insensitive. He said compelling students to put on certain footwear is not the best way to mould character.