Since the electoral ban on the University of Ibadan Medical Students’ Association (UIMSA) was lifted, we have been besieged by various graphics, videos and of course requests to be addressed by the current crop of aspirants. However, one thing that strikes me repeatedly, year after year, is the very little communication we receive from our elected executives after the electoral period terminates, especially as pre-clinical students.
During the last tenure, my class received only one courtesy visit and the rest of the communication most of us had with our executives, with the exception of those who were members of the class, came in the form of forwarded broadcast messages inviting us for this programme or that event. For those of us who decided to attend the said events, we were rewarded with a glimpse of our dear leaders in their official capacity. To be fair, this was actually an improvement from what I experienced during my days in 100 level.
As a 100 level student, I encountered almost all of the executives at the time only once and that was during a visit they made to the class at the beginning of the school year. I felt very disconnected from UIMSA and did not see the relevance of the Association at the time. To make matters worse, the Health Week for the session was cancelled due to the circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This contributed to the lack of engagement I had with the association at the time. In a lot of instances, this feeling of ‘disconnect’ leads to apathy towards the Association and its activities, an occurrence that never bodes well for any organization especially when it becomes widespread as the case seems to be.
Now, the election season is here again and just as it was the previous year, we are playing host on an almost nightly basis to our future executives. They address us with the intent of entertaining our questions and suggestions regarding how we want UIMSA to be run and what we expect from the Association. They also canvass for votes and support through this means. However, given the nature of greatly reduced communication, we have come to experience as the norm, these brilliant methods of campaigning appear to be surface level and not something done out of a genuine desire to connect with the members of the association. What would otherwise be a good attempt to feel the pulse of UIMSA by our gracious candidates, comes across as transactional to many. It invokes the thought of ‘Here we go again’ as opposed to eliciting feelings of excitement at the prospect of interacting and gauging the people who are the not-so-distant future leaders of the association. A way to reduce this sentiment would be for our executives to improve the level of communication with us as members of the Association.
This is not to imply that they do not face challenges of their own. After all, as medical students with the added burden of political responsibilities, time is a highly valued and somewhat scarce commodity. There is also the added disadvantage of the distance between the University College Hospital (UCH) and the main campus, where the pre-clinical arm is situated. Despite all these, I am certain that the level of engagement between the executives and the members of the association is something that can be improved upon. After all, all these factors have not proven to be a barrier in their attempts to reach out to us during their campaign.
One major thing to note is that apathy, especially when present in a student association like UIMSA, is injurious to the stability and relevance of the Association, and better communication between the leaders and the grassroots will go a long way in curbing the incidences of apathy within UIMSA and will lead to an increased level of involvement in her activities from her members. Hence, I implore you, esteemed candidates and future leaders, even when you have been elected and find yourself no longer in need of our votes, do well to visit again soon!