In Nigeria where I live, around this time of the year, it becomes a common sight to see youths, usually in groups of three or four, walking the streets in outrageous costume, chanting incomprehensible rhythm, gyrating to an unseen band, and holding elaborately decorated cans. Now if you, a first time visitor, are approached by any of these, do not be miffed. A simple smile and a tip, stuffed in their hands is enough to dissuade them from meting out any discomfort to their unwary prey.
Now you may be wondering who they are. They are not insane, neither are they men of the underworld. On the contrary, they are just students of the Nations higher institutions, engaging in an age old culture called Rag Day. To them… (on second thoughts, to us) it’s just a way to unwind after the rigorous year in the classroom, and raise enough cash to bankroll any “altruistic” desire of their choice. This could range from the acquisition of supplies for the orphans or even that pair of jeans that has proven elusive for over a year (well, actually, it’s more often for things like the latter).
Do not get us wrong, we are aware that ragging, if I may say, originated with the idea of helping out a charity, but I guess we love the saying, that charity begins at home, so we bring it closer home, and then we let the world sort itself out *winks*.
However, this ancient landmark does not come without its inherent risks. There have been reported cases of muggings and even rapes, when an overzealous student in his quest for a little extra, goes out of the herd, and seeks greener pastures in out of the way places like hidden parks and unused buildings. In fact, there have been cases of people who have never been to an ivory tower, taking advantage of the charitable hearts of the public towards students, donning ill fitting garb, and parading themselves as students, all in a bid to cash in on the big doe. This prompted the release of a blockbuster movie in 2009, by our version of Hollywood (Nollywood), titled Rag Day. In that movie, there was a scene where a grandpa met his granddaughter, who was a student, while ragging potential clients.
In the view of the general public, it’s nothing sinister, just some youth trying to survive in school, so why not lend a helping hand. So when next you are accosted by any of these professional fundraisers, just do what I always do, nod your head, give a generous smile, dip your hand in your pocket, and say, “oh no, my wallet is missing”. This will surely attract you their sympathy, and more importantly, PEACE.