Poor infrastructure is one of the crucial crises rocking public universities. Basic among them is the inadequacy of hostel accommodation which has become a perennial challenge in most institutions of higher learning. Owing to the increased students’ population, several of them scramble to get bed space. In the wake of the constraints, available spaces are crammed with not less than 10 students in some schools. Daily Trust Saturday captures scenarios in universities across some states in tandem with students’ tales of inconveniences and worries.
Inadequate hostel accommodation has been a major concern in some public universities in Nigeria. Determined to proffer a solution to the problem, some university managements collaborate with estate developers to build hostels outside their campuses.
But findings by Daily Trust show that the challenge continues unabated so much that with their growing population in many higher institutions students sweat to get spaces in hostels, despite that most of them are not convenient for human habitation due to the lack of basic facilities.
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Daily Trust Saturday reports that students who get accommodation off-campus become vulnerable to rituality, sex predators as well as shylock landlords. These challenges make learning difficult for them.
At University of Port Harcourt, most students live off-campus
At the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, most students live off-campus located at Aluu and Choba, the host communities of the university, while others come to school from their respective homes.
In Aluu, property developers built hostel accommodations and rent them out at very high costs.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that while over 5,000 hostels are built by private investors and rented out to students, many indigenes of Choba converted their homes to hostels for brisk business. With outrageous rents, they exploit students who are unable to secure accommodation on campus.
The inability of the university to provide hotels for all the students has compelled many students to seek accommodation in neighbouring communities of Elekaohia, Eliohani as well as Ozuoba.
The trend has gone a long way in boosting the economy of the communities as landlords smile to the bank, while their student-tenants groan.
Some of the students who spoke with our reporter lamented their plights.
Emeka Umunna, an off-campus student, said: “I could not get accommodation on campus. So, I had to go for an option in Aluu, where private individuals constructed hostels and rented them out to students. The hostels were constructed in a self-contain format which accommodates two to three students each.”
Another student, Gerald Ikenna, after many failed struggles to secure a hostel in the campus, now resides in Elekaohia, which is more than 23 kilometres from the university.
“It’s not easy to secure accommodation on the campus because they are not enough. That is the reason many of the students live off-campus,” he said.
Efforts to get the response of the university’s Public Relations Officer, Sam Kpenu, were to no avail. But sources close to the university told our reporter that the management had started addressing the challenge.
Exorbitant rents at Otuoke community
Over 70 per cent of the students of the Federal University, Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, also live off-campus due to shortage of hostel space on the campus. The university is one of the nine federal universities established by the Federal Government in February 2011.
Some students who could not secure accommodation on campus said high rents and inconveniences affect their full concentration on academic activities.
They lamented that due to the rise in demand for accommodation by students, landlords in the Otuoke community where the institution is located had hiked rents.
A student, Ebiere, said getting accommodation on campus was competitive. She added that most of the rooms were overpopulated.
Efforts to get the reaction of Mercy Ekot, the university’s Public Relations Officer of the institution, failed as she did not pick her calls.
Rooms crammed with 10 students
The students of the University of Benin are also battling with accommodation challenges.
Some of the students who spoke to our correspondent said accommodation had been a serious problem in their respective schools.
Rihan Favour, a 200-level student said most of the students rented accommodation off-campus due to limited accommodation on campus.
She said the available hostels in the school were always overcrowded as eight and 10 students are crammed in a room.
“I prefer off-campus because hostel rooms are always overcrowded and I won’t be able to study in such a room. So, I opted for off-campus accommodation at N45,000 annual rent.”
Another student, Jack Odion, said landlords were using the opportunity to exploit students by increasing rent on a yearly basis despite poor basic amenities, especially water.
Odion added that rents ranged from N40,000 to N80,000, based on the quality of the building and proximity to the school.
10, 15 students sandwiched in room meant for4
The university which has two main campuses and annexes also has hostel accommodation challenges. The Dean of the Students’ Affairs Division of the university, Professor Shamsuddeen Umar told Daily Trust Saturday that the most crucial challenge was the lack of enough bed spaces to accommodate interested students.
“Bayero University has close to 50,000 students and we can accommodate just around 20% of the total population which is around 8,000. Inadequacy of bed spaces is a big challenge. But I can tell you authoritatively that measures are being taken by the university to address the challenge,” he said.
A hall administrator at one of the hostels who preferred anonymity, said in some cases, a room designed to accommodate four students are illegally used to accommodate 10-15 students, but the school authority allocates rooms to the exact number of students according to specification.
Nana Shehu, an MBBS student who resides at one of the female hostels, called on the students’ affairs division of the school to look into the issue of students doing business by selling bed spaces to students at higher rates.
“They are cheating fellow students,” she added.
Another student, Rufa’i Sani, described the situation as students’ headache.
“I call it students headache because of the stressful process. At the end, you are not even sure of getting a space. Sometimes, after all the process, you have to squat someone or someone has to squat you,” she said.
Federal University Dutsinma has hostel options
At the Federal University, Dutsinma (FUDMA), in Katsina State, students get accommodation through four major ways. They either go to the Isah Kaita College of Education, Dutsinma, where hostels are reserved for FUDMA students. They can also apply for bed spaces at Hayin Gada or another hostel at Darawa which is owned by the institution. The other two are the private Zamani Hostel which is like an estate or private rooms built by private landlords.
A 200 Level student, Salis Jikamshi, said: “When I was in 100 level, I stayed at the Hayin Gada Hostel where four students lived in one room. The place is okay as far as students’ hostel is concerned. But the major problem is that you can’t have peace of mind to study due to too much noise at all times.
“A friend of mine and I contributed N60,000 each and rented a room at N120,000. But in the hostel, it is N15,000 for bed space,” he said.
Two hostels at Ebonyi State University
Ebonyi State University which was established in 1999 has about 13,000 students studying on the four campuses of the school. But the institution is facing an inadequate accommodation crisis.
Our correspondent who visited the institution gathered that it has only two hostel accommodations which cannot contain more than 300-bed spaces each.
Consequently, more than 90 per cent of students, especially those at the permanent site, live off-campus.
One of the students, Blessing Onwe, said she had been living off-campus since she gained admission to the university three years ago. She said the situation had brought untold inconveniences on the students.
“A good self-contain apartment at Ishieke axis costs about N120,000, while the cheapest goes for N70,000. You can also get a public yard where you share the kitchen, toilet and bathroom with others for between N30,000 and N45,000,” she said.
However, there are two gigantic hostel buildings initiated by the former governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Martin Elechi, which have been abandoned.
Alex Ekwueme Federal University
The cost of the hostel for both male and female students at Alex Ekwueme Federal University which has about 10,000 students ranges from N71,000 per bed space for those in the Medical Sciences Department and N51,000 for others.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that majority of the students prefer living off-campus because it is more comfortable than the school hostel.
Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano) & Nabob Ogbonna (Abakaliki)