Students in Nigerian universities have stories to tell, but hardly anyone to tell them to. For our new weekly series, Aluta and Chill, we are putting the spotlight on these students and their various campus experiences.
The ultimate hack to surviving at any Nigerian uni is realising that everything is designed to frustrate you. In theory, this seems like such good advice, and maybe it is, but it doesn’t help to soothe the pain of everything the university throws at you.
This week, I spoke to a couple of students studying at University of Calabar and got them to talk about a frustrating moment that stood out for them. This is what they said:
Hope — Walked through hell to get a hostel room
Every year, students who want to stay in the hostel have to apply for it. That shouldn’t be a problem except that it’s a long, winding process to get a room. Usually, you need the help of a highly-placed lecturer to make sure it happens. I have stayed in the hostel since my first-year due to the help of a lecturer and I thought getting a room in my final year would be a walk in the park.
I was wrong.
When my name didn’t appear in the first list, I wasn’t worried. I called the lecturer and they assured me that they were working on it. That was good enough for me at the time. The second list came out and my name wasn’t on that one too. Sometime later, I saw the third list, and again, my name wasn’t there. To make things worse, the new occupants of my room came to introduce themselves and gave me a few days to move out.
The owners of the room finally evicted me, forcing me to move some of my belongings to a friend’s who had gotten a room. However, I couldn’t keep much there because she had someone in her room already. I wasn’t doing too well — I was sleeping, bathing, and cooking in three different places. It didn’t help that I was dealing with a lot of assignment and presentation deadlines either.
I was in a bad place emotionally. With a stroke of luck, I finally met another lecturer who was willing to help me. I wrote a letter to the hostel management and copied the lecturer’s office. However when I went to submit the letter, the people I met chased me out. It didn’t look like I was going to get a room and the reality of that broke me.
The management released another list. This time, I found my name on it. However, I got the hostel with the worst facilities. I thought it was something, so I didn’t think too much before I accepted it. My troubles weren’t over. I needed to buy a scratch card to process the room, but I didn’t have the money. This was probably the most frustrating part because I had given my family the heads-up three weeks earlier. I wasn’t going to lose the room because of this and after some back and forth, I raised the money and got the room.
Again, it wasn’t over. The state of the hostel didn’t sit right with me. I started looking into the possibility of swapping with someone else. I literally printed my number on posters and put them up in strategic places. That yielded no result. Eventually, I went from room to room to ask if anyone would be interested in swapping their rooms. Luckily, I got someone — some compromises here and there and the deal was sealed.
The entire process drained me mentally and it gladdens my heart that that was the last time I would have to go through it. The most annoying part had to be the fact that people who didn’t need a room got it easily while others had to walk through hell before they got one.
Daniel — His certificate was withheld
I wrote my final exams in October 2018. Unfortunately, ASUU went on strike the same month and I couldn’t defend my project. We eventually did that in May 2019, but it was too late to be mobilised for NYSC 2018 Batch B. We had no choice but to wait for Batch C. As the time for mobilisation drew nearer, it looked like we weren’t going to make that batch too. I had a bit of influence, so I put some pressure on the university officials to send our names to NYSC.
Fortunately, we made Batch C and we were mobilised. That was where my problems began. The school doesn’t issue a statement of result, they give out the official certificate immediately. When it was time to collect the certificate, I went to school and was hit with the news: my name was not on the list, so there was no certificate for me. Funny enough, I was the only one affected in the entire faculty. Someone had omitted my name. And nobody could explain why that happened.
It was embarrassing because I missed out on another batch. It became harder when I started to see pictures of my classmates in camp. That was when the tears came.
Fortunately, my friend stood by me, and together, we started to find ways to fix the situation. A few weeks later, the school called me to inform me that the misunderstanding had been fixed and my certificate was ready. It was perfect timing because NYSC camps across the country were going to open for another orientation course in a few days. I’m not sure what happened the first time, but it was really tough for me.
Emmanuel — Got into a situation because his bag was stolen
Sometime in my second year, I went to study at night class with my class rep. He was using a Samsung Galaxy, so when he wanted to sleep, I asked him to keep it inside my bag. It was safer there, or so we thought.
Sometime later, I slept off too. When I woke up in the morning, I realised that somebody had stolen my bag. We tried to call the number, but the phone had been switched off. After searching frantically for a few hours, we decided it was time to live with the fact that the bag and its contents were gone.
A few weeks later, I got different calls from a lady and two guys. One of the guys introduced himself as a pastor of a church and he claimed that I had come to his church the previous day and stole a phone. He wanted me to return the phone if I didn’t want any problem. Apparently, the guy who stole my bag had gone to steal at the church too and left my bag there.
I tried to explain the situation to the man, but he wasn’t having any of it. The following day, the supposed owner of the phone called to threaten me with arrests.
This was more than I could handle. I reached out to my dad and some people from my church. While they were working it out, some people advised me to go to the school’s security unit and report the missing bag.
I went to the unit but the guys wanted to extort me. They asked me to write a statement, which I did. However, they weren’t going to act on it until I paid them #5000. I told them that I didn’t have cash on me and one of them exchanged numbers with me, asking me to call me when I had the money. Luckily, my dad called me moments later to inform me that the matter had been settled. That was a huge relief.
The security guy called later and wasn’t too happy to hear that I was out of the situation. He tried to make another play to instil some fear in me. I just hung up and blocked him.
Mary — Wasted a day trying to write an exam
There was a general course exam I wrote when I was in 100 level. I was still a fresh student and was trying so hard not to make a mistake, so I got to the venue 30 minutes before the exam. Where I lived at the time was so far from the school but I made it work.
One hour later, the exam had not started. They kept us outside the venue and told us that the exam coordinator was not around. Apparently, they hadn’t printed the exam questions. We waited and hours passed, yet this exam didn’t start. All of my enthusiasm fizzled out.
Around 6:00 PM, they asked us to go and come back at 6:00 AM the following day. I had another exam to write on that day and it got really overwhelming for me. By the way, the exam didn’t start until 8:00 AM the following day.
Emmanuel — Missed an exam
It was my first semester at university. One of my math exams was slated for 9:00 AM on the timetable. However, the time was changed to 8:30 AM a day before the exam. I wasn’t in my class WhatsApp group because of my classmates’ bad texting behaviour. Somehow, I got information about the change from a classmate.
On the day of the exam, I got to the venue 10 minutes before the start of the exam and waited for the exam officers. They came and started to call names, but I didn’t hear my name when they were done. I looked into the faces of everyone around and realised that none of them looked familiar., More importantly, I couldn’t see any student from my department.
Eventually, I saw someone from my department. According to her, someone just called her that the venue had been changed too. We rushed to the new venue together to deal with a new situation. The exam had started an hour earlier than originally scheduled. We approached the examiner and begged him to allow us to write the exam, even though there was only 30 minutes left on the clock. More students joined us and it was clear that the new information didn’t reach a lot of students.
However, the examiner was adamant that we wouldn’t write the exam. He was pretty sure that we stayed outside to get the exam questions and cheat in the exam. Time ran out and he gathered all the scripts and left.
Everyone who didn’t write the exam trooped to the department to inform the HOD. He promised that a supplementary exam would be held the following week. Before the week was over, the man changed his mind and told us that we were all going to carry over the course. And that was what happened, everyone who missed the exam failed the course. It was a whole lot for me — I didn’t even want to study at UniCal. I was working with what I got, then this happened.
Rajunor — Spent two days at the bank
I had certain fees to pay when I was in 100 level and the instruction was that it should be paid into the school’s microfinance bank account. The bank was somewhat far from my department, but I trekked the whole distance. The plan was to breeze in, do everything I had to do and leave. It wasn’t supposed to take longer than 30 minutes. I got there and met a mad queue. I had no choice but to join in.
Everything started to get to me when random people started to approach me claiming that they were behind me. I didn’t know how to fight, so I reeled it in. Hours later, the bank stopped attending to us and asked us to come the following day. My entire day was wasted.
I returned to the bank very early in the morning the following day to meet another queue. The bank hadn’t even opened yet but there was a mammoth crowd waiting. Finally, the doors opened and they started attending to us. But the lines weren’t moving this time too. I realised that this was happening because people were paying for their friends, slowing down the line in the process. I had reached boiling point at this moment but there was nothing I could do about it. So, I stood there wondering why it was so hard to pay money into an account.
I knew I needed to pay the fees on that day if I wanted to preserve my sanity, even if it meant that I would miss my classes. After suffering in silence for a few more hours, it finally got to my turn. And a few minutes later, I was out of the bank with broken spirits, an empty stomach, and two wasted days.
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