Aluta And Chill: Why We Hate Our University Clinics

September 3, 2020

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.

Last weekend, I wasn’t sure what this week’s Aluta and Chill theme would be. I got my “eureka” moment during a casual conversation with one of the subjects when he complained about his school health services. This triggered a painful memory of an event that happened to someone I knew when I was at university. And I figured that I might be onto something. It looks like I was right — from the student who holds her school clinic responsible for the death of a student to the student who doesn’t understand why he was almost refused treatment because of his appearance, it appears that that two major obstacles stand in the way of students and quality healthcare at school: Poorly run facilities and unsympathetic and disrespectful medical personnel.

Seyi, Ladoke Akintola University — “A student needed an ambulance but it wasn’t available. He died.”

The clinic at my school is poorly-equipped, so it’s always a struggle every time I’ve gone there. One time, I was attacked by dogs and needed to get an anti-rabies shot — they didn’t have it. The good thing is I survived every time. A student wasn’t so lucky. 

In my second year, a guy slumped during a football match, and he was rushed to the school clinic. He had trouble breathing and needed to be on oxygen support. However, the oxygen cylinders were empty. The school clinic had a weird habit of referring cases they couldn’t handle to Bowen University Teaching Hospital, even though the school had its own teaching hospital, and it was closer to the school. That wasn’t even the problem this time — the ambulance that would have conveyed him to the hospital wasn’t available. Why? Someone at the clinic had sent the driver out to buy food. Before they could sort out the logistics and get the student the help needed, he died.

The events that led to his death riled the student population up and led to a protest. Of course, no one took responsibility for the tragedy. The school management only released a statement and expected life to continue. While this wasn’t a personal experience, it hurt deeply.

Ihenacho, Electrical Engineering, Landmark University — “They said I needed a blood transfusion, but I didn’t”

I always hated going to the hospital, but I had to go to my school clinic earlier this year. I had passed out at the school cafeteria. The nurses on duty didn’t waste time before they chalked it down to malaria. I suspected that they got the diagnosis wrong, making me uncomfortable. I demanded to see a doctor and requested a blood test. It took hours before I got both, but thank God I did. It wasn’t malaria.

My blood level was a little low. The doctor said I had to do a blood transfusion and that it had to be done immediately. I was like “what?” I didn’t know much, but I knew that a blood transfusion was usually for severe cases of blood loss. It wasn’t like I was in critical condition. Besides, they hadn’t informed my parents. I refused and notified my parents. After spending a few days at the hospital, I knew I couldn’t trust them anymore. I went home and to another hospital and did more tests. They didn’t suggest a blood transfusion and didn’t even think I needed one. Thinking about that experience still freaks me out. 

Aziz, Accounting, University of Ilorin — “The nurse wouldn’t treat me because of my… haircut.”

My friend and I had a bike accident on our way to buy food. We sustained multiple injuries, and we knew we had to play it safe and go to the clinic. But it was very late in the night, and they’d locked the school gate. Luckily, we managed to stop the bleeding that night. 

We went to the school clinic very early the following morning. It took hours before we saw a doctor. After taking a look at our wounds, he wrote us a prescription and directed us to the nurses. This was where it got real — the nurses said they wouldn’t treat us. They claimed that my hair was too full, and my friend’s nails were too long. After a series of back and forth, they agreed to tend to my wounds only because a barbershop wasn’t in the area. But my friend had to chew his nails right there before they treated him. It was so wild!

Zainab, Computer Science, University of Lagos — “The nurses went off on me because of a card.”

I went to the clinic once, and I almost wished that I hadn’t. It was during my first year at school. One minute, I was fine, but I developed a fever in the next. I wanted to go home, but my roommate suggested the clinic. Besides, it was already late. The struggle started from the second I stepped foot at the clinic. First, they wanted to send me back because I didn’t come during their “working hours.” They relaxed their stance when they realised how high my body temperature was.

After that, they asked to see my clinic card, which I didn’t have. I was confused momentarily, and that was all they needed to go off on me. They didn’t hold back their words, and this went on for about 15 minutes. I was dying, but these people thought it was fun to be vicious and mean. Anyway, they opened a temporary file for me and sent me to the doctor. The doctor wasn’t warm either — she was in quite a mood. 

My fever got worse during the night. My roommates rushed me back the next morning. The card thing came up again, which was weird because I was just there the previous night, and they opened a file for me. Obviously, it didn’t go into their records. And from where they were standing, that was my fault. I was in bad shape, but that didn’t stop them from going off on me again. I didn’t understand how they found it so easy to be mean. When they eventually got over themselves and attended to me, it turned out there were no vacant beds. I had to stay at the nurses’ station until my sister arrived later that day and took me home. I’m never going back there. 

Mobola, University of Ilorin — “I needed a tetanus shot, and I almost missed an assignment deadline because of it.”

I was working on a school project — a one-bedroom apartment model — when I cut myself. I didn’t even think it was a big deal and continued with my life. When I was making a last-minute adjustment to my design, I decided to be cute. I took a picture of the wound and sent it to my mum, hoping she would just say sorry and probably send me money. Nope! She freaked out and demanded that I go to the school clinic for a tetanus shot. She didn’t relent when I told her that I had an assignment to submit in a few hours.

I got to the clinic, and the line was freakishly long. I would have left, but my mum was calling me every second to make sure I was there. When it got to my turn, I realised that I needed a clinic card. They refused to attend to me without one, even when I explained my deadline situation. 

I needed a passport photograph to get a card, and I thought I was lucky because I had one with me. However, they rejected it because it had a white background and the acceptable background was red. I mentioned my assignment again, but it didn’t inspire sympathy. Now, I was frustrated and close to tears. I dashed out to get a new passport and rushed back. The entire process was so stressful that I wondered why I even went there at all.

Finally, I got what I needed. Now, it was me against time. I raced down to my hostel to get my design and ran the rest of the way to class. I got there just seconds before the deadline. Everyone had even submitted their assignment, but I knew the class rep, and that worked in my favour. I learned my lesson though — the clinic is not the best place to go in dire situations. 

Are you currently studying in Nigeria or elsewhere and have a story to share about your life in school? Please take a minute to fill this form and we will reach out to you ASAP.

Can’t get enough Aluta and Chill? Check back every Thursday at 9 AM for a new episode. Find other stories in the series here.

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