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.
We don’t talk about it enough but affordable accommodation or the lack of it is a problem students face in tertiary institutions across the country. To be fair, a lot of universities have hostels managed by the management, but they are hardly enough to accommodate a reasonable percentage of students studying there. Some students have to find accommodation outside the university grounds and often more than not, they pay through their nose for it.
These are some of the accommodation problems Nigerian students face, but as you’ll find out from the students I talked to for this story, there’s more they worry about. Why don’t you dive in and read?
Aramide, Lagos State University — I ran into a group of cultists
There are no school-run hostels on campus and the few private ones available are way out of budget. A lot of students are forced to find alternatives outside the school campus, even though most of them are not entirely safe – I’m one of such students.
In my first year, a friend and I went to visit another female friend who lived in PPL, an area known for cheap hostels and its poor security system. She wasn’t home, so we turned back to return to our apartment.
We were still fresh and didn’t know that it was a sin to greet or hail people we didn’t know. We flouted the rule, loudly greeting people as we went on our way. Before we got out of the area, a group of guys accosted us and demanded to know who we were. They accused us of wearing their colours too— another thing we didn’t know.
I immediately made them out as cultists and kept quiet. My friend, on the other hand, was naive and thought we could talk our way out of the situation. His confidence riled the guys up and they pulled a gun on us. I’d never seen one at such close distance, and for a moment, I thought that was it. I’m not sure if I was able to hide my fears because sweat was trickling down my face.
My friend’s tone changed, and together, we started pleading for our lives. They asked us to bring out our valuables. I left my phone at home, but my friend had his phone and a can of perfume he’d just bought on him. They didn’t take the phone because it was old, but they took the perfume from him. They sprayed some of it on us in mockery. After they’d had their fun, they instructed us to run like our lives depended on it, and boy did we!
Kalu Deborah, University of Nigeria, Nsukka — I was forced to live with a friend
Hostels in my university are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. The sooner you pay your school fees, the higher your chances of getting a room. You’d think it’s an easy process, but the school has a way of making it extremely difficult. The application portal could crash, they could assign the same corner to different people, or they could assign people to non-existent corners.
In my 4th year, it didn’t look like I was going to get a space in the hostel. When a friend I had known since I came to write Post-UTME told me that she paid someone to ensure that she got a room, I asked if I could pay half of the money so we could stay together. She agreed to this and that was supposed to be all.
I understood the risk here. There was a possibility that she’d ask me to move out before the session ended and I decided to be proactive. I drew up an agreement on paper and asked her to sign it, but she refused. That was when I knew something was wrong.
I was out of school on a weekend when I got a text message from her. She claimed that one of her cousins who was studying nursing had asked to stay with her and she couldn’t refuse. That was obviously a lie because first year nursing students stay on a different campus. She was clear with her demands, though — she wanted me to move out.
I was livid, but there was nothing I could do about it. I went back to school and went to her room to remove my stuff. In the middle of doing that, she walked in and started running her mouth about how assertive I was by asking her to sign an agreement. The more she talked, the more my anger grew. To be honest, I was very close to physically assaulting her. Thankfully, another friend allowed me to stay in her room temporarily. Not long after, ASUU strike happened, which gave me time to find an alternative solution. Another friend took me in and I stayed in her room until the session ended.
John*, Madonna University — I wrote an exam under stressful circumstances
For a private university, the state of student hostels in my school is very poor. There’s always something to deal with, especially power and water issues.
When I was in 200 level, I had to write a couple of professional exams that would determine if I’d move to the next year. On the second day the exams started, word got to us that the school generator had developed a fault. The boys hostel was totally reliant on generator sets, which ran from 6 PM to 6 AM every day. We had found a way to work with that, but we weren’t going to get any electricity that night.
Everyone was confused and at a loss for what to do. We had important exams to write the following day, and there was no way we could study. The frustration everyone felt was palpable.
There was a church 30 minutes away, and they always had light . Normally, this wasn’t a distance anyone was comfortable walking, but the stakes were high. We moved to the church in droves and turned it into a makeshift study centre — that was a stressful night.
I was an emotional wreck when I wrote the exam the following day. Fortunately, it wasn’t a disaster. I did pass the exam, but maybe I would have done better if the living situation was better.
Precious, University of Ilorin — I went through hell before I found a hostel
My school admits more students than the hostel facilities can accommodate. They try to give preference to first-year students, but the spaces are simply not enough to accommodate the population.
In my first year, I resumed late to school. The school hostels were already at full capacity and most of the hostels outside the campus [ in the student-populated areas] were also occupied. For some time, I stayed with a family friend who lived in the town but I didn’t like it there. For starters, it was some distance from the university, so it made sense that I really wanted to leave.
Every Saturday, I’d leave the house to walk the length of the student areas, hoping to find a house that had a room that wasn’t occupied. This took hours of my time every weekend, yet most of the hostels I saw were crawling with students . It was a dark period.
I met someone who offered me a good deal, but when I saw the building, I knew that I couldn’t live there. The building was practically uncompleted. Anyway, I continued my search. Finally, I got a hostel but here was the thing — the hostel was one big room with bunk beds. There were about 21 occupants, and everyone shared the same room and one bathroom. I was desperate to find something, so I took it. It wasn’t fun living there at all. I was the youngest of the lot and the guys made me do most of the work. It was like I was living in a secondary school hostel with bullies for seniors.
Paul, Abia State University — I have to live with a roommate
I stayed in the school hostel in my first year at school but it was a struggle to get used to it. I couldn’t choose my roommate. Besides, the sheer number of students allocated to each room didn’t sit well with me. The worst part of this was how unclean the hostel was. The toilets were the worst thing you would find. I couldn’t get used to the unhygienic living conditions.
When the session ended, I moved out and decided to stay off-campus. However, finding accommodation that had everything I was looking for — water, power, and close proximity to the school — was a little difficult. And when I found one that met all my requirements, I realized that I didn’t have the budget for it. It was either I figured it out or go back to the hostel. The alternative was to get a roommate, whom I’d split the rent with, and that’s what I did.
For the most part, my quality of life has improved. However, I could do without a roommate. He’s not bad but his presence means that I can’t do a lot of things without considering his convenience, and this is very restrictive for me. There’s a lot of things I would like to do but cannot because of my roommate. It’s been one hell of a ride but I’ve decided to stay alone from the next session. It’s about time.
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.