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.
For this week’s Aluta and Chill, we spoke with Khalilah Ahmed, a 300 level student of Fountain University, Osogbo. She talks about what it means to be a victim of admission scam and finding a second chance in another school.
Fountain University is a private university. This means when you hear about ASUU and strikes in the news, you can’t relate. How does that feel?
It’s great. I know I have a limited time here, and nothing will extend that time. The stability bangs. It’s easier to plan for what comes after university, this way.
I only understand that this is super important because I’ve passed through the public university system. Before Fountain university, I was at Lagos State University, studying Law. Law was what my parents wanted, and being the good girl that I am, I went for it. I was in my second year when I left.
Wait a minute, did you eventually decide law wasn’t for you and left or did you leave because of the strikes?
I wish one of those reasons was the answer. It’s a sad story, really. I was at LASU until I discovered my entire admission was a scam, that I wasn’t really a student of the university. I had no choice but to leave.
Whoa. This went from 0 to 100 real quick.
Yup. Someone at the LASU ICT department helped me with the admission process. I sent him my details and all. Everything I did went through him. And I thought that was pretty standard, until everything scattered and the truth came out.
How long did you spend in LASU before you found out?
About two years. In hindsight, I should have guessed something was up since my first year. First, I had issues with getting my matric number. Then, there was a problem with printing the eligibility letter that I needed for my 100 level exams. Somehow, he sorted it out and kept the mirage up.
How did you find out?
It was exam time again in 200 level. He’d left the school at this time – thank goodness – so I had to meet someone else. He checked my name on the central database, and he found nothing. As in, I was never really a student. I didn’t exist. Everything up to that point was fake.
That must have been heartbreaking.
I wanted to die. But again, it was good that I found out as early as I did. It could have been worse if I’d found out later. I mean, imagine if I’d found out in my final year, just as I was about to enter law school or something.
Did this issue affect your choice in choosing another university? Why a private university, as opposed to a public university again?
Well, my dad’s friend works at Fountain, and when the LASU thing happened, he told my dad about Fountain and sold him the idea of me studying here. It was the best alternative at the time, so I wrote another JAMB, gathered my O’ Level results and started all over again.
What mental preparation went into adjusting into the new environment?
It was hard at first. I like to maintain a small circle, so I only had a few friends at LASU. Then I had to leave, come here, and make new friends. It was really difficult. The only exciting thing about transferring here was the fact that I was finally leaving Lagos. It felt like an escape.
I get that. But still, Fountain is a Islamic faith-based school. You must have had more freedom at LASU where no one really cares about your faith and all. How was it like navigating a new campus with stricter rules?
There is not much to do here outside academics and religion. Fountain University is a very boring place; all you do is go to class, go to mosque for prayers, sleep, and repeat. At LASU, I wasn’t under a strict schedule and had the liberty to do anything I wanted when I wanted. To say the least, it can be frustrating.
It feels like you’re stuck with a routine, doesn’t it?
It does. They have a fixed way of doing pretty much everything, and nobody wants to rebel or try to change anything because it might result in suspension. The communication between the management and students is a one-way model; there is no free flow, no avenue to lay our complaints, and everyone is even scared to do that. So, we all stay in our lane.
There are no student leaders who can speak on behalf of students, are there?
There are, actually, but we didn’t always choose them, not until the last election anyway. Before that, we used the Shura system, they just picked someone based on criteria like grades. But now that we choose the people we wanted, I hope things will change. I really do.
I’ll bet. From what you’ve said, Fountain and LASU are two different worlds. Do you have a coping mechanism?
Sort of. I have to believe that I can do it; that I could stay and make the best use of my time here. This is my second chance. Also, My brother was really there for me when I first got here; I told him virtually everything and he was always there to listen. I know what I said about how I suck at making friends, but I had a couple of people with whom I was cool with when I first got here. They were in 400 level, but they made the adjustment easier than it would have been if I was alone.
It helps that I’m now studying Mass Communication as well. I mean, Law wasn’t bad at LASU, but I just find Mass Communication more interesting, so it’s sort of easier. It feels like I’m finally doing what I should be doing.
That’s refreshing, but do you think Law would have been a complete waste of time?
Not really. I just don’t find it enjoyable as I do mass communication. If the LASU complication didn’t happen and I graduated with a degree in Law, chances are that I would drop it somewhere and do something related to communication.
So you think something good came out of the bitter experience?
You could say so. Most of the things I’m doing right now are related to communication, even outside of academics. There is this female group I started with two other ladies two years ago. We teach other girls, especially fresh students all the basic media things; how to use a camera, how to edit, do voice-overs, etc. I really enjoy doing this because I feel so useful, so at peace with myself at every session. The best part of it all is that it doesn’t eat too much into my time – two hours on Saturdays and two extra hours on Sundays. It’s really fulfilling
Yeah, it is. I have also been exploring the outspoken traits in me. My public speaking game is on another level than it was at LASU. I’m a very shy person, but that can’t stop me now – I can’t let it stop me. There is still a long way to go, but baby steps.
You have quite a story. Now, you’re in your third year and close to the finish line now. What does that mean for you?
There are lots of expectations. I’m almost done with school now, so everyone expects me to have it figured out. If I tell them I’m going for service after school, they will take it further and ask what I have planned after that. And the plan is still fuzzy at the moment. So yes, there is a lot of pressure attached to it. However, I know that as the time draws closer, I will be a step closer to figuring everything out. One step at a time, abeg.
Check back every Thursday at noon for a new episode. Find other stories in the series here.