BY CHISOM MEFOR
For the sake of this article, let me re-introduce myself. I am a 300 level undergraduate student of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I live in Tafawa Balewa Hostel, a place students are reduced to inhuman conditions. Let me assert that everything written here is thematic, though there are cross-references, it is wholly based on facts.
Personally, I think if Human Rights are Rights we get for being Humans, then decent accommodation should at least be Rights we get for being students. I live in Balewa Hostel, 200 series on the right wing. This hostel was built by Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1955 during the golden era, a time in which individuals who now serve as Heads of these same Institutions lived in single rooms, had access to clean water and bathrooms, not to forget, paid almost nothing for tuition. Now, these exact same hostels are dilapidated, with windows that never shut, poor electrical connections, infested with insects, and also, a bathroom I can’t even start to talk about. Yet, the school administration has somehow managed to turn a blind eye to these things.
I’ve spent three whole years in this school, and I have seen not one single reasonable renovation concerning hostels by the school administration, not even fumigation to at least tackle the epidemic of bed bugs, the major resultant in stress, anxiety and insomnia among school students. Rather than students forming common ground and speaking ills against these brash conditions, we have resulted to the usual, “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
It gets even more depressing when I explain my plight to people and all they have to say is, “At least you got a place to put your head.” Excuse me? I’m sorry, come again. We paid for these hostels so why should we act like the school administration is doing us some favor?
Literally, 50% of the students in the Balewa for instance are illegal occupants, rooms meant for 4 students are shared by 7 students, sometimes 8. With 2 students sleeping on a 6-spring bed and sharing tiny space for cupboard. Hostels have maximum capacity for a reason, all these leading to overcrowding, beggarly sanitary conditions, and of course, outbreak of diseases.
There’s also this famous saying in school that girls’ hostels are “Heavenly” compared to the boys. Permit to ask, but what could be so heavenly about stamping my feet on my way to the bathroom to chase rats away. The truth is, people are suffering and smiling- the Nigerian way. The grass has never been greener on this side, we’ve only gotten acclimatized to living in putrid environments.
I would also love to seek answers on why the generator should be put on at nights for Mary Slessor Hostel (VC’s choicest hostel as people call it) and not Balewa and Okpara Hostels? What makes it even funnier is students walk all the way to the Slessor to charges phones, lamps and laptops, whilst the engineers at works’ department (Generator house) are just right in front of Slessor and adjacent to the Vice Chancellor’s office. Why don’t we go over to Works or VC’s in our numbers? Why don’t we demand for the generator to be put on in the Balewa and Okpara, alongside Slessor, Bello and Eyo-ita Hostels. After all, injustice to one is injustice to all.
About a month ago, an article was written by Victor Okeke, published on Leadership Newspapers, titled- The Deplorable State of UNN Hostels. Another sharing almost similar titles with Okeke’s emerged on Vanguard still on the same issue of UNN Hostels. In the same vein, disturbing photos were posted by myschool.ng in an article titled, “The sickening state of hostel toilets in University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus.” All one needs to do is type in Google search bar, “UNN Hostel” there you go- eye sores, nerve-wracking scenery of open sewers, toilets abandoned by cleaners who have deserted jobs due to a backlog of unpaid arrears. Now, my question is; How exactly is the School Authority reacting to this at all levels?
It may come as a shock to you but some students now live in classes. They attend night classes, sneak into the hostels in the morning to bath and off they go to start another day. A student by name, Naza Obasi, speaking to Victor Okeke in his above stated article said, “We keep vigil tracking the hostel portal for the period it was open but couldn’t secure any space. It was like choice property only available and accessible to elites”. In addition to Naza’s voice, I had to buy a bed space of N15,000 at N90,000 from a fellow student. Living off campus was an entirely different ball game, as students are left to the whims and caprices of greedy landlords and rooms are sold to students at a whopping sum of N170,000 sometimes N250,000. Why isn’t anyone asking questions like; How do children from low income homes afford this outrageous sums? When will Nigeria’s tertiary institutions ever favor the poor?
There is no need going back and forth, lamenting about this, living in distressing places reduces the self-worth of students and ultimately, the quality output as future leaders of society. Students perform better in relatively moderate and stable environments. Here’s calling on the Administration of University of Nigeria to look into the welfare their students to achieve the common goal of rounded education.
Mefor, an aspiring rights activist, tweets @JuanitaChisom