‘It’s Terrible To Live There’ – UNN Students Shun Affordable Varsity Hostel
Notwithstanding the cheapness and security of living in hostels of the University of Nigeria, her students substantially prefer private accommodation. This report by BEN AROH explores the reasons behind their choices and the efforts of concerned authorities to alleviate them.
Living on campus is past glory – student
Jideofor Nwadike lives at Eni Njoku Hostel of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Nwadike was fetching water by the entrance of the hostel when our correspondent visited.
He said, “Living in the hostel is a past glory. My uncle told me about their beautiful era in this same hostel. In our own case, we fetch water from tanks outside because water isn’t pumped to hostels. We come down from as far as the fourth floor. The environment is something else. The gutters are dirty. The roofs are caving in. Some doors are falling off. The window louvres are broken.”
Nwadike’s description captures the scenario of Eni Njoku Hostel of the UNN. The magnificent hostel, with over 300 rooms, has faded paint, dingy rooms, falling doors, and the toilets! Don’t go there.
About 150 metres from Eni Njoku are Zik’s Flats, named after Nigeria’s first president. Flats have twenty sets of one-storey blocks with twelve rooms each. However, Flats are today a ghost of themselves. The entire surroundings have been taken over by weeds. Some parts are used for farming. Some of the roofs of the buildings are blown off. The only useful block among them is Block A5, where the university, until recently, was using as ‘Corpers’ Lodge.
“The corps members were evicted from the only block that they were quartered because one of them posted online the environment they were living in,” says Paul, an operator of a business centre behind Flats. “When the power supply was faulty and left unrepaired for many months, one of them posted the state of the Flats on her Facebook page. The university authorities were angered, and asked the corps members to leave.”
At the Enugu Campus of UNN, the story is the same. This campus is where the likes of medicine and surgery, law, architecture, accounting and nursing are studied.
“This is Kenneth Dike Hostel,” Chima Okafor, a law student, said. “Dike hostel appeared attractive to me even before I was admitted. It has been regrets. No water supply, we are at the mercy of mosquitoes. The whole place is just dirty. Many students live on campus because the cost of off-campus is much.”
Students mess up toilets – cleaner
A cleaner, who identified herself as Ngozi, said, “We do the cleaning of toilets because we need the job. Because of irregular water supplies, students do all sorts of things, and we do the packing. We are giving nose masks, hand gloves, and disinfectants. But I lose appetite after cleaning these toilets. I feel some students are not well cultured.”
Government’s failure and private developers’ exploitations
At the Nsukka campus of UNN, students seem less exploited living off-campus. John Omeje lives at the popular Odim Gate. He said, “We pay between N80, 000 and N100, 000 yearly for small boys’ quarters. There are many houses around UNN built over sixty years ago. The expensive hostels are those recently built. They are more beautiful, and go as far as N300, 000 and more per annum. Students live there, but they pay in clusters. One person can rent a room, and accommodate two more persons who balance him or her up in ratios.”
However, it is not the same story at the Enugu campus. Offor Onah, a medical student, said, “I live at the College Road. Our hostel is fanciful. But we paid N470, 000 for one year. After the first payment, it will then reduce to N400, 000. The first payment includes the agency and legal fees. We are three in the room.”
Chinonye Ozioko lives off-campus. She said, “I live at Back Gate hostel at Maryland. We are four in a room. The amount we collectively paid is N370, 000. Subsequently it will be N300, 000 per year. But it is far better to live off-campus than on-campus. Students on campus enjoy security and power supply, but it is just terrible to live there. To me, off-campus is better.”
Peter Okpala is a private developer. He said, “I manage three hostels located at Udorji Street and Orifite. We access loans from banks. One of our hostels is a four-storey building with about 100 rooms. Each costs N480, 000 per annum. We have overhead tanks and the rooms are spacious.”
George Eze has a hostel at Council, by Onu Asata in Enugu. He said, “I demolished the house my father built and constructed this hostel. I spent over N100m to erect this building. But I never regretted it. I sold some of my plots of land before I could complete the project. The demand is constant.”
Samuel Ugwueze is a parent. According to him, “The failure of the university to live up to expectations transferred a huge burden to parents. The cost of accommodation alone is higher than whatever I spend to train my daughter. If hostels had been befitting, the burden of training one’s child in the university would have been reduced.”
Professor Edwin Omeje is the dean of Students’ Affairs of UNN. He told our correspondent that, “Accommodation remains a challenge. This university is residential. Over the years, UNN has been making efforts to provide this accommodation. The population keeps increasing geometrically and structural facilities are not increasing in the same dimension. When this administration came on board, the VC had to take it up by looking at existing structures to see what should be done. Students were evacuated from some hostels that are in a very bad shape. You know about Zik’s Flats and Mbanaefo. The renovation of Mbanefo is almost completed. Some companies came to take Zik’s Flat, but the government is a process.
“The VC is passionate about accommodation for our students. With the agreement of the Governing Council, an agreement was entered into with a firm that is doing about 13, 000 standard bed spaces for us at Nsukka campus. The project is the first of its kind in the whole country. It is the same in Enugu campus where we have the presidential hostels that are almost being completed.
“Recently the VC secured a Tetfund hostel project. It is being roofed. In a short moment from now, hostel accommodation at Nsukka campus would have been reduced to the barest minimum. Note also that our hostels, apart from the PG hostel which we changed from Nkruma to Odili, were built in 1960s. Because they were done solidly, they are still strong.”
On the exploitation of UNN students living off-campus, Omeje said, “Our students live at private hostels around the periphery of the university fence. When you enter some of them, it is not befitting. It is not within our powers to regulate private property. Students go there and negotiate with them. As their fathers in school, we still do the needful in terms of interventions and getting into conversations to ensure that they have the best. The desire of the VC is to have every single student live inside the campus, and that is what we are trying to achieve.”
On the squalid state of some hostels, Omeje said, “If you finish maintaining a hostel today, you see a lot of challenges coming up. We don’t allow squatting, but still students do that. Some don’t even know how to maintain the facilities because it is a government property. They can block the pipes with anything and ask the cleaners to work. The university is built on a single sewage line, and any single blockade can cause a lot of issues.”
He further accused students of hostel racketeering. In his words, “Students get spaces and sell them at exorbitant prices. About fifty students have been identified and will soon face the university disciplinary committee. They pay N25, 000 and advertise their rooms at over N150, 000. It is wickedness and against the university ethics.”
– This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.