Female hostels at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN
Halls of residences of universities and of other higher institutions are critical components of the whole web of education and character-building. Up to the early 1980s, all manner of class and high-culture were associated with those who stayed at some halls of residences. But not anymore, writes Bennett Oghifo
Those who run present day universities, polytechnics and colleges of education can still remember their halls of residence and nostalgically, how they lived within the pleasant confines of their institutions. The slogan then was; “as you pass through this university, let the university pass through you”. But now, the slogan seems to be “you are on your own; use what you’ve got to get what you need.”
School administrators know what is appropriate and, know what to do but they are not the ones holding the purse. As in everything else, the military years witnessed a decline in funding of higher institutions. The student population of these schools grew without an increase in their facilities, particularly halls of residence. School administrators tried, without success, to get philanthropists to build hostels that would be named after them and, thrown into the bargain, was a promise of honorary degrees. These were issues the Association of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) included in their demand for better funding of the nation’s tertiary institutions.
The federal government recognises this fact but wants the institutions to raise some money to complement the efforts of the government. According to the Secretary General of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, “While ASUU demands what it deems as important for the university community, the government must insist on what it believes are essential for the entire society.”
Nigeria is expected to produce world-class professionals but the development plan does not include adequate hostel or classroom accommodation. During the week, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’i announced that the federal government is providing N95 billion intervention fund for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
Rufa’i said, “Over the last couple of decades, the right priorities in education were not addressed. Our institutions continue to grapple with enormous expenditure outside their core mandates.
“To restore the vibrancy of our institutions and to achieve the desired outcomes, we must get our priorities right and manage our institutions transparently.
“The onus is now squarely on the institutions to apply the fund in core areas of their mandates. Our institutions can no longer complain that their major problem is funding. Government is doing its uttermost within available resources and we shall continue to work hard to ensure that there is value for money.”
Meanwhile, as bed spaces thin out in universities as the students’ population grows, the school authorities have adopted the titanic-survival style; freshers, final year and post graduate students only but because of limited space, it was designed on first come first served basis. Other students have since spilled into the immediate neighbourhoods, where they are forced to live in accommodations hurriedly converted from multi-tenanted buildings popularly called ‘face-me-I-face-you’ or from flats or from abandoned hotels. Fortunately for some of these students their parents do not have the time to visit their children or wards of the desperate accommodation
To assuage their pains perhaps, most of them try to live champagne lives on beer budget. They kit their rooms with cable television and home theatre disco machines, leaving no space for a reading table. Regardless, student hostels can be conceived to deliver a learning environment at moderate rental fees, said a real estate investor, Alade Martins.
Martins, who manages a hostel converted from a tenement facility at Akoka near UNILAG said, “Many of our universities, particularly the new ones owned by states government begin academic work from a few buildings and certainly do not have hostels. This is to reduce their overhead but on the other side is that many students are compelled to move into very deplorable accommodations.”
Some self-styled developers now collect rent in advance from anxious students while the building to accommodate them is still being constructed.
Martins said a lady came on a visit to her son’s and almost wept when she saw the poor environment. “She came to enquire if we had a place. We didn’t have but promised her a room at the end of the school year.”
These hostels ought to have a minimum standard, he said and that this should be enforced by the government. “Those who convert existing buildings into hostels should be made to comply with these standards and should be monitored to ensure the correct sanitation facilities and furnishing such as bed with mattress, reading table, and kitchenette, among others. A basic requirement in any hostel should be regular supply of electricity to enable the students study at night.”
Effect on property…
Students in most tertiary institutions started out squatting with friends on campus with friends since they were not eligible for accommodation. But, as time progressed, cheap accommodation popped up just outside the school’s fence that proved to be a big lure and, that was how the off campus property business started.
The development of hostel accommodation is becoming a crucial aspect of real estate business. But parents find the rents ridiculously high for the type of rundown buildings with tiny rooms. For instance, a room in any private hostel near UNILAG, either in Yaba, Abule Oja, Akoka or Fola Agoro command the same value, which is an average of about N200,000. Residents are allowed to share but they cannot be more than three in a room.
At a private hostel on Community Road, Pako Bus-stop, Bariga, rents are said to be moderate. “N120,000 for a single occupant; a bed space in rooms occupied by two people is N92,000 in small rooms and N120,000 each for bed space in bigger rooms. It has a dedicated transformer and two standby generators. The rooms have cable television but residents buy their beddings.
Reports say that hostels outside the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike in Abia State pay between N70,000 and N100,000 regardless of the fact that these rundown buildings are located in a village without basic sanitation facilities. “Students use out-houses and bushes for their sanitation.”
Students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka living off-campus in similar faith just as those of University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University and University of Benin. Students staying outside the campus of the University of Port Harcourt have practically taken over Choba, the school’s host community.
There is now a rash of small apartments targeted at students in Abraka where the main campus of the Delta State University (DELSU) is located. These accommodations that are popularly called ‘self-contain’ attract very ridiculous rents. Owners of these facilities ask for rents of between N40,000 and N150,00. These huge rents are founded on nothing other than the inability of school authorities to build hostels or get investors to partner in hostel development, said Martins.
Some universities have resolved to establish partnerships with housing developers to provide hostels on land provided by these schools. These models are known as Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT).
The authorities of UNILAG have one just outside the main gate of the school. This is an all-female hostel made up of two blocks of three storey buildings. The hostel is purpose-built and reasonably priced because, as the developer once said, it is targeted at the rich who may not want their children or wards to stay in over-crowded rooms on campus and, without basic facilities that they have lived with all their lives.
The rents here are pretty stiff and, as at the last count, from N120,000 for three occupants to between N320,000 and N350,000 for a single occupant. They all pay service charge for cleaning and for running of common facilities.
Also, the University of Osun (UNIOSUN) in partnership with a private housing development company, Amorit built a modern hostel facility, which cost was put at N300 million.
The hostel was constructed using the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) partnership arrangement with UNIOSUN providing land as its equity. Amorit will run the hostel for 25 years to enable it recoup its investment. The hostel, located in the main campus of the institution in Oshogbo, has 101 rooms all-ensuite (having toilet and bath within). The hostel is targeted at Medical students and those of the School of Health Sciences.
Other facilities in the hostel include common room/in-house Library, water fountain for relaxation, mini supermarket, five kitchens with fittings, borehole with two overhead water tanks for storage, adequate car park, and power supply with direct connection to the school generator.
An intervention long overdue
The federal government, last week, announced a lifeline of N95 billion for intervention in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. N25bn is for the Special High Impact project in tertiary institutions. A breakdown says N70bn is the TETFund’s annual allocation to institutions.
According to the Minister of Education, Prof. Rufa’i, the allocation had increased by 46.33 per cent for universities, 44.17 per cent for polytechnics and 72.11 per cent for colleges of education compared to last year. The minister has since warned against misapplication of the fund.
Regardless, it is not clear if hostel development falls into the category the minister described as ‘Special High Impact project’.
Remember, UNILAG and 11 universities are to get N25 billion for academic upgrade under the Special High Impact Programme of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).