The Problem with Accommodation: A COMUI Dilemma.

I can’t believe we’re about to do this right now.” This was the first thought voiced by many of the members of the 2k23 class (500 Level) after the recently released documentation list for potential slots by the Alexander Brown Hall management. While accommodation struggles are not peculiar to a particular class of medical students of the College of Medicine, UI, 2k23 has reached its turn to fight for slots. This is what they’re expected to juggle effectively with being in the middle of a heavily packed semester.

It is essential to secure a spot to ensure many students can sort out themselves mid-semester, in the middle of the year, with exams fast approaching. This is a yearly struggle incumbent year five students have gone through as far back as anyone can remember, yet there seems to be no end in sight.

Accommodation struggles are not a foreign concept to the UI student. The first year comes with an exhausting struggle of registrations and numerous fee payments to secure your guaranteed existing hostel accommodation. In contrast, the middle years provide no safety net, leaving you to fend for yourself, and the final year draws you back to do all that’s required to secure your spot again. However, the structure and demands of the clinical arms of the College of Medicine UI are starkly different from the original campus. Thus, the hitch in student accommodation has caused large holes that must be poorly filled.

Differences in Academic Calendars

The clinical arm received its newest wave of students about one month ago after they satisfied their examiners in their first MB exams at the end of their academic calendar. However, the academic calendar on their new campus was racked with a full semester workload and looming exams for two major classes.

In a conversation with the Press, Paul* a member of the 2k24 students who recently crossed on accommodation issues, revealed that there were absolutely no options prepared for them [himself and his classmates]. “We raised issues, our orientation even got postponed a bit, yet most of us had to resume while sorting ourselves out,” he said.  He also complained about the school system and how the management expected them to navigate this “foreign campus with foreign academic methods and zero housing options?” 

After two weeks of orientation, they [2k24] began their first block postings. Block postings involve classes in five different courses: Histopathology, Chemical pathology, Haematology, Medical Microbiology and Parasitology and finally, the dreaded Pharmacology, which would be concluded with five different exams at the end of four weeks, yet there were still no signs of accommodation in sight. “They provided buses from UI  for those interested.”, another member stated. However, said buses became insufficient by the time clinical rotations began as unit tutorials and ward visitations ended at odd and irregular hours; hence, most of them, who were still UI residents at the time, could no longer meet the 5 pm deadline of the bus.

This, sadly, is a struggle every incumbent fresher into the clinical arm of COMUI faces every year in different dimensions. This backlog is a yearly problem and is down to limited accommodation spaces.

The Problem with Accommodation Spaces

The official medical hostel of the College of Medicine UI is the Alexander Brown Hall. This hostel is located inside the hospital complex to cater to the academic demands of its clinical students. Yet, it fails to fulfil its objectives.

A significant indicator is that Alexander Brown Hall houses not only UIMSAites but also other students of the College Of Medicine. Thus, much consideration goes into who gets a space and when. Alexander Brown Hall also has a unique issue because its inhabitants run on different calendars year-round, which can lead to chaos if not handled carefully.

Alexander Brown Hall has less than ten blocks of four-storey buildings. This hall is the only official option for male and female students of several departments under CoM-UI, including medical students. This is a visibly larger capacity of students than it can handle. To combat this capacity problem, the College of Medicine has – and still is – raised funds to build a new hostel adjacent to ABH. This project was finally successfully launched and is well underway. However, there is a need to make students aware of the modalities for allocation.

A Lack of Connection between Academic and Housing Administrators

On a Thursday night, in the middle of medical postings, a student group got into trouble with a resident around 10 pm for having incomplete members. There were threats of sanctions and punishments if the members weren’t produced, which was impossible due to these members living outside UCH. However, this was a strange situation for the supervisor, who expected every one of these medical students to reside at the hostel in the hospital complex.

This situation is, again, a familiar experience for the medical students of COMUI. Despite having waded the troubled waters of accommodation and found their footing on the outskirts of the hospital, these are the issues some students have to go through on the academic arm every year. Students experience a whiplash of disconnection, having to go through housing and academic administrations that seem unaware of each other. Students are left to forage independently, from registration to classes, light and water issues, and minor and significant exams.

Year in and year out, CoM-UI welcomes medical students, and ABH allocates spaces to medical students under different academic conditions. Yearly, medical students prepare to battle whatever odds they’re dealt with while clamouring for relief from the stakeholders involved. “I just want them to not be so out of touch with our issues sometimes”, Bisi* another fifth-year medical student lamented.

The accommodation struggles faced by medical students at COMUI are a longstanding and multifaceted issue. To resolve this dilemma, a comprehensive approach is needed. This should involve aligning academic and housing policies across departments and fostering open communication channels between students and relevant authorities. By addressing these core issues, we can ensure that students have access to adequate accommodation, enabling them to focus on their studies without the added stress of housing insecurity.

Sa’eedah Hussein

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