UItes and the Yearly Accommodation Struggle

It is almost always with tremendous glee and excitement that freshers at the University of Ibadan, after months —  and sometimes years —  of seemingly endless waiting, resume and report to their respective allocated Halls of Residence in the “First and Best”. Save for the stress associated with myriad registrations, long queues, meeting new people, carrying luggage, moving in, and being away from home, it is usually one of the most remarkable experiences for these students, marking the beginning of a new phase in their journey in life. However, far from excitement, resumption spells the exact opposite for many returning students, i.e. staylites — especially non-finalists — as they are fraught with uncertainty on how they will be sheltered the first few weeks following resumption. This is a result of the university’s policy, which primarily assures accommodation slots for freshmen and finalists.

What does this accommodation struggle look like for different students: freshers, staylites, medical students, etc.? What is the role of the administration in the entire fiasco?  And how are external players like private hostels important in this dynamic? 

IT, PYTP and TP Students

Before speaking on resumption struggles, we must consider some of what happened prior. While most students vacated the school premises shortly after exams at the end of last semester, some had to stay behind due to curriculum requirements such as Industrial Training, PYTP, and Teaching Practice. This was not a problem initially, as these students remained in their respective rooms and halls until, as is the custom, the school management issued a directive to close these halls for the yearly fumigation in preparation for the new session. Temporary accommodation was provided for students in halls like the Kenneth Mellanby Hall and Queen Elizabeth II Hall for males and females, respectively. In halls like Queen Idia Hall, accommodation was only provided after lengthy deliberations. 

As a result, these students experienced significant discomfort, having to pack their things and move across halls as far as opposite ends of the school. This raises pertinent questions about why such provisions weren’t made earlier in the session. Considering that these [PYTP, TP, and IT] are a yearly occurrence, plans should have been made in advance to, at the very least, ease the movement process. 

Freshmen Have Their Problems Too

As easy as it is to dismiss freshers from this discussion because of their default slot, doing so would entail neglecting essential issues they face. The most obvious is the quality of accommodation provided in their allocated halls, a number of which have not been significantly renovated for many years. Many, coming from homes with decent facilities (toilets & bathrooms, water supply, kitchenette, rooms), are often shocked by what they arrive to and struggle to adapt to facilities with much lower standards than their ‘norm’. This expectedly compounds the psychological stress they already experience due to the change in environment, which for some, is a change from an entirely different region in the country.

Furthermore, while there is the perception among students that freshers are placed in the best of blocks in some halls, the opposite is the case for specific halls. One may thus imagine the plight of such students being made to experience the worst the hall has to offer in their first year in university. There’s also bullying by older students, which is often seen in some of these halls. An inflated sense of importance combined with distasteful customs usually leads to new students being plain bullied, especially on the male end of campus accommodation. Unfortunately, with these cases being in the minority, it’s assumed that bullying is non-existent. Or even worse, that they are exaggerations from Ajebutters

There’s also the sometimes-poor quality of food provided in the cafeterias. Despite complaints, vendors in specific halls are retained year in and year out. It doesn’t seem to matter to the Hall Executives that the quality of food and services these vendors offer is abysmal. So yes, freshmen have more than their fair share of accommodation problems.

Non-Finalists in Limbo

As for sophomore and penultimate students, it’s worse. The policy in the Halls of Residence is that after freshers are allocated rooms in the first few weeks of resumption, the portal is opened for finalists. On the other hand, non-finalists, having applied toward the end of the previous session, would have to wait for the great “list” (often released in several batches, sometimes delaying halfway into the new semester) of students fortunate enough to be allocated a place. This is problematic on several levels. First, most of these staylites have to find temporary accommodation for the period, either squatting at a friend’s off-campus – with the attendant security concerns, especially for ladies – or sleeping in lecture halls in extreme cases, having placed their luggage somewhere safe. This is even as many departments are quick to begin lectures due to the shortened school calendar. Second is the pathetic state those who end up unallocated are plunged into, as they have to scramble for off-campus accommodation or private hostels, many of which might have already been taken up. It is sad to witness the significant discomfort students have endured, coupled with the rigorous curriculum at the First and Best.

Thankfully, the security condition of prime off-campus accommodations (e.g., Agbowo, Bodija, Orogun) has recently improved, with fewer reports of violence, robbery, and crime than some years ago. Nevertheless, the question of safety remains for those not sheltered within the four walls of the university campus.

Thanks to Private Hostels, But Not so Much

At this point, we must acknowledge the vital role private hostels have had to play in easing the burden on the Halls of Residence by providing alternative accommodation on campus. Both freshers and staylites with financial capacity have considered these costlier alternatives and often found them to provide better facilities than the school halls. However, the problem is that up until recently, with the opening of new mixed hostels, most private hostels have catered only to females. Male students have, therefore, been grossly underserved in this regard, and we can only hope that the situation improves as new hostels open.

The Issue with Fresh Clinical Students

Medical students transitioning from the preclinical to the clinical phase of their medical education have also experienced their share of accommodation issues. Having completed their preclinical school and written their first Medical Board exams in the UI Main Campus halfway through their third year, they resume lectures, after a short break, at the University College Hospital without accommodation provided for them at the Alexander Brown Hall in UCH. They, therefore, have to shuttle for many weeks between UI and UCH for lectures until they are allocated rooms at the beginning of the following session. With some having to report as early as 7 am and finishing as late as 9 pm, the cost implications and extra stress involved place a significant burden on them that can barely be quantified. This is besides the security concerns associated with such late-night shuttling.

Many of them have had to resort to squatting with residents at ABH, to the discomfort of both parties. The College of Medicine and school management are not oblivious to this. In recent years, efforts have been made, via impressive fundraising by CoM-UI exceptionally, to provide more accommodation for medical students. However, there is a need to re-evaluate the options for this transitioning class. 

Sorting these Struggles

In a way, everyone gets a share in this collective accommodation struggle. It is easy to place the burden of making resumption less of a nightmare on the affected parties alone. But that’s a dishonest route. Hall Executives and Management must adopt early registration for individuals staying during the session break. Hurried name-collection in the last weeks of a session just won’t cut it. This would also save stress for everyone involved and ensure accurate data to work with or correct, as the case may be. Also, traditions born of ‘elderhood devoid of common sense’ must die and die quickly. This requires older students calling out their friends and acquaintances on actions that demean or infringe on the rights of freshers. It also requires early orientation for fresh students to understand the landscape of the University better. 

Concerning the limbo for sophomores and penultimate students, we understand that the process involves multiple levels of bureaucracy. However, the process can still be improved upon. Halls should stick by whatever lists they send out, as students have complained of shady dealings with these lists on more than one occasion. It’s the least that could be done, considering the state of anxiety students exist in. Individuals who have served the Hall in one capacity or another should also be considered. 

Finally, the Halls of Residence could consider an extension period for the new Clinical Students. This would involve more stress at an administrative level. However, it would undoubtedly be in the best interest of students. Welcome back, UItes! 

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