Just like every other morning in Obafemi Awolowo Hall, the girls were going about their daily routines, cooking washing, and doing what have you. I was with a friend, talking and walking towards the bathroom. As we made a turn on the corridor leading to the bathroom, we saw about four men heading in our direction. The friend, being half nude, quickly dropped her bucket and walked into the closest empty room, feeling utterly disgraced. At that point, we had a laugh of it, but it was then I began to pay attention to the not-so-subtle whispers of complaints made by fellow Awoites regarding the issue of men walking shamelessly around the hostel.
For some Awoites, it has become something of a norm to come out of their rooms and bump into a man, but for some others, it is something awkward and cringe-worthy to bump into any male at all, either fully clothed or in a clothing material considered indecent.
It wasn’t conducive for Mide to come out of the bathroom at 3 a.m., only to have a security man point a flashlight in her face and question her on where she was going. Neither was it conducive for Bimpe to have a man standing right in front of her window, saying whatnot while her upper body wasn’t covered.
Now, I would like to say that the men in question do not belong to just one group. There are different men claiming different roles, which they believe invariably justify their presence on Awo Hall floors at different hours of the day – holy or unholy. According to a source, there are “the water boys, the security men, the technicians, and men who I have no idea what they are doing”.
The Water Boys of Awo Hall
There are two water boys in Awo Hall, a man and a younger male who help Awoites on higher floors to fetch water or help carry heavy loads to different places. One of them also serves as a sort of handyman, helping Awoites break faulty locks or take out a broken bunk.
While these particular males help Awoites with some – call them – day-to-day activities, we get to see that their presence in the hall doesn’t sit right with some of the hall residents. And the grievances of these cannot but be put into consideration.
For Sayo, while she wouldn’t say that the water boys should be sent away since they are of help, she really doesn’t see the need to have the said water boys roaming the floors of the hall when they are not needed. She strongly believes that they are to focus solely on their jobs.
“There was a time I came out of the bathroom with only a towel and I saw one of the water boys staring straight at me, and I was hurrying to my room and he was still staring at me,” Sayo said, with traces of annoyance.
The Security Men
The security men are a group of men who have been appointed to keep the hall safe from threats. Awoites are okay with the fact that they stay outside and ensure no intruder comes in. The problem comes though, when the said security men roam the halls of Awo randomly during the day like no man’s business, causing Awoites a form of discomfort. These men don’t only walk around during the day, they also do so at ungodly hours, flashing bright lights in the eyes of unsuspecting Awoites who wish to use the bathroom.
There was a time I went to use the bathroom at midnight, and when I came out, I almost hit a security man. I was scared because you wouldn’t expect a man to be walking around a female ha;; of residence at night when everyone is asleep.
The technicians consist of the carpenters, electricians, lawn mowers, and plumbers who come to the hall at random times to make repairs where needed.
The issue of privacy invasion in Awo is one that although one tries to ignore, repeatedly comes up with an Awoite who has an awkward encounter with a male to relay. It could be bumping into a security man half nude, or standing at the balcony with only a brassier and being seen by a water boy. Either way, it would be plain horrible and uncomfortable to have to experience such.
What Solutions Would Then Be Best For This Problem?
There are several options that the management of Obafemi Awolowo Hall should consider to bring an end to the growing concerns of Awoites’ privacy in their hall of residence. These options will be looked into in detail.
Scrapping the whole idea of water boy in Awo Hall
This option stems from the fact that there are women who help Awoites with auxiliary chores, asides from water boys. These women help to clean, wash, lift and move heavy loads, and at some very rare times, they fetch water. With this in mind, we begin to ponder what exactly is the need for water boys? Since these women are able to do the tasks that the water boys do, and even more, why does Helen have to witness the horrid sight of a water boy peeping into her room while she is undressing?
Security women to replace security men on Awo Hall floors
On security, there is the option of having security women to replace the men that move around inside the hall. It sounds absurd having men walking around, trying to make sure that Awoites are of good conduct. While the security men might be allowed to man the hall’s gate, the task of monitoring the floors should be restricted to security women alone. If the school has no plans to employ security women for this task, then, Awo Hall female porters should rise to the task.
Designated repair days
Bimpe, a concerned Awoite, suggested that it would be much more reasonable to have repair days. These would be designated days in the week when technicians would visit the hall. Having designated days would mean that each Awoite knows and is adequately prepared for the technicians’ arrival, and the specified time they would be spending in the hall. This helps to reduce cases of catching Awoites unawares.
When students resume to the University of Ibadan, they leave their home and the comfort of it. They are assigned a hall of residence with which they would be associated till the end of their academic programme. Each hall of residence strives to inculcate its identity in its residents, and one of the popular ways of doing this is to portray itself as their home for the next four, five, six, or more years. Drawing on this, Obafemi Awolowo Hall is not just a hall of residence, it is likewise the home of thousands of female students at the University of Ibadan. On the other hand, it houses the highest number of University of Ibadan students on campus. Therefore, the comfort and privacy of these students should be paramount. Awoites should feel safe, comfortable and secure in Awo Hall. The issue of uncurtailed movements of men on Obafemi Awolowo Halls should be looked into, and given a finite solution.