By: Adebayo Abdulrahman
The time was 10:17 pm. Festus Oyelakin just arrived at the home of two fellow students of the University of Ibadan to deliver phone accessories they placed an order for earlier in the day. The gate to their Estate and hostel was locked already so he had to talk his way through the security guards before delivering the products through a vacuum in their house gate. “May this ‘I must fulfill every promise I make’ not put me into trouble one day,” he wrote on his social media page moments after making the delivery.
Festus’ late night business run might appear unusual but it’s a daily reality he had to come to terms with since he made the decision to combine his work as a freelance salesman and marketer with his ongoing studentship at the premier University’s Faculty of Arts where he is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Communication and Language Arts. “My academic commitment as a student has really affected the prosperity of my side hustles,” he told this reporter on a Sunday evening.
He explained that there are times when he had to reject ‘big gigs’ vital to his work progress because he always has to put into consideration the rigors of school and its non-flexible nature. “It’s always kind of hard so that I won’t have to sacrifice one for the other.” Despite this, there are times when he had to sacrifice one of the two aspects of his life at the altar of the other.
“As the newly released timetable for this semester, there are lectures spanning from 7 am in the morning and there are sometimes that it will be very late at night. I think I have some 5 – 7 pm classes and as such it does not leave much room for the things I do.” “Sometimes, these lecturers don’t have a specific time and they just act on impulse, which means you have to be on the ground, always. Sometimes, they just say those in class, you have this so, so, so bonus mark and even sometimes when you are considering going to do some things regarding your side hustles at that moment, anything can happen.”
After painting an image of a school calendar designed to frustrate any side engagements, he maintained that the demands of his work had also affected his academics significantly. “So it’s just like the proverbial saying that one cannot chase two rats. Though one can still manage, the Nigerian educational system is designed in such a way that does not really encourage us to do that,” he added.
According to a 2015 article published in the Journal of Education titled: Multitasking, but for what benefit? The dilemma facing Nigerian university students regarding part-time working, 18.5 percent of full-time students in Nigerian Universities are engaged in various forms of part-time work. This research indicated that undergraduates engaged in part-time and full-time work can derive two forms of benefits: A long-term one with significant impacts on their career aspirations and a short-term one for economic reasons.
But the number of students who are engaged is low for various reasons. Foremost among these reasons is that it would distract them from their studies or they do not have enough time. These factors were responsible for the decision of a combined 53.5 percent of students who do not to take up any work while studying. This data provides insight into why students like Festus remain determined despite the hurdles they face in a system that has continued to overlook the importance of work experience.
“It is essential that students have some of these first hand experiences about the outside world. You also know how things are nowadays that people need to have the experience. Most of all these jobs demand years of experience,” Festus noted.
AN UNENDING LIST
But Festus is just one in an unending list of students who have continued to brace the odds in the face of the significant challenges that come without work on a part-time basis while studying at an institution like UI.
Damilola Oyehan, said she started learning the art of tailoring immediately after her secondary school education. And she never had to take a break from her workplace even when she wrote her Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and Post-UTME.
But when she resumed to UI, something changed.
“I experienced a different kind of stress; one that pushed me to abandon my tailoring for a semester. It was not easy when I finally decided to start because I stayed in the Hostel but I have to go to a friend’s place where I use as my workspace around Ashi and when I get back it’s always late and I am always stressed. So stressed I can’t cook and I have to settle for junk.”
“During the exam, I had to stop. Though it was tempting, I had to be clear that I can’t take on jobs during that period. Nevertheless, I don’t really have time to study. But I have a friend in my department that helps me out with my academics. He shares his notes with me and always updates me regarding which topic to read,” the self-employed Political Science undergraduate explained.
She however maintained that despite this, the decision to combine her studies with her academics is a worthwhile one. “I feel in life we have to be able to balance some stuff,” she noted before buttressing her former point that “as a student, it would affect you.”
It is noteworthy that soaring inflation in Nigeria, as well as the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow on many families. Already ranked the poverty capital of the world, the World Bank estimated that Nigeria’s food inflation pushed seven million more people into poverty in 2021. This reality has left more full time students with no option than to take up side hustles in order to complement what they get from their parents or sponsors.