By: Toluwalope Ayeye
It’s the eighth week of the academic year at the University of Ibadan. Through the various attempts of lecturers to finish in time and the seemingly impossible attempt for students to catch up, it might seem rather unlikely for there to be anything else that threatens to have the attention and sanity of students.
This part of the semester often calls for an academic rush, where students must sit up, get their notes, and do all other activities to prepare for the forthcoming exams. However, this might not be entirely possible for students at the University of Ibadan
Times are hard, and it isn’t only for parents, guardians or folks outside of the school setting; students similarly face the same fate.
Of the many things which have for a while affected what should be an easy living or, at best, an almost easy living for students, are the removal of fuel subsidies, the constant increase in the value of Dollar to Naira and kerosene scarcity
At first glance, one might wonder how any of these three, especially the first two, affect or in any way have any influence on student’s living; however, it should not be quickly forgotten that students are as human as every other category of people and whatever affects an average person would most likely affect the average student.
So, while the removal of fuel subsidies and the increase in the value of dollars would not directly affect the average student in the university, it would still do so indirectly.
How Do These Issues Affect Student’s Living?
The use of fuel in everyday activities in Nigeria has become paramount, and according to NMDPRA, as of September 2022, the daily consumption of petrol was 66.8 million liters. Although this figure was controversial, it still shows a close estimate of how much fuel is used daily.
The use of fuel is essential in the manufacturing of goods(whichever kind) and transportation of such goods. In Production, Fuel can sometimes be referred to as a capital good, one used to create other goods. If, therefore, the cost of producing and transporting these goods by reason only of the cost of fuel has been increased, it is safe to say that the cost of the goods themselves would become inflated.
Mrs Simi, a trader at the university, agrees with this fact and explains thus;
“It’s not like we are the ones purposely putting money on the cost of all these goods, but because of fuel, both the people we buy from and ourselves have to calculate how much goes into transportation when we calculate our profit.’
The cost of transportation for students is also not left out of the many things already affected by the increase in the cost of fuel.
Before the resumption of the currently running semester, a new transportation price list was released, hiking transportation prices to some places. Before the price list, however, towards the end of the previous session, drivers had already begun to increase their expenses themselves.
Although supposed measures were implemented to stop this, they proved ineffective. Both then and now, it is understandable why there was a need for these hikes as fuel was an essential ingredient in their transportation business and seeing as the cost had increased, thereby affecting their gain, it was reasonable that the cost of transportation both within and outside the school was tweaked to make room for their gain.
Now, students who have also been affected by these prices have taken to their different ways to cope. Nevu, an MBBS student, for example, had this to say about the increase in the cost of transportation within the school.
“I began 200 level almost exclusively taking a cab from my hostel to my faculty. Now I walk unless it’s urgent.’
Meanwhile, Halimat, a 300-level Queenite, explains that although she doesn’t take transportation within campus most of the time, the cost of transportation affects how much she ventures to the market outside school. In her words,
‘I don’t really take transport on campus, but outside, it’s really expensive, and I don’t visit the market as much as I did in my first and second years.’
Apart from the cost of fuel, the increase in the dollar value also plays an integral part in the price of products. A trade deficit occurs when a country imports more than it exports, just like in Nigeria. If a country buys more goods and services from other countries than it sells to them, its currency will become less valuable. This is called currency depreciation; when this happens, importing becomes more expensive as time passes, leading to the high cost of imported goods.
Seeing as the Nigerian market is filled with many imported items, it shows why these products used by students have become more expensive.
Kerosene Scarcity and its effect on students
At some point or the other over the last few weeks, occupants of the nine undergraduate hostels in the University of Ibadan might have sat down to wonder what exactly the country and possibly the school has against them. It is a known rule in each of these halls of residence that the only means of cooking allowed is with a kerosene stove, so using hot plates and gas cookers is not permitted.
This unwavering rule, which some students might have cared less about, has become a primary reason why students have begun to complain, and this can only be attributed to the constant hike in the price of kerosene. The cost of a liter of kerosene at the beginning of the semester had been about #900, going to as low as #850 in some places; however, the current price in some places stands as high as #1200, with the lowest price being #1000.
Halimat states that the hike in kerosene prices has stopped her from cooking as much as she does, as she now settles for buying food up to 3 times a week.
Meanwhile, Tijesunimi, an Awoite who has seen the different stages of the hike in kerosene, also explains that she doesn’t cook quite often and sometimes resorts to eating just bread or garri when she can’t cook or to save some kerosene.
‘Tell me why there won’t be food fast often and more consumption of garri because why will kerosene be #1200?’ she painfully lamented to this reporter.
For students like Olajide, however, they find relief in staying off campus and so do not have to go through the travails of purchasing kerosene.
“I stay off campus, so I’m not affected because I used a gas cooker. However, it is also affected in a way because there’s also a slight gas price hike. The only relief is I use an electric cooker and the power supply has been stable at Agbowo recently.”
A few days before the congress was held at the SUB foyer, the President of the Student Union had on his WhatsApp status, acknowledged the troubles students in hostels face due to this new development.
He went on further to state reasons why the university was not open to the use of gas cookers. However, he explained that the management was open to suggestions on another cooking method or a better and safer way to use gas in hostels.
He similarly called for student proposals when the matter was brought up at the congress.
A Chain of Drastic Effects on Uites
With the increase in the cost of goods, services and so on, it doesn’t take a genius to decipher that the average student in the university might find it difficult as they try to survive on their own.
For example, Nevu explains that while he can still get the things he needs, he has to strictly plan and manage his finances, foregoing any intent to splurge. In his words, ‘Every Kobo counts.’
However, besides basic living, there is also the effect on students’ education and academics. A direct impact on students’ education is their inability to print materials or buy textbooks freely.
Some of the students interviewed proclaim how they no longer think of buying textbooks and instead stick to printing materials from outside the school, where it costs about #7 in some places, considerably lower than the #20-#30 charged by ventures inside the school.
Others explain that they can’t even try to print any of their material, so they stick to reading them in PDF formats.
There are also the indirect effects, where the thoughts of hardship, inability to feed properly, etc.’, consumes students’ minds and leaves them in a state where they are unable to focus on their academics.
For Olajide, the 300-level law student, he explains that having to look for multiple jobs and cut down on expenses has affected him and his academics.
‘Since the beginning of this session, I’ve had to do multiple jobs. I worked as a marketer and a delivery person. Currently, I have about three jobs. Also, I’ve had to drop some of my extracurricular activities in school so that I could have sufficient time to work… It has affected me in a number of ways. I didn’t attend any classes for the first three weeks of resumption. And when I start combining work and study, I’ll be too tired to read when I get home. So it’s been an herculean task trying to combine both.’
This isn’t the same for all students, as some explain that their performance is generally the same; however, it is noteworthy that many students fall in the category of those whose academics have been affected.
New Government Policies And The High Cost Of Living
The administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu came with a lot of changes and the implementation of new policies, one of which is the removal of fuel subsidies to focus on infrastructural development. While some might believe these policies and changes, although bad as they may be now, would eventually benefit the country, not many hold these views.
“As it stands, every policy seems to dig deeper into the ditch we are in as a country. The current situation has a possibility of change, but I honestly believe we are at an irredeemable point already,” Nevu explains his opinion, holding firmly that the policies put in place would result in no benefits.
Ademola and Olajide, on the other hand, believe there might be some reasonability for all of the policies implemented. Still, they think it would be better if it were done gradually and in less extreme manners.
‘Secondly, development is a gradual process. Like they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The government should try as much as possible to avoid introducing capital projects or policies concurrently.
“Doing so will inflict much pain on the people. Also, the people should be given prior notice ahead of any introduction of new policies. This will allow them to prepare and adjust as the case may be.’ Olajide suggested.
To know for sure if the government policies would be beneficial to students or the country in general in the long run is something one might not be able to answer.
However, it can be said that the policies and decisions currently in play, whether from the previous administration or the current one, have had a drastic effect on students. Although this is not discussed often, it doesn’t change the fact that students are also caught in the grappling fingers of change.