By: Toluwalope Ayeye and Yusuf Rahmon
Thirty minutes after the start of class, Rhoda was just making her way into her 8 am Criminal Law class. Any observant eye would have noticed that this was, for the past few days, slowly becoming a routine, with her coming to her 8 am classes even up to an hour late. This bit has become just a tiny part of the fate of many living in vicinities outside the school campus.
The University of Ibadan has a considerable number of undergraduate hostels compared to some other schools; however, regardless of this, these hostels are not enough to house the sheer multitude of undergraduates in the University. While this proves to be a problem, it isn’t passed off as a big one as students find themselves either voluntarily or involuntarily (when they are unable to secure a room in their hall of residence) renting apartments outside the school in areas around the Agbowo or Ajibode Axis. Choosing to live off-school campus is a full package on its own, with its ups and downs that students have to experience. This article will delve into the lives of students living off-campus grounds, documenting their struggles and their highlights.
The Challenges of Off-Campus Living
Following the interview held with several UITES living off campus, the downs or, better put, struggles of living off school campus can be categorised into four parts: Transportation issues, electricity issues, water issues and security issues.
The Transportation Impasse
The issue of transportation comes in two primary forms. First is the higher cost of transporting oneself from areas like Agbowo Express and Ajibode to destinations inside of the school. While the price of transportation inside the school is somewhat regulated, the same cannot be said for the cost of transportation outside the school. Apart from this, students would first have to transport themselves to the school gate before taking another means of transportation to their destination within the school — which many might consider a loss for those residing off campus.
Joyce explains that before she moved to her new place, which is a trekkable distance to the school gate, she spent up to 300 every morning to get to her classes. “I’d have to take a bike of 100 or 150 to the school gate, and when I got to the gate, I spent another 150 to take me to my faculty”, she explained. She added that not only was this more expensive than what her counterparts staying in school hostels had to spend for transportation, but it was also time-consuming.
This brings us to the other issue of transportation from outside the school; it gets time-consuming. Rhoda is not the only one who has had to miss a class or come late because she stays in Ajibode; Fiyinfoluwa, a political science student who stays at Agbowo Express, recounts tales of how she has had to get to class late on most occasions because getting a bike or taxi to school is tiring. She has to “wait most times and … end up late for class.” As if the struggle ends there, an average student from outside the school and unwilling to take a drop would have to wait a while at the gate before boarding a cab. This reporter had also made her way to the bus stop at the school gate to confirm this on Thursday morning, and she had been met with a long line of students waiting to board a tricycle to different destinations, confirming many of the complaints made.
Electricity Issues And Water Woes
200 level Abdulazeez, one of the many students who had reluctantly gotten an apartment at Agbowo because he couldn’t secure a room in Sultan Bello hall, complained about how the electricity problems he faces have only worsened since last semester and how it has caused him to bear consequences from as little as not reading for a day, to as big as missing an impromptu test. The light issues in places like Ajibode especially can be classified as notorious, with residents going up to a week without any power supply.
Moses Abegunde, a 200 vet med student who, at some point in his first year, lived at Ajibode, explained during an interview that the electricity supply issue was his major problem and his trigger to relocate to Agbowo. This move of his doesn’t exactly exempt Agbowo from being classified as vicinities with power supply issues, albeit not as bad as that of Ajibode. In Fiyin’s case, she had to sacrifice her class attendance to finish a due assignment because her phone was low, and she could not complete her assignment the previous night. ‘I could not attend the class, and those who attended were given five marks’, she lamented.
The issue of water supply is closely related to that of electricity as, most times; it is when there is a power supply that one can successfully get any supply of water. For those staying off campus, getting water might be a significant struggle due to a poor power supply. Apart from the issue of electricity and its influence on water supply, some houses do not have wells or running water, so students staying there might have to journey to other homes and even pay money to get water. Olajide, who has never had to stay in any school hostel since his first year, explains that although he goes to nearby houses to fetch water, when they are inaccessible during dry seasons or extended power outages, he has to go a long distance to get water. As if this is not enough, there still are times when he has had to put cooking on hold and even compromise his hygiene because he couldn’t get any water.
Insecurity and Safety Issues
While Ajibode’s major issue revolves around power supply, Agbowo is widely known for insecurity. This reputation precedes it, and though, for a while now, the complaints of insecurity have reduced to a large extent, the reputation sticks. Joyce sees reasons why many might be very reluctant to live in Agbowo as there was a time when a week didn’t pass without news of a robbery. “Just last session, there were quite a lot of shootings in my area, and I think someone even died… I don’t blame people who say Agbowo is not safe.” She offered. She, however, went on to explain that these insecurities have reduced, and she has barely heard anything about a robbery, talkless of a shooting. Abdulazeez’s view on security wasn’t far from this as he had this to say: “I have not faced any issue of security so far in Agbowo. It has been safe, and sincerely, I was surprised considering the rumours that fly around about the security state of the place.”
It is often said that there are two sides to a coin, and for UItes residing off campus, the second side of this coin is benefits that have some of them deciding to remain residents off campus despite the many struggles they’ve had and might have to face. Moses even gave a long list of the things he believes he enjoys more than students who stay on campus. On the top of his list was that his ‘movement is not restricted’. This seemed to be a big deal for him and a few others as he mentioned the joy in doing whatever he wanted to do without any restrictions.
In Olajide’s case, the many stories and warnings on the restrictions attached to staying in school hostels were why he decided that he would not be staying on campus. Depending on the hostels, the restrictions vary. Still, some common ones mentioned by students interviewed include the prohibition of hot plates and gas cookers, which many students outside school seem to maximise and enjoy using. Another is the prohibition on the sale of goods and services by students in many hostels. For Fiyin, the cherry on the cake is that she doesn’t have to walk around with an ID card, which serves as a pass to access her hostel.
Another benefit that made it to the lips of many interviewees is the privacy and comfort they experience. This privacy they believe they would not get to experience any bit of it in a school hostel. “I heard that the hostel accommodates about eight people per room, and I don’t think I can survive with that.” Rhoda explained, backing up her need for both privacy and comfort. Many also attach privacy to having serenity, peace and quiet as they hold strongly that hostels are primarily notorious for noise making.
Tales from students who live off campus reveal a dual narrative that entwines difficulties and benefits. Although these challenges were discussed with much gusto, it is not sufficient enough to have many of the students second guess their decision to stay off campus as they recount their joys and the perks of staying off-campus with although fewer words, but with even more tenacity.