By I. B. Nga
Since the commencement of this new academic session, several students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), have been badly destabilised by the very frustrating method deployed by the Student Affairs Department in the allocation of hostel accommodation to students. Worst hit are the final year students, many of whom have been left stranded. Instead of devoting time and energy to their academic work at this very critical and terminal stage of their stay at the university, they are running from pillar to post trying to secure hostel accommodations, all to no avail.
The computerised system should have made the process of hostel allocation very easy if it was managed by honest people. To obtain a hostel accommodation at UNN, one has to visit the UNN internet portal (http://unnportal.unn.edu.ng/), log in with one’s Student’s Identification Code and apply for a bed-space. If the student is allocated, he or she will print out an allocation confirmation slip and use it to go to the designated bank to pay for the accommodation.
But from the very date the university reopened for this first semester, it was an uphill task for several students to even access the UNN portal online. When eventually, some of them succeeded and logged in to apply for bed spaces, the page kept giving out the following message: “All Rooms Have Been Allocated.” But while many of the unallocated students remained stranded and distracted from their academic work which has since commenced in full force, those with “connections” always got privileged information as to the exact period the system would be activated by the university officials to start allocating again.
And these would rush and log in to the portal to secure rooms for themselves, settle down and face their school work. But when the information eventually spreads and the other students start logging in also, the website would start again to say that “All Rooms Have Been Allocated.” After sometime, it would begin to announce something different, namely, “Try Again Later.” What a frustrating situation!
Now, despite these developments, there are still many rooms that are yet to be allocated at UNN. And from time to time, those with the “right connections” get informed when the portal would start allocating and would rush to secure rooms before information reaches other students who would only log in when it has stopped allocating.
Not too long ago, there was a fire incident at one of the hostels at the UNN and the building is yet to be renovated as to be in use. The officials are hiding behind the modest shortage this has caused to perpetrate their nefarious activities. And so they create an artificial scarcity in order to give the accommodation to their preferred students – who probably may have greased their palms.
Each time I hear glib talks about the sterling benefits of “university autonomy” I wonder what would be the fate of students if the universities operate solely on their own without any external supervisory influence. One hopes that such a day would never come.
Even if there is a genuine case of insufficient accommodation, shouldn’t a responsible school administration extend some consideration to, at least, its final year students and even to some degree the first year students as is the case in some other universities? The final year students have too much work on their hands. Any small mistake might award them an extra year in the university. They do not need the destabilisation effort being unleashed on them now at the University of Nigeria – an institution that tells us that its motto is “Restoring the Dignity of Man”? Even among the final year students, efforts should be made to first accommodate the female students among them without delay. Many of them are going about every evening to find places to lay their heads and this could expose them to some dangers. This also applies to the female students in other classes. The case for the first year students is that many of them are so young and have found themselves in a very strange environment, with several of them leaving home for the first time in their lives?
Many final year students do not find the off-campus accommodation attractive. Even some of them who had lived off-campus tend to seek hostel accommodation once they get into their final year. They need all the time they have for their academic work which might be affected by the several distractions that go with living in the town.
I, therefore, use this medium to urge the vice-chancellor of UNN to call those perpetrating this unwholesome business at the Student Affairs office to order and end the trauma of students. They are giving a very bad image to the University of Nigeria, and this should be a concern to all lovers of the institution, including the alumni. What kind of system is this that does not even reward the early birds on first-come-first-served basis? People who have been trying to log in to secure accommodation for several weeks now are still labouring to do so while some others (obviously with the “right connections”) just breeze in and after a few hours, they get their rooms and settle down.
The National Universities Commission (NUC), the Minister of Education and whoever else that have some authority over these fellows should call them to order and restore sanity to the system. How anyone hopes to “restore dignity” to any man by operating a fraudulent system is what beats my imagination. What has our universities turned to? A lucrative fraudulent industry? Where are our human rights activists? Does a Students’ Union Government (SUG) exist at the UNN at all? All stakeholders should contribute efforts to put an end to this mess.
If the computerised system has become a perfect machine for mindless racketeering, the method should be discarded. Students should now pay their fees in the bank and use their stamped tellers to secure hostel accommodation, so that those who pay early would be the first to be allocated. Also, the student hostel which was recently gutted by fire should immediately be renovated.
Nga, is a Lagos-based human rights activist.