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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Nigerian campuses: Recession in session


There is a popular notion that Nigerians rank highly among some of the happiest people on the face of this teraqueous globe we call earth; this prevalent adulation is not one of those garbs that we wear and glo with pride or relish, but a survival and adaptive swathe that keeps us going in the hope that in the end everything will be alright. It may as well be a typical case of “suffering and smiling” according to the legend – Fela Anilulapo-Kuti (of blessed memory).
The foray into recession in the country has morphed from being a technically correct narrative to a practical overwhelming reality for most Nigerians. In fact, according to some public and economic analysts, this is the height of economic slide and gloom that the country has ever witnessed from its inception.
However, this piece intends to traverse the length, breadth, and width of a few campuses across the country to garner opinion polls with respect to the state of recession on campuses relative to the grotesque economic reality perpetuating the larger society.
Taking a panoramic view at the entrance gates of most tertiary institutions all over the country, one cannot help but notice the large number of people (especially students) who enter the campus community for the purpose of study, work, business, and a number of other personal reasons. Howbeit, beaming our focus on academics; we find that it is one thing to have the capacity, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn, it is a different thing entirely to have an enabling physical, psychological, social, and economic environment where learning can take place uninhibitedly.
The cost of living on campuses in federal and state owned schools before now has always been very reasonable and affordable especially for indigent students who engage in petty jobs – before, during, or after lecture hours in order to eke out a living for themselves.
Prices of food items (perishable and non-perishable), study materials, printing and photocopying, transportation, prêt-à-porter, and a number of other things that are necessary for study and living on campuses are usually lower in price compared to those obtainable in towns and cities where these schools are located.
For Damilare, a student of the department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the cost of “survival” (as he likes to put it) on campus has doubled owing to the increased cost of what he describes as the most important inspiration for the brain – FOOD! The quantity of food he would normally spend a paltry sum on and still get filled now cost a whopping amount to buy the same quantity. For instance, a plate of rice of one hundred Naira which normally fills his plate now struggles to occupy a half section of the plate. He now has to spend two hundred Naira for the satisfaction of one hundred Naira before now. Spaghetti increased from N120 to N200, a bag of pure water (produced by the school) now goes for N150 from N80. Supply of electricity which was almost constant before is now very epileptic and transient due to rationing in its supply.
According to him, “the cost of bottled water has increased by about 30% (that is, from N50 to N70), and because of the hot temperature and the necessity to move – to and from lectures, students sweat a lot. By implication, they have to get handkerchiefs to wipe their sweat; this also has increased from N50 to N70. Students cannot even AFFORD TO SWEAT in this recession. Nawa O!”
For David, a student of the department of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management of the same institution, this recession era has been most unkind to him because he now has to “double his hustle”. He is the first child of four siblings – born to an artisan father (carpenter) and mother that earn just enough to subsist the feeding of the family. Out of sheer will, doggedness, and determination, he got admission to study in the university. However, he had to work as a bouncer at night to be able to provide for his academic needs, and also send some stipends to his family back home. Now, he works two jobs just to be able to keep up with the increased cost of living and study on campus. He now works on shift as a waiter in a popular fast food restaurant on the Island during the day, and maintains his bouncer job at night. This according to him has taken a toll on his health and academic performance, so much so that he now contemplates dropping out of school.
Students of the mighty University of Benin (UNIBEN) are not left out of the recession party as is evident in some of the lucid narratives by a few of its students. For Omo, a student of the department of Accounting, her campus economics is heavily dependent on the economy at home. As a lady, she has need of a lot of things: from items for personal hygiene, study material, to feeding and transportation etc. She practically have to ration her eating time table; she hardly can afford a three-square meal. What she does now is 0-0-1 or 1-0-1; the former code meaning that she eats only at night, while the later code means she eats only in the morning and at night. In her words, “I don’t want to be involved in aristo, sugar daddy or whatchacallit, but with the way things are going, I am gradually changing my mind about it…I must survive nah!”.
For Olabisi, of the Ekiti State University (EKSU), a student of the Faculty of Law, the narrative seems to be in tandem to that of Omo from UNIBEN. According to Olabisi, the resultant effect of the recession on her parents (who are civil servants) has had a direct effect on her. Her parents, who have not been paid their salaries for months, now have to struggle to send her monthly allowance. She now gets half the allowance because of the financial situation back home. The sad part is that the half allowance does not reach her on time: When it eventually comes, she spends all of it settling accumulated debts from friends. Also, as a law student, prices of most law books have increased. From the angle of feeding, the smallest size of bread that sold for N50 now sells for N80; a bottle of palm oil that sold for N500 now sells for N900; photocopy that costs N5 now cost N15; imagine you have to make a photocopy of over 500 pages – then, you can understand the fiscal strain this would have on the pocket. Due to the perpetually unavailability of electricity on campus, photocopy business owners have to use generators; this is a major cause of the meteoric rise of the cost to photocopy materials.
Funmi is a happy-go-lucky student of the University of Ibadan. According to her, “I have learnt to live life as it comes – one day at a time”. The prices of food items have skyrocketed so much so that eating in a cafeteria have become a luxury – the exclusive preserve of the rich. Even if one decides to cook and not constantly visit the overtly expensive cafeterias, the cost of kerosene is a major disincentive towards cooking in the hostel to cut cost.
Transportation cost has increased immensely. Taking a cab is now for those with deep pockets and rotund account balance. Cabs that would normally cost N70 now cost N150 (over 100%); students now have to rely on their “nomadic abilities” to be able to adjust and adapt to the changing economic weather. According to her, the recession does not seem to affect students’ performance because they have learnt, although incommodiously, to adapt to the harsh academic environment due to the economic harmattan in the country.
“When you call home, they tell you there is ‘nothing nothing’ in the house, that they also are just managing to get by each day.” “The situation is pathetic, despicable, shameful, and lugubrious,” she said.
Merely looking at Collins, one can swiftly come to the conclusion that all is not well. He seems to assume a posture of someone making a call; he looks worried, depressed, and frustrated. On campus in Kogi State University, the cost of support items for food such as kerosene, gas etc., has gone off the roof. Student can no longer cook every day; they now struggle to cook once or twice in three (3) day. Students now cook with firewood to save cost. The cost of materials and photocopy is now a major headache because their prices have doubled. Students find it hard to photocopy a bulky material; you now find scenarios where three or four students combine financial resources to print or photocopy a material. In turn they ration the period in which each person has left to pass the book to the other person for reading.
In fact, social activities, programmes, and events on campuses by faculties, departments, clubs, religious gatherings etc., have been gravely affected. Programmes which would normally hold twice or thrice a semester now struggle to hold once in a session. For example, the stage plays of Theatre Art department which would normally experience a deluge of students, even with gate fees, now struggle to get a handful of audience; the turnouts in the past had always been impressive. However, this period, students complain bitterly about unaffordability of the gatepass for the stage shows – 200 naira.
Habeeb, a student in the faculty of social sciences of Great Ife! – Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU) could not hold his peace as he expressed his frustration about the unbearable reality of increased prices with respect to feeding, movement, and study materials. For undergraduates and alumni alike of the university, “risky” is a quintessential element of the OAU experience; if you haven’t eaten “risky” – a bread stuffed with fried egg and manually toasted, you are not yet a bonafide student of the school. According to him, “risky” is now very risky to eat constantly, not because it is overtly unhealthy, but because of the cost implication on your pocket money or “allawee”. The cost of everything has skyrocketed. Students have now learnt how to augment the stipend they get from home by either working on part-time basis, providing services such as makeup, tailoring, barbing, computer and phone repairs etc. Truly, if necessity is the mother of invention, “recession” is the father of creativity and ingenuity.
Speaking with Arc. David Adio-Moses, a lecturer at the University of Lagos, he firmly enunciated that it is an overwhelming reality that the recession has hit all parts of the economy; from the prices of food stuffs, wears, transportation etc.; virtually every area of our lives has been affected by the recession.
However, according to him, “regardless of the effect of the recession on the students and staffs alike, they (students and staff) are learning to be more prudent with their resources. Living an overtly extravagant lifestyle is no longer an option.
“People are learning to adjust to the economic situation. If you do not spend anyhow, you will have enough to last you till the end of the month; you also learn to curtail your expenses and focus on the important things,” he said.
With respect to the performance of students in the recession, he said the performancesof students, rather than drop has improved. “In as much as students sometimes find it difficult to feed because it is a sober period, this times, you see people who would normally not think of God or a higher being before now, begin to get closer to God.” He said.
“You also find people you are used to living extravagant lifestyles in the past begin to leash themselves; so instead of going to parties, they sit in their hostels or classrooms and probably read more. At the end of the day, taking a cue from the last convocation, we find astounding results. For instance, History department recorded its first ever first class since the inception of the department in the school; also, we see two ladies graduating with a CGPA of 5.0 just like the first ever 5.0 CGPA last year. We see all these happening even in the time of recession. In as much as things are difficult, people are learning to be more focused.” He added.
His advice to the government in order to elevate the country from the abysmal planes of economic quagmire to the mountain top of economic prosperity is to leverage the competence and brilliance of its denizens. “There seems to be a disconnect between the government and the brilliant minds in the country. Government needs to open up channels of communication, interaction, and partnership,” he said.
According to him, “those with the solutions to the ubiquitous economic doldrums do not have an unhindered access to the government in order to proffer qualitative prognostications and antidotes.
“The government needs to create an interactive forum where these brilliant minds (without ethnic, religious, and political colourations) can interact freely with the government with the sole purpose to proffering enduring solutions to the economic problems bedevilling the country.
Arc  Moses also added that he has been researching and working assiduously on green architecture; with the level of progress made and the serendipitous prospects it holds, we can provide renewable energies cheaply from five sources namely – solar power, wind energy, biomass (waste), the rise and fall of the ocean current, and the piezo electricity (electricity generated by walking).
“No one is tapping into all that. We have the solutions and the people, but there seems to be a sharp divide between the government and these people; if this lacuna can be bridged, the people can help the government and the government can in turn help the people,” he said.
 By : Emorinken Moses

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