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Lust, Fraud Turn Universities To Slaughterhouses (3)

Lust, Fraud Turn Universities To Slaughterhouses (3) A cross-section of OAU students fetching water from a stream

Walking or driving through the University of Lagos, one will naturally feel at home with the aura and physical planning of the institution. It has enough beautiful buildings and layouts. The authorities, for instance, tarred the major road from the main gate to the Senate Building, which is the “heart” of the citadel of learning. So also are the majority of the link roads in the institution.

At least, there are no potholes dotting the roads, a development that may tempt some exuberant motorists to overspeed. But do not worry, that temptation is not likely to take place. Reason: the authorities of the 53-year-old institution mounted enough speed breakers to check the ambition of such individuals.

The ambience of the institution also looks enchanting and delightful. The well-trimmed trees and flowers make the environment friendlier and attractive to any lover of nature.

The hood and monk scenario

This beautiful environment, however, does not hold so much fascination for many of the part-time postgraduate and distance learning students who are currently sitting for their examinations. As far as they are concerned, the idea of becoming a top class institution for the pursuit of excellence in knowledge, character and service to humanity, as espoused by the university’s vision, does not begin and end with these beautiful layouts and flowers. In their thinking, there is more to preparing them to be globally competitive than mere aesthetics.

“Have you gone round some of the hostels and classrooms to witness what we are experiencing here? Can you imagine what we encounter as we prepare for our examinations in terms of facilities in the hostels? Have you bothered to go to the main library to see how crowded and ill equipped the place is?

“Do you know how we defecate, especially at night, in the hostels? The posers are many. I wonder how regular students, who are more in population, manage these facilities when they are on campus. I would just advise you to go round to see things for yourself if you have the time,” a student of the Distance Learning Institute, who simply gave his name as Wale, said.

Indeed, a visit to the Faculty of Education, precisely the Department of Science & Technology Education, shows that all that glitters is not gold. For instance, in one of the lecture rooms that can accommodate between 30 and 40 students, while there are more than 13 long reading tables, there are just a few stools available for them. In fact, some DLI students preparing for their examinations, which started on Monday, sat on the tables to hold their group discussions.

A display of bedbug-infested mattresses at UNILAG

Welcome to UNIBEN
The infrastructural challenge, as captured by Wale, is not peculiar to UNILAG. At the Ugbowo campus of the University of Benin, some halls of residence can easily pass as the epitome of disrepair.
One of the hostels, Hall Three, is said to be famous for its broken bunks, bad toilet and worn-out electric sockets, which often leave the students in total darkness at night.
One of the occupants, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that in spite of the yearly maintenance fee of N8,000 per student, the facility had not witnessed any visible repair in the last two years.
According to him, while some occupants manage to use what is left of the toilets, with the accompanying risk of contracting diseases, others who cannot endure the filth adopt alternative measures, like defecating in polythene bags (popularly called the Shot Put formula) or visiting the toilets of some commercial banks within the university to answer the call of nature.
He said, “Practically, 80 per cent of the hostels are in a bad shape. The toilets are in bad conditions. I think the authorities should carry out some renovations in the hostels. We pay N8,000 every session for maintenance. But, we have yet to see the effect of the extra cost. They should make the toilets look better. Some students deliberately go to the First Bank or other adjacent banks just to use their convenience.”
That this decadence prevails on campuses is not difficult to decipher. In many of the schools — from the East, North, West, and to the South — hostels are all overcrowded. The four, six or eight-man room formula for accommodation does not apply. Whether it is the University of Nigeria, University of Ibadan, University of Port-Harcourt, University of Jos, University of Ilorin or the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the recurring issue is that their hostels accommodate more students than they can cater for.
Findings reveal that the trend at UNIBEN is that between six and eight students and, often 10, persons, “appropriately manage” the space that ordinarily is meant for four persons.
“During examination periods, we can have as many as 10 students sharing accommodation space for four persons. The consequence is that the room turns into a haven for noise and all manner of despicable things,” a final-year student of the institution confessed.
The road networks at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, are still okay, just as the well-mown lawns are a beauty to behold. However, many of the structures in the once revered citadel of learning in Nigeria and in Africa, in terms of facilities and architectural masterpieces, seem to have lost their splendour due to neglect. This negligence is more pronounced in the hostels with Awo Hall leading in the infrastructural decay.
A resident of the hall said the non-functionality of the urinals and the water closets showed that the facilities had seen hard times.
According to the student, Ebenezer (surname withheld for fear of victimisation), some students, who cannot withstand the poor state of the toilets, usually visit the bush to defecate.
Ebenezer said, “I don’t think the condition of prisoners in Nigeria will be worse than this. The only consolation is that we have freedom. There is no restriction of our movement, but we are suffering on campus.
“There is no water in the closet to flush the toilets after use. You have to fetch water from the ground floor to the topmost floors to wash and to flush the closet. If there is no water in the tank, we go the extra mile to fetch water to use in the hostels. What kind of life is that?
Ebenezer, who claimed that the hostels were overcrowded, noted that between 10 and 15 students shared accommodation meant for six persons.
Corroborating Ebenezer’s view, another student, who also for fear of victimisation, identified herself as Loretta, said she was shocked to discover what the university she heard so much about as a kid had become. She added, “Due to lack of sufficient space in lecture rooms, we at times have lectures in an open space. You can imagine the kind of comprehension that will take place in such a situation.”
To many observers, it is not surprising that the authorities shut the university penultimate Tuesday after a protest by the students. The OAU Student Union President, Omotayo Akande, who led the protest, said the authorities had neglected the students’ welfare for so long.
He said, “The union has exhausted the tool of diplomacy without getting reasonable concession on how our welfare conditions will be improved. Our demands are more than just light and water. The unbearable living conditions of our hostels require an urgent attention.”
That these students are protesting is not strange to the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, UI chapter, Prof. Segun Ajiboye. The union, he said, had for long been complaining about the infrastructural rot in the nation’s university system.
He noted, “Before 2012 when the Federal Government agreed to carry out a Needs assessment of infrastructure in Nigeria public universities, ASUU had always been accused of exaggerating its claim of poor infrastructure in Nigerian universities. The decay documented in that Needs report was a confirmation of the level of infrastructural decay in the public universities.
“Thank God for that document and the persistent clamour by ASUU. The Federal Government then agreed to address the matter through a special intervention fund. The rot is enormous and it has accumulated over the years. It will take a few more years before we begin to see big changes.”
Kerosene stoves in varsity laboratories
For the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Peter Okebukola, these inadequacies have so much to do with the rankings. Okebukola, who said facilities for teaching, learning and research contributed about 35 per cent of the variance of scores on rankings, wondered how Nigerian universities could excel where the 2012 Needs survey showed that some of them use kerosene stoves as heating device in laboratories.
The professor of Science Education said, “If facilities are in great shape for teaching, learning and research, a university has the high chance of being catapulted about three times above its current league table ranking. State-of-the-art facilities for research provide stimulus and encouragement to researchers to conduct studies that will earn spaces in excellent journals.
“Good quality facilities also guarantee results that are respectable and able to break new grounds in solving challenges facing humanity today. It is the outcome of such research efforts and outputs that are aggregated and scored in the major, globally-regarded ranking schemes such as the Academic Ranking of World Universities, Times Higher Education ranking and Webometrics ranking.”
Overpopulation at the root of the rot
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Prof. Abdullahi Bala, identified poor accommodation as one of the biggest problems facing the institution.
Bala explained, “Our greatest challenge is in the provision of accommodation for our students on campus. For a student population of over 15,000, we only have 2,250 bed-spaces. This is not enough and it has resulted in the majority of them living outside the campus.”
He, however, revealed that the Federal Government only recently allocated N2.7bn for the construction of hostels, among other things, in the university.
“We only got the approval recently and the building of the hostels has just commenced and we will finish it as soon as possible to put a smile on the faces of students which will enhance their performance,” he added.
 Libraries without books/abandoned projects
Although the University of Abuja shares many similarities with other public universities, occasioned by overpopulation and inadequate facilities, its library, which is one of the largest in the country, is bereft of sufficient books.
A lecturer in the Faculty of Law, who did not want his identity, confirmed this as much. He said, “UNIABUJA has one of the largest libraries, but it now faces the challenge of lack of enough materials. We have just moved into the main library. We are supposed to stock it with books. As of now, accomplishing this is a challenge due to paucity of funds.”
Another challenge facing the university is the growing rate of abandoned projects. The lack of funds is affecting the development of the second phase of the Administrative Block and Faculty of Social Sciences.
A second-generation university, UNICAL, is also affected by the abandoned projects syndrome. The bug has caught up with its Faculty of Engineering complex, Faculty of Law, construction of office/lecture block for the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, which is part of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund intervention project, unveiled in 2012.
Others are the office/academic building for the Faculty of Allied and Medical Sciences (TETFUND 2012) and an unmarked abandoned structure beside the new law faculty complex.
Its immediate past Vice-chancellor, Prof. James Epoke, who in November said the university received N3bn from TETFund for the improvement of infrastructure, noted that the completion of all the projects within his five-year tenure was not possible.
Epoke, who vacated office two weeks ago, added, “It is not possible for me to complete all the projects I initiated. I met ongoing projects when I came on board and I completed them. The new vice-chancellor will continue from where I stopped.”
But Ajiboye is seeking solutions to the problems from a wider perspective. The ASUU chief, while regretting that the economic meltdown was having a negative impact on the Nigerian economy, urged the Federal Government to endeavour to devote 26 per cent of its budget in order to lift the education sector to loftier heights.
He declared, “It is a fact that the poor infrastructure has affected the rankings of universities in Nigeria. When the facilities are not there, how can the nation’s schools get the positive rankings?”
The VC of the Caleb University, Imota, Lagos, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, also frowning on the state of infrastructure in the universities, urged the government to devote specific budgetary allocations to providing new facilities in them.
Olukoju, who said the N90, 000 per bed space per session in federal universities was no longer realistic, however, advised authorities of schools to engage in Build Operate and Transfer model as well as other variants to share costs and ownership with private developers.
What obtains in other lands?
Elsewhere, especially in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, among other countries, stakeholders note that things are still working fine in many of their public universities. The facilities in the world’s fourth oldest surviving college, the University of Cambridge, are still intact and running.
Founded in 1209, UC is the second oldest university in the English-speaking countries. For instance, the university has 114 libraries comprising college libraries, department libraries and the university library proper.
Besides, all colleges and many departments in the university provide networked PCs and Macs in their computer suites, with access to a range of general and specialist software, as well as printers and scanners.
With this scenario, Okebukola said it was easy to appreciate why foreign students and lecturers shun Nigerian universities. According to him, only a paltry average of three per cent foreign student content and 0.5 per cent foreign staff find “solace” in the 141 Nigerian universities.
He declared, “Imagine the pigsty we call hostels in many Nigerian universities with rats and cockroaches running all over the place and toilets with huge mounds of faeces. Which American, Japanese or Ghanaian student will risk his/her life coming to live in such a hellhole? So, with ignoble and shameful hostel facilities offered by Nigerian universities, we cannot be a ready destination for foreign students.”
Waiting for Buhari’s sledgehammer
Back in Nigeria, apart from the alleged recklessness of the students in the handling of these facilities, a school of thought argued that corruption and maladministration in the leadership of many schools were also contributing to the decadence. No wonder, President Muhammadu Buhari has been threatening to prosecute heads of tertiary institutions who pilfered (and still do) their schools and by extension the nation’s commonwealth.
The President, who spoke recently at the UNIBEN convocation, through the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, added that the proper implementation of the Needs Assessment would reverse the rot in the universities and place them on the path of global competitiveness.
He said, “ This administration is committed to providing funding for the revitalisation of the university system and the entire education sector. The Federal Ministry of Education is all ears to ensure that it blocks all wastage and leakage and bring perpetrators to book . We are committed to fighting corruption and all departures from the proper procedure in government business and in the university system.”


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Lust, Fraud Turn Universities To Slaughterhouses (3)
Kenneth Okonkwo

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