How COVID-19, ASUU Strike Compounds Rent Wastage, University Accommodation Issues

obafemi awolowo university

By recent happenings and effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, education and its institutions across the world are not spared. In Nigeria, the existing dent on the educational system became pronounced by the outbreak of this novel virus.
Dearth of infrastructure, incessant strikes of public unions, students’ unrest, corruption in the system, incompetence of lecturers, perpetual reports of Sex for Grade scandals, inadequate funding of research, unseriousness of students (and so forth), are some of the issues that have compounded the effect of this pandemic on Nigeria's academic structures.

Like many other sectors, student accommodation in Tertiary institutions was hit following an order for the closure of tertiary institutions in Nigeria by the federal government announced on March 19, 2020. This was as a preventive measure to contain the spread of COVID-19. At OAU, Ile-Ife, the closure happened exactly four weeks after freshmen resumed, and two weeks after stalites returned back to the university campus. Unfortunately, the directive for the closure of the school came at the time when majority of OAU students had just acquired new tenancy at their respective hostels. In many similar institutions of learning, students either had running rents or newly paid rents to landlords.

Student accommodation in many government-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria has categorised students into two groups: those who occupy the university halls of residence, and those who live off-campus, occupying privately-owned residencies. By the country's health, financial and security situation, only students who secure accommodation at the university halls of residence before the break out of the virus could be at peace. A substantial percentage of students are living in privately-owned hostels, outside the campus.

The concern of this writer is on the wastage of rent of those occupying privately-owned hostels. Had it been many were aware that this time would be like this, they would not have paid their rent fees or secured new accommodation in preparation for the new session. Those living in university halls of residence are in an advantageous position since the period of their tenancy runs along with the school academic calendar.

However, this is not so for those in privately-owned hostels. A month is gone already without these hostels being used and occupied for the purpose for which they were acquired, since almost all the students have left Ile-Ife and returned back to their respective homes. A question might be asked: “But what if we are on vacation?” Yes, there is no need for raising eyebrows if it is vacation. Vacation cannot take more than four months out of the twelve months of tenancy. But now a month has passed without being in school, which then means that the period of tenancy would have expired before the session runs out.
While the blame for the inadequate provision of halls of residence that could accommodate all students on campus cannot be heaped on the university management, as the dearth of infrastructure is one of the characteristics of our national life in Nigeria. However, it is believed that the management, through its cordial relationship with communities that provide accommodation for students, can take steps that could ameliorate the condition. It needs to be further iterated that many students living off-campus are doing so not because it is affordable or because they want luxury, rather it is because there is no other alternative than to do so.

In Suggestions:
Management of Universities should constitute committees of responsible individuals who have testimonies of concerns and support for students welfare.
These committee should be saddled with the responsibility of interfacing between the university management and the providers of private hostels as well as all stakeholders in the provision of private hostel facilities.
The appeal of this committee to the providers of private hostels should be to exclude the period of school closure due to COVID-19 from the agreed period of tenancy.
Owners of the Maintenance hostels should be mandated by the university to exclude the period of school closure from the period of tenancy.
This committee should reach out to the chairperson of Ife Central Local Government and local community leaders, with appeal to them to help reach out to owners of private hostels in their domain, to exclude the period of school closure from the normal period of tenancy.
The vice-chancellor, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, should reach out to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, and the Oba of Modakeke, to help appeal to local community leaders in their domain to persuade landlords to exclude the period of school closure from the specified period of tenancy.

In Osun, Nigeria, people of Ile-Ife, Modakeke, and the communities surrounding Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, should recall that the citing of the university and the presence of students in Ile-Ife has brought them great fortune. They should therefore reciprocate by excluding the period of school closure from the period of normal tenancy.  As we adapt to Post Covid effects, there is a need to appeal to the human side of us, to make sacrifices that will make recuperation from the negative consequences of this pandemic easier for all of us.

The university management, under the leadership of Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, has ensured that there is cordial relationship between the gown and the town. Recently, palliatives were provided by the university to people of Ile-Ife in a bid to cushion the bad experience of the pandemic on the poor and vulnerable ones. They should therefore reciprocate this kind gesture by persuading their people who are landlords to OAU students to exclude the period of school closure due to COVID-19 from the normal period of tenancy. Moreover, they should see us as their children and as people who are striving to equip themselves in a bid to contribute to national advancement, development and greatness. We are their tomorrow.
These are hard times and hard times demand uncommon and unflagging demonstration of our humanity.

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