On campus, squatting, has become a popular slogan. Students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife are quite familiar with it. With inadequate accommodation in hostels, students are often subjected to endless worries.
For instance, a recent statistics of final year students’ accommodation for 2012/2013 academic session released by the Vice Dean, Students Affairs, Dr. Yinka Adesina, revealed that out of 5,241 students, only 3,417 bed spaces were available.
At Fajuyi Hall, there were 811, Moremi-726; Awolowo-1,060; ETF-259; Akintola-373; Alumni-188.
The situation could be worse for other categories of students, considering the enormous influence enjoyed by final year students on campus. As the university opened for a new session recently, more than 30 per cent would secure accommodation in the various halls of residence.
Majority of the returning students would not have spaces to put up their luggage and sleep. The rich ones among them would have to buy bed spaces or rent an apartment in town.
Others who are not so fortunate would ‘squat’, a situation where four or five friends rent an apartment in town or sequestrate in a bed space, originally meant for one person in the hostel.
To most boys and few ladies, ‘squatting’ is no longer a burden to them, rather, they see it as ‘communal life on campus.’ In male hostels, like Awolowo and Fajuyi halls, when a new occupant is allocated a room, especially in the main blocks, the former occupants (squatters) would still remain but create space for the legitimate occupants.
For the legal occupants to ask these squatters out of the room is to step on the tail of a sleeping lion. On most occasions, the squatters exercise the ‘hall-right’ to sleep on the bed space of the legal occupant, even without his permission. In such rooms, ‘Me, and I’ never exist in their dictionary.
All the roommates jointly use personal effects like buckets, slippers, towels, pots and spoons. Often-times, these personal effects develop wings and fly, even with the owner’s inscriptions all over them. However, in other hostels like Angola and Mozambique halls, the situation seems slightly different.
Though the new intakes enjoy and relate among themselves, they suffer the troubles generated by squatters and loss of their personal items. One of the students, Dolapo Akanni, who stayed in Mozambique Hall in her first year, relates her experience to Campus Square.
‘I had no one to squat in Part One.’ Now in part two, CAMPUS SQUARE quizzed her on her fate as regards accommodation. She said; ‘I’ll rather take to balloting than squat, and if balloting didn’t work, I have to resign to fate.’ Another dimension to the squatting on OAU campus is ‘Floating’.
It could be said that even squatters are accorded more respect than them. ‘Floating students’ are those ones that do not have accommodation at all.
They lay their heads anywhere on campus. Another student, Moses Oluwanifise, who is also the President, English Department, Faculty of Education, recounted his life as a squatter.
‘I started squatting right from my first year on campus. In fact, I slept in the common room for some weeks before I got hooked with a colleague. It was like this till my penultimate year that a senior colleague dashed out his bed space to me.
This was when I could say I had a legal bed space to myself,” he said. Mutiu Oyatoye, who stayed in Awolowo Hall in his first year, said he passed through intolerable situations during the period that he had to relocate to town with a colleague in his second year.
“How on earth would there be breathing space for 12 students in a room meant for six students? The situation gets worse daily,’ he lamented. In an online chat with our correspondent on freshmen accommodation, Dr. Adesina explained that the school cannot accommodate all fresh students, whose numbers were put at 5400, as well as the final year students.
According to him, the total number of bed spaces was less than 9600. Although the school had maintained the policy of first come, first serve in the allocation of bed spaces for new students, only few students count themselves lucky. Adewole Jamiu, fondly addressed as ‘Jamaz’, a final year student of English said he once joined the squatter’s club. He said there was nothing wrong in squatting a fellow student, who had no where to lay his head.
Campus Square gathered that it was offence against the university to squat or be squatted, not to mention purchasing bed spaces from those that have been officially allotted the spaces. Our investigation revealed that some students were punished in the past for selling bed spaces at exorbitant rates.
The school authority also punished those who bought the spaces. Unfortunately, efforts to curb this trend on campus have been unsuccessful, as the Federal Government has made no effort to expand the hostel facilities in her ivory towers.
OGUNJOBI is a 400 level student of Language Arts, OAU