By Adesina Wahab
WHEN schools at all levels were closed last March as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus disease in the country, nobody envisaged that the closure would take nearly a year.
The closure of universities, particularly, was aggravated by the strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which even started before COVID-19 trauma set in and while other levels of education were reopened partially and gradually, most universities remained shut.
However, as university students began to resume on campuses from January 18, the issue of who bears the cost of accommodation of students who rent houses off campus while the shut down lasted has become topical.
While hostel accommodation in most universities goes for reasonable amounts, N60,000 a year for FUTA SCOOP, and even N8,000 for Akin Deko Hall at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, students pay reasonably higher amounts for private accommodation outside the campus.
Grace, a Geology student in FUTA, who lives off campus, said she paid her house rent barely a month before the closure.
“I have not spent a month before we were asked to go home. In fact, I thought we would just be away for a few weeks and I did not take along many clothes. It was after staying at home for a few months that I had to go and buy some clothes. Now, the landlord wants me to bear the rent for the months that I was away.
“Agreed that my belongings were kept in the room while away but we were away for almost a year, and if it were normal school holiday, we could not have stayed that long and that would be understandable,” she said.
Lifted, an accountancy student at the University of Benin, UNIBEN, noted that only understanding of the situation would prevent face off between students and their landlords.
“Most students at the Ugbowo Main Campus who live off campus stay in Ekosodin area because of the closeness to campus. The moment schools were shut, some stayed back hoping it would not take long before the reopening, but that was not the case. Now, in the circumstance, students are likely to lose out.
“Some landlords are retired and they live on rent too. Should we say they don’t have a right to their properties? The only way out is that the burden is shared between the students and their landlords because no side would want to lose out completely, “ he said.
For Phebe, a student of the University of Ibadan, everything boils down to the failure on the part of the government to provide the necessary facilities in the nation’s higher institutions.
“Despite UI being one of the few universities with a large number of official accommodation for students, many still live off campus. Agbowo and Orogun axis is where many off campus students stay. Let the government do the needful by providing more accommodation.
“The government can also liaise with the private sector and do the public private partnership to get things done. Some newly-admitted students who could not secure official accommodation secured same off campus and they were yet to do matriculation before we were sent home. Now, that session has even been cancelled by the school authority, “ she said.
A parent, John Akinleye, opined that the only option is to find a midcourse to settle the matter.
“Parents who are paying the rent for their children in school are mostly landlords too. Some of them even have such facilities and would be considerate to implore their children and wards to take it easy. The rent can be shared into two and students and their landlords bear it. It is not the fault of the landlords and neither it is the fault of the students, “ he stated.