By Adekunle Agbetiloye
“If Nigerian universities had 24 hour power supply and 24 hour internet, the possibilities are endless. My first month at Sussex, I used 82 gigabytes of internet data. I can’t try that in Nigeria. With good accommodation, constant power and internet, access to academic journals for “free”, Nigerian students in Nigeria will connect with the world and do wonders.”
After reading the above excerpt of transverse’ interview with Olumayowa Tijani, a journalist with The Cable newspaper who graduated with a Distinction in his Masters from the University of Sussex, I came to the realisation that truly deprivation of basic facilities such as electricity and internet access has restricted and paralyzed wonders Nigerian students are capable of. Electricity among all other basic amenities isn’t something that can be overlooked, and in fact it’s availability alongside a standard internet access would have made learning easy and interesting.
It was a Wednesday. After the hectic day we had, my roommate and I slumped on our beds in the order we came in. I was staring at the ceiling with the confused thought of what to eat as dinner. Suddenly the bulb came on and immediately, my roommate and I jumped up the same time as if rehearsed and ran to the only socket in our room as though we were one good Samaritan who wants to help a dying patient into the ICU (Intense Care Unit) to save his/her life. Well, it is synonymous because we wanted to save phonesIronah were almost, literally, dead too.
The power went off the moment Tade fought his way through to insert his charger into the socket. How disheartening! I hissed and could hear several curses rained on the Power Holding Company by my neighbours for again dashing our hope.
Just as we withdrew to our previous posture on the bed, the bulb came on again and we comported ourselves by looking straight into one another’s eyes saying with our mind “boy don’t rush, let’s just move slowly towards the socket. You know our rush could let the shy light go off again”. Only heaven knows how it works but every student can funnily testify that if you rush to plug your gadgets when the light comes on there is a high probability the light will go off quickly but if otherwise the light tends to last a little longer — especially with particular reference to Irona quarters.
Since it wasn’t promising there would be light that hot night I decided to take a walk through Irona to enjoy some fresh air; I would decide what I would eat during the period too. The happening that greeted my sight was jaw opening. Although It has always been like that, last night was record breaking — this may be because I don’t go out at night often anymore though. The street of Irona was crammed with students in great numbers; while many walked around in order to find where to charge, some others haggled for space in front of shops, a barbing saloon among other strategic places. It was alarming and I just realised that moment how far we have suffered as student with no basic facilities.
The reality is no longer in doubt that the unavailability of electricity is one of the biggest challenges every student of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti face and on most nights students flood the streets of the host community finding a place to charge and they usually have no choice than to stay late into the night making them vulnerable to all form of nocturnal vices. There have been several cases of stolen phones while charging and assaults on the way home.
Should I begin to recount how my female friend, Taiwo, was waylaid and robbed of her new phone at St Michael Primary School or Abbey’s laptop was stolen while he was charging. In fact, more tragically, few days ago, three android phones were stolen from a charging joint and I watched helplessly as the owners of the phones cried to their hostels. The victims were almost influenced into using voodoo to trace the thief but afterthought the idea was dropped. The thought of the price used in purchasing these stolen gadgets and the several research works, PDFs, videos and pictures on it is enough to paralyze the victims intellectually.
Aside the instability of power supply off campus, electricity fees paid to landlords by students are exorbitant when compared to the services rendered. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria holds power for days without count only to bring it for few hours before it goes on another lengthy absence. Since transformers are limited in the host community, a candle light is usually brighter than the power being supplied. Some of the available ones are not even in good shape — a perfect example is the transformer at Irona which smokes better than a cigarette.
Is it not unpleasant to know that certain students do not even have access to electricity at all? Hostels in the school environs pay a fortune for hostel fees yet they can’t boast of having a transformer and all they do is depend on a generating set usually fuelled by the students in the hostel.
The school on it’s parts is not helpful about the state of electricity as the efficiency of the school’s power supply has reduced and yet no effort has been made by the school to salvage the situation and make electricity stable on campus and be a little better in the host community.
To further worsen the situation, sockets for power output is alarmingly limited and those available are not in good shape. Is it not quite mortifying that of about 25 sockets in faculty of Art as a whole only about 4-5 are in good condition? It should not be forgotten that late last semester some people who seem to belong to the maintenance unit came measuring the decrepit state of appliances in the faculty and every student was hopeful that upon resumption every socket among other appliances would be in good condition but then we are still telling the same story.
The inefficiency of power supply in the school has made students receive lecture in heat filled lecture rooms with no functioning appliances which can control temperature to make learning conducive as several ceiling fans and air conditioners can only boast of past glories and play host to intricate cobwebs. The school’s Main Auditorium becomes a market square when GST (General Studies) lectures are taught since there is no sound system to make the lecturer audible nor a projector to make notes visible.
Another big challenge for students of FUOYE is poor network and zero access to the internet. Almost needless to say, while network condition was still good in Oye, monthly subscription done by students are usually exhausted even in the space of few days since there are usually loads of research to be done during the session.
However lately there has been a drastic nosedive in the strength of network signals so much that students walk several miles to get network and at times go to the extent of sharing the top of trees with birds just to find a good network signal!
When you go out to strategic places to find network at night or anytime during the day, you find other students doing the same thing as you or as you are about to. Your eyes meet, you smile and in mutual knowingness and greet one another “well-done”. Even while on campus, the network is still poor that one still has to look for strategic places where the signal is strongest, preferably.
Many students have nursed grievances over time. They have lamented to their friends, possibly decried to their parents; grumbled that the school management may notice their situation and provide help to salvage the challenge, yet still no change in sight.
While speaking with some students on how the absence of these facilities has affected them, Bolu Abiodun a 400 level student of the Theatre and Media Arts said “now I am supposed to be working on my project and I need to do a lot of research and the network issue is really affecting me. For several days now I have been trying to download a particular PDF and I haven’t been able to download it. The way we lack electricity and internet access has made being a student in this school a lot harder and it reduces your level of encouragement to do scholarly works”.
Another student identified as Lawal Muftar, a 200 level student of the department of Public Administration said “electricity is a necessity”.
“There are times I am supposed to be reading, I will have to leave home at late hours of the night to charge so as to be able to read the PDFs on my phone and at times my phone serves as lamp for me. Even though the past SUG executives protested for the use of WiFi we have not seen any changes”.
On a similar note, Olaniran Sherifat a 400 level student of Psychology said “the problem of electricity and access to internet has been affecting me right from 100 level up to this moment. The school power’s off electricity around 3pm, latest 4pm and the time is usually not enough to cover all the assignments on ground. To read in the night becomes difficult because there is no electricity to charge one’s lamp”.
She spoke further about the risk female students undertake just to charge in a guy’s room since it is guys who own most individual generating set on campus and as a result, female students seeking to charge are prone to harassment. “To crown it all, without good network and excellent internet access as a student everything becomes frustrating”, she concluded.
If these problems continue without being salvaged, I am afraid of the quality of education the students will be getting. We understand fully that to ask for a 24 hour power supply and a 24 hour access to the internet is a fantasy at the present moment, however, the school administration should do well to make these facilities standard to a reasonable extent so much that learning would become interesting and easy.