Akinwale Peace Akindayo
For an institution with over 40,000 students, more than half of which reside outside the university campus, more than half of which frequent school every day, getting a bus to & from the university campus is the most severe stress of the ordinary student. The ordinary student doesn’t consider his terrifying lecturers as the ones after his academic and emotional life, he considers the transportation challenge first, then his finances, after which the lecturers. The transportation crisis is what leaves student too tired to read after getting back to their hostels.
Universities are set up to facilitate academic progress, and Student Unions to improve the academic experience of the students by catering for their welfare. This, amongst others, is the responsibility of the Student Union. It is why tens of individuals vie for different SU offices – to serve students.
All of them know our problems. All of them know the challenges we face as Unilorites, and they make lofty promises to ease them during campaigns and debates. It is unfortunate that the 34th University of Ilorin Student Adminstrations, led by Comrade Omoluabi, is starting to seem like another wrong choice.
The future was clear when he said he isn’t the one to promise heaven and earth for students. The future looked good when he said he’ll commit his strength to everything he must do as President to cater for the welfare of all students. The future was simple and elegant, when he said he contested in his penultimate year to suffer from the innovations he would have failed to implement while in office when he is in his finals.
After his emergence as President, however, the present and future is becoming a gory sight, especially due to the lack of workable plans on the transport crisis which has demeaned and stressed students and staffs of the University.
In my four years of studentship, like other students, I have not experienced a transport crisis this notorious. As early as 2:30 pm every day, the park is jammed with students who are unable to leave for their hostels off-campus. The campus shuttle drivers are either unavailable or limited in number. It’s worse that when it’s 4 pm, 6 pm, 10 pm, a long queue is still visible. This challenge has worried the social energy of the students of this institution for many weeks now. You find students trekking off-campus everyday due to inaccessible campus shuttles. You find students patronising Post Office/Challenge drivers —drivers who know students will exit in Tanke— just to make off with their #150 per trip.
This situation has led to a kind of exploitation by bus drivers, including campus shuttle drivers who mandate their passengers to drop off at Oke Odo, the first bus stop outside campus.
Different administrations have introduced schemes to make the system better and efficient, but the “People Focused Administration” has not been people-oriented when it comes to the transport crisis. The administration has basked in the glories of other activities like advocating for the extension of school payment deadlines & allowing accessible information, leaving behind the most threatening, transportation.
When rain falls, just like it did on August 30, students are waterlogged on campus. And without access to campus shuttles, they stay on the queue which most times extend to Lagos Hostel more frequently. Some students get to their hostels and pass out because their bodies are sore and bruised with cold. Some get to their hostels and collapse with sickness because of their wealthy exposure to cold. Some students experience the symptoms of a terrible ailment after that experience, that terrible absorption of cold and stress. These stories are shared across WhatsApp groups membered by the students of the institution, and even members of the present administration.
The day after the heavy rainfall, August 31, students couldn’t access campus shuttles to convey them to the campus. Some trekked to the school gate and boarded private vehicles with their heart in their mouths out of the fear of being kidnapped. Others hopped into cabs, & others waited for the world to change. It didn’t.
Before this period, the administration, as well as authorities of the university, knew the challenge of the students. Since we resumed the First Semester of this session, this transport crisis has persisted and it has been upsetting. Every day, a queue extends to Lagos Hostel from the park. This could be considered an unprecedented transport crisis that has been prolonged for over 10 weeks since resumption. The President once sent a BC, I assume, to Unilorites on his WhatsApp contact, asking for a solution to the transport issue. I shared my opinion after I ignored the message for hours out of lack of any opinion.
I wrote to the President that perhaps, motivating campus shuttle drivers could make them work more. Perhaps, offering incentives that encouraged hard-working driver, even if it’s a free lunch and publicity (which could lead to greater opportunities), could motivate them to do more for the students. I told him the problem isn’t the lack of buses, but also their lack of motivation.
While I may be right about the lack of motivation, I was wrong about the assertion that there are buses on campus.
Princely X, one of the reputable journalists during his undergraduate days & afterwards, recalled that the Ishowo administration had a business with a luxury bus company. The company provided long buses which operated alongside campus shuttles and it eased transport crisis for that session. Aside from this, an administration negotiated with bus drivers from another state.
It was during the administration of Comrade Animashaun that we got drivers from Osun State. They came on Sundays, worked throughout till around 4 pm on Fridays & left for Osogbo until Sunday again. This system managed the transport crisis effectively, although students could be stranded on busy Friday evenings & may not be able to access swift transportation to & fro school on busy Saturdays. However, this system managed the crisis we experience so notoriously today.
An administration also promoted an online stunt with claims to have purchased long buses to ease transport issues. Until the end of that administration, there was no transport crisis although I can’t recall if the said long buses functioned.
The transportation crisis is an annual event, and while we’ve not witnessed sustainable solutions, each administration has always tried to mitigate it, at least, while their term of service lasted.
With an administration which has promised no grand innovative means to end the transport crisis, is it right to say the students are stuck? Is it right to say the students will tow a narrow line till the end of the session since the Students Union is now unhelpful with students’ transport issues?
In the past, we had Kwara State Maigada buses conveying students to & fro the campus. They rarely show up in school these days. It impels us to ask the Union if it has turned them away in the name of the students. Some students have claimed that the campus shuttles meant for students now convey passengers at Post Office, Challenge, Kwara Poly, and other places aside from UNILORIN. It worries me, and I believe it worries every concerned student, if the Union has measures to address this seeming extremity.
In the past, we’ve also had favourable calendar schedules for students across all levels. This is an alternative for the Students Union. The department in charge of creating academic timetables could reshuffle the calendars to allow students to leave campus at various favourable times. Some could leave in the early hours of the day, most should be expected to leave by mid-day (when drivers are often less busy), and very few should be kept in school till 4 pm and 6 pm. If this is adopted, it could ease the complexity filtered around the present transport crisis and stress of the students’ populace.
While we wait for bold moves and solutions to the transport crisis from the union, is it right to say that we, the good people of the Better by Far University, have chosen wrong with the present administration, especially regarding the transport crisis?
Akinwale Peace Akindayo (AKA Philip Peace) is a student of History & International Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin. He also writes poetry, creative nonfiction, & essays. He’s Peace Akinwale on Facebook & Twitter.