Tertiary education in Ghana has become extremely expensive. Parents are hustling to get their wards into higher institutions because of the high cost of tuition that is increasing each year. Currently, admission into the University for an undergraduate student will cost not less than 1,000 GHC excluding accommodation. This means the number of students coming to stay home after high school is way higher than those who can afford the cost of getting higher education. So with this system, I keep asking myself if it is necessary for us to value tertiary education in our country in the first place when foreign students are paying their way into our universities. It is unfortunate that our university system is heading in the direction of total failure. So many issues to talk about concerning tertiary education but for now those are not my main reasons for writing this article. The reason am putting this article together is to address an issue which is not new, yet a problem that students of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, including myself, have been complaining about for years now: The issue of accommodation.
The university recently terminated its in-out-out system where first years get the opportunity to reside in a hall of affiliation provided by the university, which the cost is included in their fees for an academic year. However, only last year this programme was aborted and students now have to look outside for accommodation in the first year since the university cannot accommodate everybody. So you can imagine a young naïve student who doesn’t know anywhere in Kumasi looking for a room to rent just to find a place to lay his head and study. It a very daunting and risky experience if you have never been through it.
The hostels are very expensive and moreover they probably may have already been sold out by the time your money is ready for payment. This is due to the high demand for accommodation especially in areas around the university environs. Someone who can afford to pay more is given the room and your money is returned back to you. You have no option than to find what they call a homstel. In case you are wondering a homstel is a smaller place you can find that is not comfortable or secured as a hostel. However, some may be in good condition depending on how much you are willing to pay.
When it comes to accommodation on campus, there are three different classes: the higher class, the middle class and the lower class, not forgetting our dear friends the perchers. In case you don’t know who the perchers are, they are those who share beds with friends, or sometimes sleep on the floor while other roommates occupy the beds. A percher as they say on campus is like a beggar who has no choice. You can only sleep when your roommates have all slept because you know they will be using the little space available in the room until they all retire to bed.
Now coming back to the classes, the higher classes are the most expensive and secured hostels you can find around on campus. They however are not only expensive but very difficult to get due to the protocol attached. Such hostels can cost between 1,000 to 1,600 GHC depending on number of room members. The middle class hostels are quite expensive but moderate and affordable to some extent. They can cost roughly between 500 to 800 GHC depending on number of room members. The last category which is the lower class stands for the homstels and hostels that are far away from campus. Though the prices for these hostels are cheap, your safety is not assured and the distance is another challenge you will have to deal with.
The problem is all about security. If not, students will be staying in these nice hostels farther away from campus, which are cheaper than those around campus. However, students do not feel safe lately on campus how much more living somewhere farther away from campus. It is a risk that only the bold can take.
Coming back to the main issue, what are the university authorities doing about it? Well, I have no idea but when you find yourself in an institution where not even government can dictate to you what to do, you find things quite complicated. Numerous petitions have been addressed to all stakeholders who matter, from radio stations to government agencies. Yet no one is willing to come to the aid of these students who are living in fear outside campus.
Why the security concerns
Through my personal observation, it has come to my realization that the reason why there is so much criminal activities like robbery in Kumasi which students are affected is economic hardship. Kumasi is one of the cities in the country that have experienced massive rural- urban migration in the last few years. Most of the young men in the city have moved to the capital city of Accra to find better jobs. There are no good paying jobs in Kumasi for the young uneducated men who will do anything to get money. As a result, they move to the city hoping to get better job opportunities. Those still around are forced to engage in criminal activities as a way to meet their basic needs. This however is to the peril of other innocent civilians who work so had to get what they earn. These criminals take up arms and attack innocent civilians for their belongings.
Now, what has made things even easier for these criminals to operate is the fact that guns are very easy to acquire. Locally manufactured pistols are easy to get without a hassle. Kumasi is noted for its big car assembling site popular called Magazine where all different metal scraps can be found. These cheap metals are used for these locally manufactured pistols. So when these weapons get in the wrong hands you and I know the ramifications. Well, I had my fair share of the experience on the morning of 15th October 2012 when I was attacked in my hostel at gunpoint. That was when I realized how serious the whole issue was. I could now relate to the crime stories I was hearing all around campus.
Students need security on campus and outside campus most especially. I can only pity the first year students who are so naive and ill-informed about these accommodation and robbery issues when they step foot on campus. Because the school authorities care little about what happens outside campus, students are left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile the university says it has no room for students on campus yet tuition is increasing each year. How do you expect students to study and pass under these conditions. It is a shame how the authorities cover up these robbery cases against students to save the reputation of the university. However, I believe the right thing must be done regardless of how much pain it will bring.
Nice one but not for my money.
A new shopping mall
“A new shopping mall complex, what for?” I asked myself the first time I heard it. Well, the argument continued till this day, and now in few weeks’ time the new facility will be inaugurated. Hmm, some leaders we have. I don’t know how the new complex is going to benefit students when there are supermarkets in every hall on campus. Atleast, the few things you will need you can find at the supermarket why go to the mall. Well, if not for personal interest, I don’t know why this redundant structure will be put up when students have nowhere to sleep. The money could have funded two or three new hostels on campus for students. This is a sad situation and no matter how long we complain little is being done about it.
The way forward
There are many solutions to this accommodation problem. However, fearing they will lose students coming to their private hostels the authorities are refusing to the right thing. Fine, if the money isn’t there, can’t we find private investors to come in and build them for their own profit if our leaders are not willing to it. It is very complicated because government cannot meddle in the university’s affairs that easily. But as said earlier, there is always a way out. The chancellor can do something about it. His Royal Majesty Otumfour Osei Tutu, who has always been a father to the entire Ashanti Kingdom, will not sit for his grandchildren to suffer like this when we are only here to study. I will urge on the government and the Ministry of Works and Housing working on the affordable housing projects at Ayigya, Kumasi to allocate some of the apartments for students since there is little hope for students to rely on the university authority to provide accommodation anytime soon. I hope some individuals or corporate body come to the aid of students in desperate need of help as soon as possible. Students are living in danger, risking their lives for a degree.
Harold Owusu Amoo