The accommodation crisis at the University of Ghana (UG) gets worse yearly with no end in sight as thousands of admitted students fight like hell to secure comfortable residence for their academic work.
The most obvious expressions worn by scores of frustrated students are those of outright despair and distress as their quest to study in the nation’s premier university lands them in painful regret.
As usual, many freshers are left stranded with their parents after failing to secure accommodation ahead of the commencement of academic activities.
The school is yet to announce the exact figure but out of the over 15,000 students admitted this year, only about 3,000 could get room allocations.
In the 2019/2020 academic year, 18,212 students (made up of 15,167 undergrads and 3,045 graduate students) gained admission. Out of the figure, just about 10-15% could secure accommodation slots.
There are not enough beds, UG management!! Why do you admit more than you can accommodate? Is it the case that rooms are hoarded for the popular ‘protocol’ stuff? I monitored, and interestingly, all available beds finished in less than 30 minutes after the residential application portals were opened.
I am ‘trying’ to restrain myself from touching the network issues and the site jams that characterise almost all the online registration processes – talk about accommodation, course registration, assignment submission and even online registration for graduation.
Are students not tired of the promises?
The former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu promised in 2019 that UG’s Land Lease Committee was negotiating with private bodies to expand housing options for students.
“Active negotiations are ongoing over an assignment of six acres of UG land for hostel development. Meanwhile, approval for negotiation with a couple of other companies has recently been given for hostel development on a further 12-acre UG land,” he said during the 2019/2020 matriculation ceremony.
The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) wished to embark on a 2,500-bed capacity hostel project but that has not been materialised. Well, as for the SRC, it has its own issues because for two years, it has not been able to hold any proper election or an election without court injunctions and writs.
Leadership crisis wreaking havoc even the students’ front! The same people we are fighting for their welfare…mercy!!
Oh, I just remembered the 4,000-bed state-of-the-art annex for the Commonwealth Hall promised by the Old Vandals Association (OVA). This was a project to be undertaken in partnership with KPMM Civils Limited.
The same project was slapped with various issues that caused its stalemate. Not even a foundation block has been laid for its construction. Meanwhile, phase one was set to be fully commissioned within a year but as of today, ‘ayɛ Boakye bi din.’
“Hopefully, this project will take off this year with a possible completion of the first phase within one year after commencement, Prof. Oduro Owusu mentioned this at the matriculation. Even at the sod-cutting ceremony held behind the Commonwealth Hall Chapel, he made similar promises.
I fear to say that the University has not made enough effort to deal decisively with the challenge. It has not been able to undertake significant investments in construction. Okay, I should not forget that there are issues of judgment debts that the institution faces sometimes.
Prospective students and their parents must brace up for accommodation frustrations with the intake of Free SHS graduates.
As the perennial struggle for accommodation sets in again, some students who have traveled long distances to the school without securing residence say they may just have to quit altogether.
For some of them, what was to become their dream school is gradually becoming their nemesis. They had to roam the entire campus, dripping with sweats just to increase their chances of securing spots in some rooms.
“I was happy when I had the admission to study at this University because it was my dream university. The accommodation portal was opened at exactly 9 am. I was online around 8:50 am waiting for the portal to be opened so that I can be fast about getting the accommodation.”
“I was on the website by 9:02 am but any hall I chose, I was told there was no room available. I chose all the halls but there was no room, I had to set off early from Winneba to fight for a place on campus,” a Level 100 student told JoyNews’ Manuel Koranteng on Wednesday.
As it stands, the thousands of students who could not secure accommodation have to deal with their own issues by either getting a private hostel or commuting to and from their homes.
Inflated hostel fees
The quest to secure a place in private hostels is another serious stress many students, especially level 100 students who are likely to be naïve about some of these things.
Don’t forget these are times unscrupulous individuals take advantage to dupe innocent students who are desperate for peace of mind in order to study.
In my interaction with some second-year students on Wednesday, they told me they had to pay ¢1,900 or ¢2,620 per semester to get accommodation slots in these private hostels. Certainly, not all of them can afford these sums of money for every 13 weeks.
UG has also increased the residential fees for traditional halls and UGEL halls. Unlike the ¢267.00 students paid last academic year per semester, students in traditional halls will pay ¢427.00 per semester.
The University of Ghana Enterprises Limited (UGEL) Halls are also charging ¢1,490.00 per semester, an amount higher than what was paid the previous year. One can argue the impact of the COVID-19 contributed to the amounts charged in the last academic year. The modular (double-track) system also had its own role to play.
Social media reactions
When the portal was closed yesterday, #Legon trended on Twitter as some individuals lamented the inadequate time given by the authorities for the exercise. But why did they worry their heads so much?
The fact of the matter was that the rooms were finished so it was not really an issue of time. Below are some concerns shared by some of the students:
As at 9:15 all the rooms for level 100s were full hm Legon
— ?? (@Afo_ley) January 4, 2022
Desperate times call for desperate measures. We hope UG management can deal with with this once and for all because this situation many fresh students find themselves in has the potential to ruin their academic success, particularly in the first year.
We are talking about students from Enchi, Bolgatanga, Winneba, Takoradi, Sunyani, Bompata and other communities who simply cannot commute to and from such long distances each day. There are hostel facilities around but not all students can afford.
It requires a collective effort. Government should also pay attention to this crucial matter and deliver its promise made to the school.
The author, Christian Yalley, works with The Multimedia Group Limited. Views shared in this article do not reflect the position of his employers.
You can contact him at [email protected] or @YalleyC on Twitter.