Every academic community has groups and units with different missions which support goodwill and welfare of members. Societies and communities thrive on these formidable groups if the overall mental and psychological outlooks of the community must be achieved

University of Lagos is not different and one is proud of the legacies the university had achieved. Just that there are times one wonders where we get some things wrong. University of Lagos has a virile and active Women Society. This comprises of non-academic and academic staff members of the university. Aside from being a formidable champion at looking after welfare of members, the society has some commendable non-profit and profit making projects within the Campus.

One of such is its ownership of University of Lagos Women Society Hostel (ULWSH), a commercial real estate or property management situated within the highbrow Distance Learning Institute. The Premium Hostel caters for female students’ community. The initiative is commendable as it helps in reducing housing shortage within the community.

Fact must be established, the price range of a room per year is beyond the confine of an average parent. Before, an average price per room with four beds per year (12 calendar months) which runs from October to September each year, goes for an average of One Million, three hundred and eighty thousands. This is to be shared at Three hundred and forty five thousand per bed space. 

There is also eight-bed per room which sum total is over One Million and Five Hundred thousand Naira per annum. The price has been recently reviewed with a four-woman (bed) per room as it is called  now stands at One Million, Six Hundred Thousand or Seven Hundred Thousand Naira per twelve months or close to two Million naira per annum depending on whether tenants are fresher or returning students.

With this premium price, one expects a top notched service and administration. But somehow the experience as a parent has not been palatable.  First, what one experienced is the impression that the hostel has a one woman Management staff who is the General Manager. The other staff are majorly security and porters who more than often cannot offer any useful information.

Ask any question relating to allocation of bed spaces after payment, usual response is ‘it is only the General Manager that assigns room based on first pay for served’. Interestingly, the General Manager may not be available for a long time as a result of personal or other official engagements. One could recollect when payment was made for 2019/2020 academic year around November 2019, room was not allocated to our ward until January 2020 on the ground that those who had paid earlier had not shown up to pick their bed spaces or room. This is an allocation that is time bound. Money, rent paid usually expires by September of the following year whether student had opportunity to stay in there for just one month. A condition that must be adhered to.  Yes the security within the hostel is great and there seems to be 24 hour internet service,  sometime erratic plus regular electricity for occupants. These are some of the unique selling points of the Hostel. But students do their own cleaning, washing etc

Unlike common occurrence of theft in the general hostel provided by the University, the ULWS hostel records almost zero personal item theft. Squatting is not also allowed within the premises. These are the strong appeal also. But with these qualities one wonders why communications with parents, relationship building with stakeholders are aberration in this premium hostel.  The hostel management has contact details of one of the parent of the occupants at least. These individuals are never contacted for whatsoever. It is only when parent/guardian drop students off at the hostel that one can hear what seems like vital information from the porters. Often, the porters may even confuse you the more. The General Manager, who is the almighty information reservoirs, is not always available.

For most time, one has to depend on grapevine with regards to what happens next. Hostel management, which the writer has come to believe to be either  a one-woman show or who just takes order, made decisions at the last minute and communicate these to whoever cares. Price changes and other vital information hardly reached appropriate quarters as at when due. There was a claim of a student representative council within the hostel, at least based on purported whatsapp group created. The group run like an average ‘market noice’ for the students. No head or tail.

Let us take a case scenario, ULWS hostel is supposed to be a yearly renewable tenancy agreement, whether school is in session or not.  Students are allowed to stay in the hostel for the period paid for. For a long time this had worked out fine. But as we know, the changing time, occasioned by COVID-19 brought changes.  Payment made for 2019/2020 was supposed to expire by September 2020. Unfortunately, wisdom demands with the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, the hostel management forced the students out of the hostel.  A seemingly breach of agreement borne out of necessity.

Couple with this, the raving almighty ASUU strike added insult upon injury. In real sense, students were not allowed back to the hostel until mid-January 2021. But management claimed it has opened its door for female occupants since August 2020. There was no communication to that effect. One even wonders which parent will allow her ward to return to hostel with the second waves of COVID-19 then. By March 2021, decision was made money paid for 2019/2020 had expired and ULWS hostel management would be magnanimous enough to allow students stayed till March 31, 2021.

A decision to make every occupant who wanted to enjoy continued stay in the hostel to pay additional rent which will start counting from April was made at the last minute. There was no communication or meeting with the parent or the students in this regard.

Left with no option, many parent had to hurriedly pay. With the presumed COVID_19 outbreak and spread   on Campus around July 10, 2021, School Management shut the school hostels for  students and lectures became virtual. True to its promise, the ULWS hostel was not closed this time around. But many parent who reside around Lagos or western states took their wards home. A month later, there has been several grapevine talks about hike in price in bed space and rooms.

Yes a soft copy letter signed on 26th June 2021which was later shared on students whatsapp group around August after most of the occupants had left the Hostel. The letter stated this hike will take effect from August 2021. Normal yearly rent always takes effect from October to September the following year. Just yesterday while we dropped our daughter, the porters said no student who had not paid the new rent will be allowed in from Tuesday August 31,2021. What a shock. What happens to use of Communications platforms  to parents before now?

What is the essence of the above, one expects a premium service from a premium service provider. Communications, stakeholder’s engagement, and proper management structure should be the hallmark of ULWS hostel.

Olaito, communications consultant, writes from Lagos.

Was this helpful?