Thu, Jul

Ayeduase - The Ugly Concrete Jungle Beyond The Walls of KNUST

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It’s my considered opinion that, the university has enough land and number of willing to pay students to attract and organize all those interested in the hostel business to operate within the main plan of the institution; ...

I was at my alma mater the other day; and if you see how hostels are sprouting up haphazardly like weeds around the four walls of this institution, which is supposed to be the denizen of the dons in planning and engineering, you’d immediately come to the understanding that the failure to manage this country successfully, begins in our universities.

Why do I say this?

First of all, the university has two assets it’s refusing to leverage in the student facility user business, and a key safety responsibility it’s shirking in the process; while finally abandoning the aesthetic benefit of having a properly constituted university community.

What are these two assets? Currently, the university has abundant land, and secondly the market. Each student that gains admission is a potential client of the university, until the university refuses to meet their need. So what prevents them from having a fully laid out 15-20year residential plan and designs in place, so that anyone who has money to invest in the hostel business is invited to plug into this plan on a BOOT basis?

The university must make this a precondition for getting students enrolled in any hostel. While some may argue it’s a free market, it’s crucial to appreciate that the universities are first and foremost responsible for the welfare of admitted students, even before any hostel owner. As such, a well laid out plan within the university premises where provision is made for hostels, entertainment centers, technology centers, malls, and other amenities will make it easier for campus security to see to the protection and welfare of students; better than watching them hike out of campus to stay in otherwise located premises, the safety of which one cannot guarantee at the moment.

While a student, I recall I was once attacked, as early as 8:30pm, my wrist watch and mobile phone was made away with, while in the process, a knife mark was left on my wrist by the thieves. I was on my way back to my hostel then, located at Ayeduase. Many students suffered similar fates at the time. The student community did put pressure on the university authorities and the SRC at the time to do something about the general insecurity. But it was difficult, beyond cautions, for the authorities to have a hand on all areas where students reside, in hostels they didn’t go out to monitor.

As such, I find it rather strange that instead of our universities finding ways to regulate and monitor the residential status of their admitted students, the matter has been left unresolved; and hence inadvertently in the hands of private businessmen, whose main focus naturally is to charge exorbitant hostel fees, with little or no preoccupation with the general safety and welfare of students.

It’s my considered opinion that, the university has enough land and number of willing to pay students to attract and organize all those interested in the hostel business to operate within the main plan of the institution; so as to develop a well planned academic community. In the future, where land may become scarce on its premises, it’d rather be strategic for the university to have acquired lands within its environs while they were still less developed and integrate them into the larger plan. But I am told, and I don’t know whether or not the anecdote has any merit, that some lecturers and management of the university have interests in the unsightly cluster of mushrooming hostels in the university area, hence the lack of interest to plan and develop anything integral to the university. If this were true, then our selfishness and inordinate greed has failed us once again.

All that said, I believe all is not lost. I believe the University authorities can establish a checklist of minimum requirements for all the hostels around, ranging from safety, security to amenities, while keeping an updated register of students that rent and move out of these hostels; short of which the hostels may not be allowed to house students. The university can do this in collaboration with regulators of the hospitality industry. They must monitor and rank the hostels accordingly, just like is done in any hospitality business. I also think the university authorities should get to making all subsequent hostel investors buy into their own pre-planned community, to achieve a more organized and academically serene environment that is congenial for higher studies. That’s more progressive than letting an ugly conclave of unorganized concrete structures take over their outskirts in such disorderly fashion, charging students cutthroat fees, while their own vast land remains overgrown with weeds, characterized by a general sense of wilderness.


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