There are different types of small businesses in University of Lagos (Unilag), from cafe, to restaurant, mom and pop store, and then there’s bedspace sellers.
The bedspace market is a seasonal trade that hits its peak period every new semester when students are about to resume for another 20 weeks of lecture – and Unilag is currently in the bedspace sales season.
Failure to secure a bedspace during a one day balloting period organised by the school authority makes an undergraduate a victim of overnight entrepreneurs who exploit fellow students without hostel bed spaces.
One bedspace for N160,000
During the balloting session which takes place within eight hours, over 50,000 students are expected to vie against each other for 8,000 bedspaces.
The remaining 42,000 undergrads are left to find shelter for themselves by renting bedspace in off-campus apartments, which cost above N300,000.
The number of bedspace in each Unilag hostel room varies, but on average there are at least four in each female room, and six in the male’s. The school has about 10 hostels.
Due to the cost of bedspace off-campus, the struggle for the balloting process involves even non-Unilag students participating to help increase the chances of their relatives or friends schooling there.
A student, who chose to speak to Ripples Nigeria on condition of anonymity, said, “I balloted for myself, my brother balloted for me, and some of my friends; more than four people. I forwarded my details to some of my WhatsApp contacts, and I couldn’t get through (bedspace).”
The same student had tried last year as well, but wasn’t lucky enough to secure a bedspace, “It’s competition. There are thousands of students trying to get into hostel. It’s by luck. I tried last year, I couldn’t get in, this year, I also tried, I couldn’t get.”
The student spent over N4000 to get people to help ballot, while some paid between N10,000 to N20,000 depending on the person that wants to ballot on the undergraduate’s behalf.
Another source vying for bedspace in female hostel, confirmed that eventual winners of the bedspace, that happen not to be students interested in living on-campus, also conduct their own bid process after that of the school authority.
Resellers ask for N160,000 to N200,000, depending on the hostel, and the highest bidder among the 42,000 stranded students gets their bedspace slot – this is 540 percent higher than the school management leases (N25,000) the bedspace for the semester, and at least extra N135,000 for the student reselling.
In context, Unilag fresher’s school fees for medical students is about N66,000, and non-medical students pay around N56,000, while returning students pay above N19,000 and N14,000 respectively.
Unilag management’s inability to provide adequate number of bedspace for its 50,000 students causes overcrowding in the school’s hostel rooms.
A female room that has at least four bedspaces, ends up housing four more students who couldn’t secure a bedspace, hence, an average of eight female students in one room meant for four.
The male hostel is worse, with about 20 students occupying a room that is meant for six to eight students, as majority of the occupants sleep on the ground.