By Zariat Yetunde Ayoade
“It was a Friday morning, my test was scheduled to hold at 8am. I woke up and prepared for school. I stood at the bus stop as early as 7am. And for more than an hour, I could not get a bike or bus to convey me to school. At 8:05am, I saw a fellow coursemate who already got a bike, and she offered to help. We boarded the bike together and, on getting to the test venue around 8:15am or so, the lecturer had already closed the door. I missed my test that day. It was a heartbreaking and traumatizing experience.”
These were the words of Oluwaseyifunmi David, a student at the Department of English and Literary Studies, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS), who recounted her sad experience of being a resident at Kwakwalawa.
Kwakwalawa is a small village after the First (Bilya Sanda) Gate of UDUS. The village is rumoured to accommodate a majority of students living off the school premises because it is the closest to the school and also affordable. Owing to the insufficient provision for accommodation in the school halls of residence, most students have to live off campus. The Increasing rate of students living in the area (Kwakwalawa) has made the request for a bus stop a necessity.
Oluwaseyifunmi has inhabited Kwakwalawa for more than a year. She applied for bed space at the university halls of residence, but it fell through.
“Kwakwalawa is not a bad place to stay. The transportation issue is worrisome. You can stand for hours and not get a bike or bus to take you to school and, perhaps, when you later see the bike, they charge you an exorbitant amount, like N200, because they know you won’t easily get another one. This happens mostly when [I am] having morning and evening lectures,” she lamented.
According to her, having a bus stop at Kwakwalawa will aid her movement to school, especially in the mornings.
“Coming back is not a problem. You can easily follow the bus going to Dandima,” she noted.
And it’s a family headache
“In a month I spend over N8,000 as transport fare between Kwakwalawa and school,” Filofoye Abiodun, who is also a resident at Kwakwalawa, aggregated his transportation expenditure.
Transportation is a pressing issue students residing in Kwakwalawa face. Some have to trek from Kwakwalawa to school.
“There are days I get to school late due to the unavailability of bike or bus to convey me to school. Some lecturers send me out of class for coming late,” Filofoye lamented.
“I remember the day of our orientation. I was supposed to have two tests. One was 8am. On getting to the main road, I could not find any bike or bus. I trekked to my faculty [of Social Sciences] but later got to know that the two tests were not going to take place,” he recalled.
“Assuming there is a bus stop at Kwakwalawa, it would reduce the cost of transportation. However, the challenge is if students can wait since it’s an eighteen-passenger bus,” he doubted.
“I was coming back from night class, around 9pm. I know that was too late for someone not staying in school hostel but I had an assignment to submit the next day. I could not get a bike to convey me to my hostel because it was too late, so I had to trek. Trekking alone as a lady around that time was risky. So, at the slightest sound I heard, I ran into the bush for safety. Without knowing what was coming behind me, I still had to run to safety,” Mercy Agunbiade, a 200-level student of Mathematics recounted her ordeal with transportation problems in Kwakwalawa.
According to her, she preferred off-campus because she likes having her privacy.
“I enjoy staying in Kwakwalawa than the school hostel because I like my privacy. Getting a bike or bus has not been easy especially when having 8am lectures or night reading.
“A bus stop or at least a means of transportation is a beautiful thing. It will ease the burden on us. Even if it is not a bus, it can be a tricycle that will have a fixed price,” she suggested.
“I don’t think I can patronize buses during exam or test periods because I might not have the patience to wait for the bus to get filled up, but during lecture time, I can manage,” she confessed.
This reporter gathered that the shuttles that convey students from Dandima to school are 18-passenger buses and that it takes time to get 18 passengers to fill up a bus in Kwakwalawa as most students prefer bikes.
Abeeb Abdulroqeeb is a final-year student at the Faculty of Education, who has stayed in Kwakwalawa for about 5-years.
In his words, “I remember how, in my first year, there was a park at Kwakwalawa, but the drivers hardly saw students to patronize them”.
However, he noted that students living in Kwakwalawa during that time were not as many as those currently living there and went further to ascribe the lack of bikes to the surge in population.
Although Habeeb maintained that, “I have never missed tests or exams due to unavailability of bike but I have missed lectures”.
According to him, even if they can’t have a bus now, tricycles represent an affordable alternative, if only students can be considerate.
“It can’t be easy for the driver to take 2 or 3 passengers to school. But students might not want to wait for passengers to fill up the vehicle. If only the students can consider the drivers too, it will be better,” he opined.
“I stayed in the hostel for two years, but it was a not-so-good experience. And I decided to have a change of environment in my third year,” Hassanat Alabi, a 300-level student at the Faculty of Arts, looked back her decision to change her environment.
“Kwakwalawa is not a bad place to stay because it is close to school, you can decide to trek if there is no bike or bus. It is stressful but at least it will save you from missing lectures,” she submitted.
For Hassanat, a means of transportation is not her problem.
According to her, “I mostly have afternoon lectures. I don’t remember having 8am lectures this semester so I transport to school easily. The only time I have problems is when I stay back to read in school. The bike men charge exorbitantly around evening time”.
Drivers Kick against ‘Kwakwalawa Bus Stop’
“The inability of the students at Kwakwalawa to wait for the bus to full, is one challenge that would hinder having a bus stop there. I don’t know if they can meet the Dean of Student Affairs to make plans on providing buses for Kwakwalawa residents, with the condition that they would wait for the bus to full before conveying them to school,” Mr Sanusi Musa, the Chairman of the Drivers Association, Main Campus, suggested, citing concerns that the idea of having a bus stop is not a good one for him because a majority of students come from town to school or from school to town and not Kwakwalawa.
Speaking further, he recollected that, “students started living in Kwakwalawa recently. Some years back, there was no hostel at Kwakwalawa, which was why they don’t have a bus stop. The population of passengers in Dandima bus stop is high, compared to Kwakwalawa.”
“Our main challenge is the lack of co-operation from students, because as soon as they are ready to enter school, they would not want to consider the driver and wait for the bus to full. Some would rather take a tricycle or bike,” he complained.
“In my own view, providing a bus stop at Kwakwalawa is of no importance. We can pick and drop students at Kwakwalawa if they like, but if we attempt to park a bus there, and wait for it to full, you can spend the whole day before filling an eighteen-passenger bus. They can collect bike men phone number. When they are ready for school, the bike man will come and pick them and drop them back,” Mr Abu Wa’is, a bus driver at the school bus stop objected to the idea of having a bus stop at Kwakwalawa.
We will look into it — Student Union President Promises
Lukman Sanusi, the Student Union President of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Student Union, assured that his administration will address the problem.
Speaking with this reporter, the president admitted, “This issue is a vital one that contain the student interest and it is our top priority. Myself and my cabinet members will seat and discuss this issue so we can come up with a workable solution for all parties concerned.”
Dean Student Affairs Gives Hope
In an interview with the Dean of Student Affairs on the probability of having a bus stop in Kwakwalawa, he noted that “Dedicating a bus [to Kwakwalawa residents] will be a loss to the drivers because they might not have enough passengers. However, tricycle is a means of transportation the school can look into as an alternative mode of transportation for the students.”
The Dean told this reporter that he has spoken with the chairman of the tricycle association and that “he assured me that he will speak with the other drivers and get back to me.”