An opportunity to have university education is supposed to be an exciting moment but for many freshmen, that could also be a moment of frustration and anxiety, as they are thrust into a worrying situation even before they settle down to the new phase of life.
This is because, like the biblical son of man, some of them would have nowhere to lay their heads while on campus. Gaining admission to any of the public universities in may be easier these days, but having accommodation as part of the admission arrangement is not.
In recent times, improved performances from students and the introduction of the free senior high school (FSHS) policy have tripled the number of applicants which has also impacted on the number of applicants who successfully gain admission.
With the varied programmes they offer, the University of Ghana (UG) Legon, University of Cape Coast (UCC) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) are often the first choice of majority of students.
Though the accommodation available does not commensurate with the numbers for the successful freshmen admitted each year, the KNUST and UCC have by and large, managed the situation efficiently such that accommodation for first-year students is not an issue. Even if it were, it did not leave students and parents frustrated, compared to what pertained at the UG.
For instance, the KNUST and UCC have since 2013 implemented the in-out-out-out system where freshmen are offered accommodation on admission, but subsequently from Level 200, they are required to make their own accommodation arrangements with the hostel facilities within and in neighbouring communities.
These arrangements have contributed to greatly minimise accommodation challenges in these two universities for first-year students, but their colleagues who opt to be at the nation’s premier university in Accra have no such comfort.
In-Out-Out-Out policy does magic for KNUST
As part of the in-out-out-out policy, the traditional halls of residence at KNUST are strictly reserved for only first-year students, reports Emmanuel Baah.
Aside from the university’s six traditional halls on campus, which accommodate an estimated number of 10,000 students, assigned on first come, first served basis, there are over 480 private hostels off campus that are working closely with the university, which has very much helped to resolve the issue of inadequate students’ accommodation.
For instance, this year, the KNUST admitted 15,000 freshmen and after placing 10,000 in the traditional halls, the 5,000 found accommodation at the partner hostels.
“We are expecting 15,000 fresh students. So once 10,000 of them are accommodated on campus, there are available hostels for the remaining 5,000”, Dr Noris Bekoe, the University Relations Officer (URO), told this reporter in an interview on Friday January 20,2023.
“As we speak, even managers of some of our private hostels have been complaining to us [University] that they have not gotten the full capacity of their hostels”, he emphasised.
Dr Bekoe said all those hostels were on a common online platform known as KNUST Off-Campus Students’ Accommodation Support System(KOSASS), which prospective students were accessing via https://kosass.knust.edu.gh
Also, to help students prepare adequately, the university shared the locations and the rate of the various hostels and the number of occupants per room to enable them to make informed decisions.
“So far, no student has complained of his or her inability to access accommodation”, he said, and that aside from the online platform, a desk has also been created at the University’s administration block to assist students who failed to log onto the online portal so they can secure accommodation.
“Also, our GUSS, which is our Retirement Fund, is about to build a hostel. Managers are still going through the procurement process to get a contractor to start working on it and that will also augment the accommodation on campus,” he said.
Additionally, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor said the university had annexed a private hostel near the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) which will bring on board 650 beds.
New policy, no solution
Though a new policy has been introduced by the University of Ghana management, it seems it is rather to deal with rising incidents of violent clashes among some students, rather than resolving the accommodation challenge for freshmen.
The University Council on December 12, 2022, decided to implement the recommendations from the Residence Board and the Academic Board regarding changes to student residence arrangements.
It said those changes were requested by the council following repeated incidences of violence involving students.
The measures, which took effect from the start of the 2022/2023 academic year, are to prevent future occurrences of violence.
These include all continuing students of Commonwealth Hall and continuing male students of Mensah Sarbah Hall not returning to these halls, or to any of the traditional halls.
Also from the 2022/2023 academic year, only Level 100 and graduate students (Master’s and PhD level) will be assigned to Mensah Sarbah and Commonwealth Halls and subsequently, undergraduate students will vacate the halls at the end of Level 100 and could secure accommodation in the private hostels from Level 200 until completion.
For Level 100 students who opt for traditional halls, they will be randomly assigned to the halls and progressively, all the traditional halls (Mensah Sarbah, Commonwealth, Volta, Legon and Akuafo halls) will be reserved for Level 100 and graduate students only, culminating into a full in-out-out-out policy by 2025/2026.