Living away from home especially for schooling is a rite of passage most people in Ghana have to gone through.
For the student, the traditional university halls which accommodated those now in power are no longer a viable option because they now lack the capacity to house the overwhelming population seeking tertiary education in Ghana.
The hostel concept has evolved to largely fill this huge vacuum as they litter in all shapes and forms over cities and towns where tertiary education can be accessed.
Unfortunately, their form, rent and other services are not regulated but they are surely the place for average students to seek accommodation but for the rich few, apartments which come at a high rent, will do.
HISTORY OF HOSTELING
The most told stories about the evolution of the hostel could be traced to the year 1909 when a German teacher, Richard Schirrmann, noticed the need for overnight, cheap accommodation for his students during trips so that they could get other experience in addition to what they got at school.
In 1912, he established the world’s first youth hostel in Altena Castle in Germany. He also founded the German Youth Association in 1919 and as interest grew globally, youth hostel association grew in leaps and bounds.
LIFE IN THE HOSTEL
The hostel concept is not only limited to boarding and study but it also serves as a human social laboratory.
As a centre of academic and social education, life in the hostel can be a pleasant journey, in that, students within the same age range live together sharing common aspirations, sentiments and challenges.
Thus, students from the same generation with diverse backgrounds develop a great sense of intimacy while they use their absence from the family to explore the self and nurture self accountability and responsibility.
Studying and living together create a great sense of oneness among peers leading to bonding, which may be useful in the future, according to Ama Abrefa, a hostel tenant.
According to her, students tend to help each other both academically and socially when the need arises.
It is however very obvious that life outside the hostel cannot be equated to the life in a hostel; both are really opposite faces of the coin, hostel life is full of fun, amusement and youthfulness while in humble homes, chores and stark realities of life may draw energy. and zeal from the home bound student, Lawrence Abaka, a student tenant, argues.
The rooms in the hostels are usually packed so the sensitive type will have to endure the snoring, unintended flatulence that come with deep sleep and other discomforts.
However, with the cooperation of student tenants, differences can be resolved for the creation of a congenial atmosphere for academic work and social bonding.
In fit-for-purpose hostels, lounges or special rooms are available for studies and meditation but they do not come cheap.
To mitigate the effects of noise, some resort to earplugs or eye-covering sleeping masks while other endure it as an adventure and a preparation towards independent living and how to compromise with the oddities of life.
Life in the hostels encourages more social interactions between students due to shared sleeping areas and communal areas such as lounges, kitchen, study room and a lot more creating an irreplaceable bond among the students from different backgrounds and this is what students living outside the hostel miss out.
THE CURRENT SITUATION IN GHANA
Acquiring accommodation while entering the tertiary institution in Ghana is one of the major challenges students go through.
Most hostels are located far from the schools which put another financial of the cost ransportatio on them.
Ideally, facilities needed in a hostel setting are free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, TV, radio, Shower, desk and chair, study room, safe box and a commercial washing machine but the reality is that hostels are full of problems including visible cracks or even holes in walls, leaking roofs, poor sanitation and toilet facilities, poor water supply and poor ventilation.
“The disposal of sanitary pads becomes a major concern as such, that time of month is another headache for female students,” according to Pamela Naa Nio, a student tenant.
Students in higher institutions to a large extent are being deprived of their psychological needs as a result of poor hostel accommodation which hinders studies.
Mr Frank Kwaku Acheampong, an official of the Nyaniba College of Health, which charges 1000 Ghana Cedi’s or more for a bed annually, acknowledges the fact that managing a hostel is very hectic because the student tenants come from different social backgrounds and had different attitudes and behaviors .
“Student tenants, although were aware of the rules and regulations governing the hostel, would deliberately violate the rules and regulations and when they are cautioned, it leads to misunderstanding, “he said.
For most tertiary students in Ghana, the most challenging issue facing them in their pursuit of education is not the pile of assignments lecturers give them, neither is it the volume of books they have to read, nor the tough examinations they have to write at the end of the semester but finding a suitable accommodation.
The rents of some of the hostels cost more than tuition fees thus compelling some students to commute from their various homes to campus every day as they have been economically excluded from the hostel market, Mariam Razak, a student opined.
In the University of Ghana, residential rents range from GH¢853.00 to GH¢2,900.00.
At Central University, hostel rents ranges from GH¢2,900.00 to 4,700 per year.
The Ghana Telecom University College hostel rates range from GH¢1500.00 to 3500 per year.
Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) has no accommodation for students, let alone talking about rents.
In spite of the huge rents, some of these hostels do not have a study room, commercial washing machine, TV and a lot more needed to make the hostel life worth living.
THE WAY FORWARD
The Rent Control Department should have an oversight responsibility over the management of the hostels. It must come out with guidelines stating clearly which amenities, number.of students to share a room, and other things that make life relatively comfortable.
It should also issue a standard rent regime for both private and public hostels.
Tertiary instuitions should also publish avaliable hostel and hall spaces as part of pre matriculation information for students to make informed choices.
Ghanaians should be taught lessons on maintenance as it would help preserve the few amenities avaliable in the hostels.
Hostel owners must be capable of providing adequate rooms and basic academic and recreational facilities to justify their existence on the market.