There is rising agitation amongst students of the University of Bamenda. Prolonged electricity blackouts often unannounced have made life and schooling frustrating to many students especially those resident in Bambili, the university town.
Online learning introduced in the university at the onset of COVID-19 breakout have given rise to a rotary system of studies.
Faculties and schools are scheduled for face-to-face classes week by week. Students who are not scheduled for the week are expected to stay back at home and take lectures online. There are expected to download lecture notes, course materials, assignments, complete assignments and upload them to the learning management system, LMS while at home. The situation is made worst by prolonged power blackouts in the area accompanied by poor internet connectivity.
Students can’t log into the system in time. They are unable to submit assignments in time and at times when online classes are scheduled, students sign up for the lecture just when it’s over.
According to Tracy N., student in the college of technology, she does not feel like a university student anymore.
“I sit at home for weeks without going to school. I can’t learn online. It’s either the internet is slow or there are no lights. The university expects us to study online yet nothing works. I’m tired of this rubbish,” says Tracy.
John Paul Ful, a student in the faculty of science says the university is totally confused.
“When I went home for weekend in Bamenda last Friday, I logged into my account and discovered about seven assignments with deadlines today. I did not have any knowledge when they were uploaded. Teachers and the university authorities enjoy the comfort of Upstation and they care less about students. They should force Eneo to bring lights or end this thing called online studies,” he said .
High cost of documentation
Documentation operators have also been affected and the burden pushed to the shoulders of students. Typing and printing services have witnessed an increase as well.
Photocopying a page that used to cost 10frs or 20frs now cost 25frs while typing and printing a page now costs 100frs up from 50frs and above. Documentation operators who now operate fully by generator power have argued that the price hikes is as a result of them being compelled to function only with generators.
They say at times electricity goes off for days and even when it’s reinstated, it comes with low voltage, short enough not to power machines.
Silence of university authorities
University authorities have maintained sealed lips so far as there seems to be no return soon to the classroom studies by all students at the same time.
The institution has not questioned the poor treatment of the university town by Eneo but insist the online system of studies and rotatory face to face classes is the only way out in the context of COVID-19.
Empty hostels in Bambili
The persistent blackouts have caused a mass exodus of students out of Bambili into main town Bamenda in search of electricity and and internet connection. Parents who had paid rooms for their children in Bambili are now forced to be paying transport for their children to leave from home and school in Bambili despite paying rooms in hostels around the university.
It is feared that if the situation is not addressed soon, Bambili might soon be a deserted town, caused by Eneo . Lecturers and most staff of the university live in Bamenda and come to Bambili only during working hours. Even at that, when in office, they use generators to power their computers.