Feeling Sandwiched

There’s been talk of whether Ghana is back to its dumsor (wide spread power cuts) days or not. If it wasn’t a serious matter, it would actually be amusing when you hear government officials playing at semantics, trying hard not to paint things black. This country, eh. No wonder some people make it a point to deliver their babies (the Tokumbos) in countries where things work with Britain and America being destinations of choice. But with the way things are going- Black people getting shot at in the USA and the UK “leaving” Europe, well, it feels as if there is no place to go. Better manage what you have. Reminds me of the University of Education, Winneba. Yes, Winneba again! I never did finish my chronicles, you know. I think I got fed up a bit.

The second Sandwich session was particularly trying. Not academically. Thankfully, I don’t have a problem with “school work”. What my intelligence struggles with is with systems which are crooked or where the expected behaviours in terms of cause and effect are not explicit. But the second session brought with it social challenges. Nothing really worked well.

Chronic water shortages plagued the entire northern campus where many of us resided. One weekend, there was a general exodus away from campus because living without water had become unbearable. As Ghanaians we are used to a certain level of discomfort and hardship. But you know it’s bad when it’s bad. And this came without warning. And there were no explanations. Silently, as if they did not exist, the hostel management slunk into the shadows, unable to provide alternatives. Eventually, a water tanker came and filled the water tanks. But like pouring water on dry ground, it got used up very quickly.

The night before exams week, the taps stopped flowing. And then the lights went out. With a torch light, I managed not to burn my supper. And when I got tired of staring at the dancing shadows cast by candle light (nothing romantic about that, I assure you), I gave up and called it a day.

The power. I wouldn’t fuss so much considering that the entire country was wallowing in the power crisis infamously called dumsor. However, when you pay good Ghana cedis to ensure that you have backup supply especially at night and that supply isn’t delivered, then there’s a problem.

On the way to my hostel, there is a signboard that promises you, if not a patch of heaven, then at least a stress-free environment in an otherwise tedious learning space. It uses words like “serene” and “comfort”. And below a picture of a building, there is a list of amenities you just can’t resist- wireless connectivity, mini market, a restaurant. Now, don’t believe everything you see. The word restaurant was used in the loosest sense possible The wireless had never worked. The university’s internet server was down so the entire university was disconnected except for, in the words of one lecturer, “where the big men are”. Imagine trying to do any meaningful research in libraries where the useful books are locked up in glass cages and you need a special permit to access them.

But the main thing students were counting on was the generator sets. Those machines are the most temperamental I’ve encountered. Sometimes they are on, sometimes they are not. And when they do come on, they don’t power the entire place. The night before exam week, no one even bothered to turn them on for anybody.

The curious thing I found about all this was the information blackout. It is as if we had handed our monies to ghosts who mysteriously disappeared when there was a problem. But they are there bright and early to tell you to move out of your room. A student, who also happened to be a lawyer, threatened to sue them for unlawful eviction. They were trying to get us out of our rooms before the session was out. And I’m not talking about just any random hostel. I’m talking about the SSNIT Hostels, Ghana. My flatmate blamed it on the fact that it is run by a government agency. She said that it seems to be a rule of thumb that anything with the name “Ghana” attached to it is apt to be mismanaged no matter how good intentions might be. There we go again with how made in Ghana things struggle to work well. Do you think if the Electoral Commission of Ghana had removed the Ghana from its name during their rebranding efforts, it might have solved half the problem?

Dead bulbs, incompetent cleaning women, blocked sinks, smelly bathrooms, agile mosquitoes. So much for expecting serenity and comfort. I should’ve read the fine print.

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