6 Jun 2014

An Idiot’s Guide to Federal University Life Hacks.

So you go to a federal university, university of Technology, College of Education or Polytechnic. Congratulations! You’re officially a ward of the federal government itself and contrary to all that you have heard (not that the crippling corruption you have heard about isn’t true) being a ward of the state does come with its own benefits. That’s what this idiot’s guide is about; the not so secret perks of going to Federal universities and enduring megalomaniac lecturers and the ever eminent risk of a strike. Before we get to the meat of this article, we should clear up a few things first.
1.      You should share this article. I mean it, you really should. Federal university Life Hacks won’t suddenly be withdrawn because a lot more people started using them. They’re there to be used. Don’t be a jerk, share this article.
2.      Discretion is advised. We won’t be liable if you misuse any of the information you’re given here. So don’t get any funny ideas.
Now that we have that all cleared up, let’s get to it.

The first, biggest and most important life hack
of Federal Universities is that blue plastic card you are issued along with your identity card sometime in your freshman year. In case you don’t realise, that is not a hospital card, it’s an insurance card. Basically, it means the government has chosen to pay for a huge percentage of all the medical expenses you will incur during your duration in their federal university. Now this isn’t to be mistaken with the medical fees you pay every year as part of your school fees; those medical fees are for every consultation you will have with the school’s medical team at their sickbay. Let’s hold up a minute and ponder this. Every single medical bill you will be handed in the duration of your stay in a federal university will be ‘free’*. Why then are you spending two thousand naira every month buying anti-malarial drugs that are probably fake from that chemist man outside school?
Student medical insurance is used by less than 5% of all federal university students. That means if the annual budget for medical insurance is 1 billion naira, we are only using fifty million naira a year.  Do you know what happens to that excess money? Someone gets tempted and embezzles it. This is how to use your God-given insurance.
-          First, stop self-diagnosing/self-medicating. Just because you have a fever doesn’t make it malaria.
-          Second, go to your school’s sickbay and open a file with them. Only takes at most an hour and two passports, and that patient card will serve you for the rest of your service year.
-          Third, when you feel unwell, go to the hospital immediately. Do not wait for the queasiness to pass or the fever to go hopefully go down. Your sickbay is a federal institution, and like all federal institutions will probably have queues and bureaucracy. Going immediately you feel signs of ill-health will ensure you get treated early enough.
-          Don’t hide your symptoms or lessen them. If you feel pain in your chest along with the fever, say so. Any tests you need to take to ensure you get a proper diagnosis will also be covered by your federal insurance.
-          When drugs are prescribed to you, go to the sickbay’s dispensary. If they have the drug in stock (as they do for most major illnesses) it will be given to you free of charge or at most for a huge discount.
Your medical insurance doesn’t just stop at treating diseases. It also covers optical, dental, physiotherapy and reproductive healthcare. If you use your school’s opticians your lenses will be free or highly discounted, your dental check-ups will be free or discounted as well and if you never want to buy a condom, the sickbay’s reproductive health centre has got you covered. Now that you know all this, go and waste your money on healthcare no more.

Hard to believe but every federal university has a guidance and counselling department. This is a department filled with nothing but trained psychologists, just waiting to offer a non-judgemental shoulder to cry on as well as the best advice you will probably hear concerning any and everything university. Ever felt like you were studying the wrong course and needed someone to talk to about it? Someone’s waiting to give you advice about the university’s policy on credit unit transfers. Going through a break up? Someone’s waiting to help you get through it. Drowning in academic debt; the G&C can help you apply for scholarships and give you advice on how to get your state bursaries. In fact, in some universities, the individual faculties have been given their own personal Guidance and Counselling units separate from the main department. You don’t have to go through university alone, if you need someone to talk to who doesn’t have GENS 201 with you, you know where to go.

You see them everywhere, and you probably ignore them or at most offer mumbled greetings. Very few of us actually stop to strike conversations with them but even then it’s usually superficial surface stuff. But what you don’t know, is that you’re failing to tap one of the least used university resources; non-academic staff. Yeah, that’s right. The cleaners, secretaries, messengers and typists; relics of a hierarchy that has been all but eradicated by the PC, non-academic staff are great to have on your side because everyone ignores them, including your lecturers, professors, heads of departments and V.C; and while they’re being ignored, they hear EVERYTHING (well almost everything). A good person to befriend would be the non-academic staff who work in your Head Of Department’s office, if you can manage to put and keep yourself in their good books, then there is little of importance that that will happen in your department that you won’t hear about, well in advance before it trickles down to the students. And knowledge is valuable currency.

Even in our federal universities with all the social decline, there is a lot of money just waiting to be taken, or earned. First off is the bursary allowance; an allocation of funds set aside by your state government to subsidize your university experience. The values of Bursary allowances change from state to state and it’s only given once a year so it’s not something you should invest too much on. But it is free money and all you have to do is show up with your student I.D and state of origin cards. There are also state scholarships set aside for a specific number of students every year. As with the bursary, the criteria for eligibility and the amount given changes from state to state, but I can say for certain, the more exotic/practical the course you want them to pay for, the more likely you will get their money. Then there are the essay competitions. There are usually between four to twenty on offer every year, exclusive only to university students. With cash prizes going anything from fifty grand to five million; totally worth setting aside an afternoon and hunker down to fork out 5000 words on climate change or something like that. Finally there are the academic eligibility grants like the NDDC student grants that offer scholarships to students from the region with over 3.90 and above GPAs. Every geographic region has something similar. If you work to keep a 4.0 GPA, doesn’t hurt to get paid for it.

Everybody needs internet in university, whether to download some ‘salacious’ videos, waste your day replying tweets or reading up on Wikipedia about quantum physics. Well what do you know; your federal university is offering you a minimum of four years of free and reasonably decent internet. I don’t know about you but even the thought of it gives me the good chills. As part of a plan to make federal universities 21’st century friendly, they all got outfitted with internet capability. Some even have the good old and indefatigable LAN internet. This could save you thousands in internet fees. But only if you bother to use it. Many people get turned off it by the login screens they usually encounter. Fear not, this is simply to ensure outsiders (non-students) can’t just waltz in and plug up their laptops, denying you the real student access. Getting a username and password is relatively simple. An account has already been created in your name; one has been created for every student. But internet cannot be forced down the throat of the disinterested, so the university doesn’t activate any of these accounts until you ask them to, in writing. For more advice on how to go about getting your account activated, see you Guidance and Counselling Unit.

For the best views of the school open to students, this is where you need to go:
-          Top of the Architecture building. Usually one of the tallest buildings open to students where you’re allowed to climb the roof, your school’s arch building gives all the views. And the building itself is usually a visually aesthetic delight that you can have a wonderful time exploring inside if you’re afraid of heights. If you do go to the roof, please don’t get any ideas.
-          School Dam/River/Lagoon. If your school has a Dam, then it probably has a lake and some sort of water works. For scenic walks with your significant other, or just want the feels for yourself, then you know where to go. This scenic beauty is probably amplified if your school’s large water body is a river or Lagoon. Feels in excelsis.
-          Top floor of the University Library. Sure the books are outdated and largely useless to you in this digital age, but when it comes to ambience and that unforgettable old book smell, and then your school’s main library shouldn’t be allowed to go to waste. It helps when you’re a book geek. You appreciate it more.
-          Botanical/Zoological garden. Most schools have some sort of botanical garden. Allowed to grow wild mostly and usually open to students during the day. Retreat into nature.
-          Drama Village. Most school’s theatre arts department have some sort of oratory/acting space called a ‘drama village’ where the thespians hone their craft. The construction is usually quirky and aesthetically pleasing and the plays while very stimulating is also ridiculously cheap. Would be a shame not to use such a resource.

I guess a better headline would be free food but of course we are never that lucky. A relic of the good old days when hostel cafeterias actually gave free food, there are a good number of ‘cafeterias’ or ‘mess halls’ scattered around your hostels and social centre. They offer the cheapest food on campus, for those times when your pocket is lean and you’re tired of drinking garri. The food might taste like cardboard but at least you won’t go to bed hungry.

We at 9JEducation believe in crowdsourcing, so if you know any other federal university Life Hacks, do share them in the comments section.

From us, we say ‘Hello’.

Okolo Edwin.

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