Dating game is nice earner

July 12, 2002

The high cost of university life throughout the world is pushing more students into term-time jobs. The THES reports on some enterprising ways to raise cash.

Nigeria's 500,000 students are struggling to cope with inadequate state support as resources dwindle, and they are increasingly dividing their time between attending lectures and working in the booming "informal sector".

The sector comprises commercial activities from which the state is unable to collect any form of tax. It is the largest provider of self-employment in Nigeria.

For students, the most lucrative activity is trans-border trading: students make weekend visits to other West African countries - including Benin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire - to buy shoes, clothes, wines and trinkets that they sell to wealthy civil servants and professionals.

Clara Nkem, a second-year French student at Lagos State University, said:

"We go into these countries to buy goods imported from southeast Asia because the custom tariffs in these countries are lower than those in Nigeria.

"We sell them and make sufficient gains to pay for our tuition and off-campus accommodation."

One of the incentives for the growing number of students studying French is the prospect of becoming cross-border traders between Nigeria and its neighbouring Francophone countries.

Many students intensify their trading activities during compulsory study at the French-language school in Badagry Town, which is near the Benin border.

Bimpe Adekola, a student of French from the University of Ibadan, said: "We have established a network among the students who get some of these goods and re-sell them to their clients. This kind of trading has its own advantage in the sense that we also use this opportunity to improve our French."

After trans-border trading, the second biggest earner for students is the information technology industry on and near campuses. Cybercafés, computer shops and mobile phone kiosks are staffed by students working part-time shifts.

Many of them are employed as sales staff working on commission. Suraja Adewole, a computer student at Lagos State University, said: "The competition is very stiff. More companies are opening up their shops near campuses, and students are queuing up to be employed part time."

On campus, students drive taxis and buses owned by the student unions. Student drivers are paid a percentage of the fares collected each day.

Increasingly, however, university authorities have taken over the transport sector, alleging that it is mismanaged and that it encourages students to neglect their primary purpose - study.

The vice-chancellors' committee is contemplating the abolition of student-run campus transport systems.

Photography is another lucrative sideline. Student photographers cover ceremonies on the campus including marriages and funerals.

There is also growing employment to be found in the internet dating market.

Chime Okubo, a member of the Association of Student Photographers, said: "We have branches all over the country. Female students take pictures, scan them and place them on the internet for those who are in search of girlfriends and potential wives.

"It will be a growing business for as long as the girls dream of meeting their future partners on the internet. Campus photography makes us money to survive the rigours of campus life."

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