The season is clearance and course registration occasionally raining misery upon University of The Gambia (UTG) attendees.
As it is a severely necessary requirement that, after paying for a semester’s tuition at the bank, you are cleared (payment confirmed) to be allowed access to register for courses, the late weeks of September walking into the newborn, naïve weeks of October have proven to be a path of pikes bursting meaningful balloons of time and bleeding students dry of patience. Being an institution spanning over eight faculties with an average enrollment range of 2,000 to 2,999 students, a colossal number of this statistical crowd journeys to the accounts office at the Kanifing campus to get their payments confirmed, freshman and seasoned students alike.
Early birds with generous luck, for the most part, end up holding the fortune to join a class with little to no complexities, but those with grey luck who have lost hours within a mob of angry bodies and air stale with murky sweat could lose the chance to join a class required that semester and may have to decide to go for a different course just to fill in the gap. A rather piteous and ire-inducing situation as there is only so much an active three to four workers can do for hundreds of schoolgoers at a time.
“Coming from Brikama, I have to wake up as early as 6 am to make sure I get cleared as fast as possible, and if it happens that I am not cleared on that day, I have to go back and come another day,” bemoaned Alpha Omar Sidibeh, a second-year student reading Development Studies at the UTG. Passionate about speaking on the hurdles most of them face come the start of a semester, Sidibeh shed light on one of the profound difficulties students encounter at large. “If you are not cleared fast enough some of the classes you planned to register for get full and now you are in a dilemma, checking the portal from time to time to snatch a course that has a free spot to fill in the gaps for the standard six-course per semester requirement.”
Seeing as the accounts office operates on student activities three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and closes by 4 p.m. when asked about what can be suggested to the UTG administration to make the whole clearance experience easier for students, Sidibeh suggested. “My idea is decentralization. The administration has to be decentralized, a clearance office should be in Brikama, we are moving to Faraba, thus there should be one in Faraba as well. Wherever UTG has a campus, a clearance office should be present there.”
Another UTG student who wished to remain anonymous took us through a macroscopic view of what might lead one to spend an unreasonable amount of time getting cleared. “If you come late, the probability of you being cleared is highly unlikely because people have different issues when they go for clearance,” he said.
He explained that some people experience issues where they pay their tuition but the amount is not indicated in the system and if not settled immediately once the receipt received from the bank is lost, the money paid is null and void and another payment would have to be made, whereas others are there to settle arrears. All these issues factor towards how long a queue might last. “Some can go in and be there for as little as five minutes and others can go in and last as long as 25 minutes. Thus you can be cleared on the very same day provided that you come early and don’t have any issues with your payment.”
No matter how early you go you will find about a hundred people queuing and another hundred booked on a list being passed around incoming students and ready to be called once it is toppling at the brim with names.
“Sometimes you have to wait for the workers to begin, you can be there as early as 7:00, or 7:30 a.m. and they won’t start until 8:30, 8:45 a.m. the earliest, and 9:00 at the latest. People like me who have to go to work will have to plan their schedule or they end up losing an hour or two they could be spending at work.”
Classes have now begun for a better chunk of the school and there are still students lining the slim halls on the way to the accounts office at the peace building, to get cleared, some of whom would not be able to register for certain courses they need because the classes will be full by the time they are granted permission. Thus the question stands, how can students be offered a more luminous, less tiring back-to-school experience come next season?