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Beside the university mosque, opposite Eni-Njoku and Alvan Ikoku undergraduate halls is the Peter Odili postgraduate hall; the only good postgraduate hall at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The hall houses both male and female students.
It embodies students from all parts of the country, with different character threats and diverse views to life; the nerds, the wannabes, the snobs, the clowns. Ninety-six percent of the students residing in the hall are unemployed. Being at the bottom of the nation’s class did not make most of these assumed mature students humble, rather they always manage to garnish their discomfit with slabs of pomposity that never fail to massage their bloated egos.
Every corner of the hall has a shop, a kiosk, a canteen, managed by people striving to make ends meet. Shedrach, a student of Econometrics has a bookshop at the entrance of the hall that displays both inspirational and motivational books.
The hall’s provision shop which also serves as drug store is managed by Oluchi and Helen who double as salesgirls and pharmacists.
Every morning, Mama Chika brings a cooler of Okpa to the students of the postgraduate hall. Students in the hall wake up every morning, repeating exactly what they do every other day, until the coming of a washerman to the hall, the opening of a laundry service at a tiny corner of the hall. The laundry shop has a table that serves as an ironing board, an electric iron, three buckets, two dozens of hangers and pegs.
The brain behind the dry-cleaning business is . He comes from a family of ten. After the death of his father in 2009, Chukwuebuka leaves his village Orlu, in Imo State to the University community to try his hands on any legal job that will help give him a clean bill of health.
After going through the main campus of the university, Chukwuebuka finds out that there is need to set up a dry-cleaning service at the postgraduate hall, as it will be the first of its kind. At the subsidized rate of one- hundred -Naira per cloth, Chukwuebuka still manages to send money home to his mother and siblings.
He also makes some painful profits from his new business for many in the hall who can afford to wash their clothes but are filled with the delusions of grandeur dump their clothes at his feet.
Many of the students he offers his services to augment the meagre money they pay him with condescending attitudes. Chukwuebuka is twenty-seven years old while majority of his costumers are his age mates; graduates, unemployed and on the verge on completing another degree. Chukwuebuka always carries out his services always wearing a smile, never allowing any form of disdain deter him from his dreams.
He starts his laundry service everyday by 07:00hours and stops around 19:00hours, from Monday through Saturday.
By 19:10hours, every Monday through Saturday, he sets up a table in front of Franco refectory; a table that contains two stoves, a frying pan, a frying spoon, a carton of Indomie noodles, a plate of pepper and tomatoes for his MASHAYI business. He runs this fast-food business until 22:00hours.
For someone who finds himself in a some worth hostile environment, he strives to make a difference and prove that illiteracy in this clime can never deter someone from making a difference. The postgraduate hall has opened his eyes to a lot of things.
Each day, he strives to brush up his tenses and change his perception about life. He feels the students in the hall will influence him and rub off their literacy on him, rather he changes them. With time, a long rope starts to demarcate the pretentious lives of these students from their real lives. It all started when a customer complains to Chukwuebuka about his financial status. Chukwuebuka convinces him to learn the dry-cleaning business. The student feels insulted but after a while agrees that Chukwuebuka will teach him in secret.
The result of his lessons is unbelievable that the student decides to share the good news with other male students. With time, majority of the male students start warming up to him. Chukwuebuka becomes a mascot to the postgraduate hall.
In his humble nature, he teaches many students the fast food business, taking out time to school the educated on the easiest way to make thousands of Naira. He is always humble for despite being twenty seven, he is more male than most males in the hall put together. With time, he joins the students in the hall in the volleyball court. The rest of the class distinction and animosity seem to melt away the first day he steps into the volleyball court.
Chukwuebuka has a large heart and never for once stops beaming his light on others despite the little money he makes and saves. As a little boy, he learns the act of baking from the aunty. Since carving out a niche for himself in the university community, he trains youths in the business of baking. His training address is ‘No 2 Obollo Road, Beach Junction, Nsukka.
Chukwuebuka is not a university graduate. His highest educational qualification is WASSCE, still he wears humility like a badge. He educates the educated, and makes them shade the cloak of pretentiousness and condescension. He is not literate but his actions and hard work have made a huge difference in the lives of the postgraduate students living in Peter Odili hall.
Somtochukwu Metu is a native of Umuchu in Anambra State. She is a postgraduate student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.