Cohabitation is a phenomenon pervading most, if not all, of the tertiary institutions in Nigeria today. The practice is so rife to the point that it has become a usual way of campus life. Cohabitation is generally seen as an act of a man and woman living together and sometimes having marital relationships without being married. Those involved see nothing wrong with it. A cursory look at our various campuses today shows that a large number of unmarried students indulge in this act.
This kind of relationships come in various guises and aliases such as campus marriages, marrying for marriage, campus coupling etc. obviously designed to give this unwholesome act an acceptable nomenclature. This growing trend is gradually eroding the level of morality among youths in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
So many reasons have been adduced for cohabiting in our institutions of learning. In one tertiary institution in Northern Nigeria, a student responded that, "We live together so that we can know each other better...but it definitely affects my studies. Another student said, "Due to lack of accommodation, I have to live with my guy and I don't see anything wrong in it."
While some cohabiting students find it difficult to live apart because of financial or academic dependency, the strong physical intimacy between them makes them think sex is love. They see sex as an end not a means to love. Instead of sexual act being a life given act of mutual love, it has become an object of abuse. The funniest and laughable part is to hear that those students who indulge in this act do so to find out if they are compatible for marriage or not.
What are the dangers in cohabiting? First, high rate of abortion in tertiary institutions can be attributed to cohabitation. These students are not ready for parenting; thus must do anything within their power not to keep pregnancies when they occur. However, it should be mentioned that abortion exposes the female partners to the risk of death or damaged uterus. Second is the threat of sexually transmitted diseases. It is common place to find both cohabitants battling with one sexually transmitted disease or the other. Third, those involved tend to indulge in vices including stealing, lying and cyber-crimes etc. in order to raise finances to keep the affairs going. Fourth is monotonous fondness. When this happens, it leads to abuse and the professed love disappears. Atimes, the females are more often than not abused and molested by their partners or "would-be husband," when they quarrel leading to grave psychological trauma that could affect their health and education.
Another important issue to note is the fact that the female students involved are like the parasitic host upon which the males feed, having to perform some domestic chores more even as student, cooking in ample quantity, washing more clothes including that of their partners. These are time consuming activities which give little or no time for studies which is the primary reason of being in school after all.
However, this does not mean that the men or "husbands" do not have their own "duties" to perform. A student in one university revealed that the men's job include to provide the conducive academic environment where the girl taps from. For example, if both students are in the same department, the intellectual effort geared towards the academic growth of the "couple" is mostly the task of the man whether he is cable or not.
Most of the students who cohabit find it difficult to graduate, and they make lower grades because there isn't enough time to read. Majority often withdraw from school, while some spend longer time than necessary as a result of carry-overs.
Relationships that were formed in school had sometimes led to marriages but that of cohabitation rarely does. This is because the economic situation will not and has not permitted most men to marry immediately after graduation. Therefore, the NYSC period will provide a vacuum that will obliterate campus life. Friendship and social networking is part and parcel of students' lives. However, the extent to how that is done matters.
In view of this, parents, more than the school authorities, have plenty work to do. Schools have little or no authority to exert on students because this cannot be happening in the hostels. Parents, who toil to see their wards through school should, as matter of urgency, form the habit of paying unscheduled visits to them in order to ascertain what they are up to. If students know that their parents could visit without notice, the extent to what they do will be curtailed.
The author is a HND II Mass Communication student of Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria.