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How Campus Couples’ Lives Fuel Child Marriage, Broken Homes Rates In Nigeria

Expert laments rate of unwanted pregnancy,

… Govt. Charged Over  hostels Provision

Fawaz Adebisi

Living as a couple while being a student is sweet until you start to get jealous. I lived as a couple with my partner in my last relationship; it was fun, but not a day would go by without fighting. We would always argue before a day passed.

“My relationship was 60% toxic, which is why I’m afraid of getting married. I’m afraid of getting tired of my partner because I’ve been there already. It was hectic, but in the beginning, it was like heaven,” said a Higher National Diploma 1 student of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, Ogun State, who only wanted to be identified as Laide.

When Laide was a National Diploma 2 student of MAPOLY, she entered into a relationship with her ex, who, in the long run, violated her fundamental rights.

Laide, living with her lover while abandoning her rented apartment for a month, experienced violence almost every day.

However, the relationship ended after Laide discovered her ex slept with a friend of hers in the same apartment they shared.

“That day, I left for the salon and before I came back, he slept with someone I know in the same room we sleep in. I found out when I saw underwear on the floor. I confronted him, which led to an argument,” she said.

As a result, the duo ended the relationship with hatred, and she broke his TV among other properties, which made her ex threaten to stab her with a knife.

Nigeria, a country with a rich cultural heritage and diverse traditions, has been grappling with a persistent social issue that threatens the very fabric of its society: child marriage and broken homes, for a very long time.

Shockingly, students are contributing to this problem, perpetuating a cycle of suffering and heartache for countless young girls and families.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 44% of girls in Nigeria are married before their 18th birthday, with 18% married before the age of 15. These alarming statistics place Nigeria among the countries with the highest rates of child marriage globally.

The consequences are dire, with child brides often forced to drop out of school, exposed to domestic violence, and vulnerable to health complications from early pregnancy.

Students, particularly in tertiary institutions, are unwittingly fueling this crisis. In a culture where academic achievement is highly valued, students are under immense pressure to succeed.

This pressure often leads to a desire for financial security and social status, driving some students to seek out wealthy partners, regardless of age or marital status.

In some cases, students are even lured into relationships with married men, who promise to sponsor their education or provide financial support, which later results in the breaking of marriages between these men and their wives.

According to a student of MAPOLY, Mathew Piponsuhu, living as a couple means abandoning your own apartment to live with your partner as a student.

Mathew Piponsuhu, a student of MAPOLY.

However, experts have warned that the outcome is devastating, stressing that it later results in academic, financial, and psychological breakdowns for the partners.

… Only 1 Out of 7 Led to Marriage — Survey

As this reporter has gathered through a survey, only one out of seven relationships that practiced living as a couple in school led to marriage.

Including Laide’s ex-relationship, four other relationships ended, while one is working out and another led to marriage, according to this reporter’s survey.

However, it was observed that the marriage occurred because of an obstacle: pregnancy.

Speaking with the male partner of this relationship, who was a student of MAPOLY, Hammed Olasile, he explained that though there were challenges, it was an enjoyable journey for him.

In his words, “I really loved it though some circumstances came up, but we conquered them.”

However, this led to early marriage for Olasile as he and his wife had to leave school for later. Olasile now has a child and is living happily with his wife.

Almost the same is true for Oliyide Alexander, a student in Nigeria, who has been in a relationship with his girlfriend for over two years.

Although not living fully as a couple, his girlfriend would stay with him for some weeks before returning to her apartment.

Giving reasons for practicing it, Alexander said, “Some students practice it because they just want to be together with their partner, some practice it when there’s a financial issue at the moment, some practice it because they want to experience living together before marriage.”

Meanwhile, he stressed that there are many challenges to face if practicing such, adding that the most challenging one is when the lady gets pregnant.

He said, “One challenge is the risk of your girlfriend getting pregnant. This happens very often among students, especially those that are living fully together. For those cohabiting fully, you can’t have protected sex all the time, and there is a higher chance of your girlfriend getting pregnant at any time.”

He, therefore, urged students not to fully cohabit with their partners to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

The duo are still happy in their relationship, according to Alexander.

However, this is not similar for the other four relationships.

A final year student of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba (AAUA) in Ondo State, Folashade Ayanshola, narrated how she eventually broke up with her boyfriend after living with him for over a month.

According to Ayanshola, her boyfriend had issues with his house, which led to both of them living together. However, she lamented how it affected her academics.

She said she was always having fun, playing games with her boyfriend during leisure time, when she was supposed to be studying.

As a result, “he influenced me, I wasn’t motivated to read. You know, he’s not serious like me, and most times we play games. If I was living alone, I would have been studying.

“So, it affected me negatively. It didn’t lead to marriage, we fought. It was enjoyable at first, but when he started cheating, it became toxic. It didn’t yield any positive result,” she lamented.

In the same vein, she urged other students not to go into such relationships, adding that if they do, the female is always at a loss.

… It Affected Their Education – Witnesses

Students who witnessed other students living as couples in school have narrated how those practicing it end up with low grades after examinations.

A 200-level student of Medicine and Surgery at the Federal University of Health Sciences, Ila Orangun, Osun State, Aleenah Sulayman, narrated how her roommate suffered relationship trauma as a student.

Aleenah’s roommate, Sarah Olugbenga, who’s in the nursing department, was always washing her boyfriend’s clothes, cooking for him, and investing all she had in her relationship.

“She had no time for herself. She even paid for some of his upkeep and slept in his house for days, but it later affected her,” Sulayman said.

She added that Olugbenga lost focus since 100 level when she started dating her boyfriend.

“When our results came out, she managed to pass with few points, and this really affected her studies. I spoke with her and in the end, they had an argument and later broke up,” she said, adding that no value was gained from the relationship.

Consequently, Liadi Yahaya, another student in Nigeria, stressed how the practice of living as couples as a student affected his neighbour.

Liadi Yahaya, another student in Nigeria.

According to Yahaya, nothing good came out of the relationship as both partners were only distractions to each other, leading to worse performance in their academics.

“They don’t have time to study and from the information I gathered, they both failed woefully,” he said.

He added that during the relationship, the duo fought and beat each other up whenever they argued, stressing that during that period, they didn’t appear as students.

Therefore, he advised students not to be carried away to the extent of practicing living as couples, stressing that it would only be a distraction to their studies.

Subsequently, Piponsuhu, in his own words, said students go into these kinds of relationships to satisfy their sex urges only.

Citing his housemate, who practiced it with his girlfriend, as an example, he said, “From what I experienced, I’ll say it’s a bad idea.”

He therefore said both lovers can still earn trust or satisfy their sex urges even while living separately.

… Expert Laments Rate of Unwanted Pregnancy, Charges Government, Institutions to Provide Hostels for Students

In 2023, the United Nations Population Fund stated in its report that there are almost 700,000 unwanted pregnancies in Nigeria, stressing that it resulted in 300,000 unplanned births and 300,000 unsafe abortions.

Speaking with a sociologist and lecturer in AAUA, Dr. Imo Chukwuechefulam, he affirmed that living as couples as students could increase the rate of unwanted pregnancy in the country.

Dr Imo Chukwuechefulam

Describing it as alarming, he stressed that as students who practice living as couples, there is a tendency that both partners will get exposed to having unprotected sex, which could result in unwanted pregnancies.

Additionally, he lamented that unwanted pregnancies could therefore lead to abortion, which puts the life of the lady involved at risk.

He said, “It’s against societal norms. When we talk of couple’s life, it has to be accompanied by what we call marriage.

“It is a contributory factor to unwanted pregnancy among undergraduates in society. It’s a very big issue that should be given serious attention.”

To correct this in Nigeria’s institutions, especially public ones, Dr. Chukwuechefulam charged the government and tertiary institution management in the country to provide hostels for students.

In his words, the only way to get out of this menace is for these bodies to provide different hostels for students with laid down rules.

 

He said, “that is the only way, there should be a kind of hostel accomodations for students, where you have female hotels and male hostels, and there should be time for everything, just like it is done in some private universities.

 

“A place where a female student is not allowed to exceed a particular boundary, and if you’re to meet with someone for just discussion, there will be a time for you to return to your hostel.”

 

He therefore said if this is done, “our students will not have that opportunity to begin to mess up, living a couple’s life.”

 

In the same vein, he urged students to stay upright and remember the kind of background they come from, advising them not to try to impress others

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