Nigeria’s struggling economy is pushing many parents and guardians over the edge as they find it increasingly difficult to muster the financial resources to see their children and wards through school.

This situation is forcing many of the estimated two million undergraduate and graduate students of Nigeria’s over 170 universities to get creative, enterprising and sometimes daring in the deployment of trade, skills and craft to make ends meet and take some of the financial burden off their parents and guardians.

Consequently, campuses of Nigeria’s higher institutions have become beehives of small businesses fluttering to meet myriad needs on- and off-campus.

Many students are also making strides in the tech industry, developing mobile apps, websites, and software solutions that address a range of issues from education to healthcare.

Visits to various campuses across the country showed students are engaging in various businesses, from computer centres that offer secretarial services, quick-fix catering services providing food and snacks routinely and at occasions, estate agency services helping mostly fellow students to find accommodations on- and off-campus, laundry and cleaning services, down to small-scale retail enterprises like selling of clothes, jewelry, affordable bags and shoes, and many more.

There are also photography, gaming and betting, hairdressing, manicure, pedicure and attendant ornamental services as well as musical/comedy shows and movie nights run by students.

Tosan Edawa, a student of Novena University, Ogume, Delta State, told The Nigerian Observer that she does online marketing, selling clothes on WhatsApp and Facebook.

“I sell male and female clothes. These include trousers, jersey vests, crop tops, gowns, high heel shoes, canvas, and even jewelry such as earrings, wristwatches, necklaces and bangles,” Edawa said.

Edawa gets her supplies from wholesalers in the commercial cities of Onitsha and Lagos and her profit margins depend on the prices at which she buys and sells the items.

“The profits range from N500 to N4,000 per unit of clothing or accessory. I make these profits daily because it’s an everyday business. I post the pictures of the items I sell on social media, particularly WhatsApp and Facebook,” she said.

On the average, her monthly profit can range from N11,000 to N30,000 in a month depending on the level of patronage for each month.

“I manage this small-scale business alongside my studies so I can make ends meet while waiting for money from my parents,” she said.

Hannah Pelumi, a 300-Level student of Mass Communication in Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State, said she makes hair for students and lecturers and also for the indigenes of Akungba.

“Mostly, I do braids, Ghana weaving and I also make cap wigs. The customers come with their synthetic hair attachments and I provide the hair creams needed to make the hair as well as the comb and cutting comb,” she said.

As at 2019 when she was a fresher, she charged N1,500 for braiding but later raised the price to N3,000. Even then, she charged students less for braiding, about N2,000, but for lecturers, she gave them the regular price of N3,000.

“Currently, however, I charge between N4,000 and N5,000 to make braids. That’s the fee for my workmanship. I make approximately N20,000 a month, and that goes a long way to lift the financial burden off my parents,” she said.

Iretioluwa Kehinde, also a student of Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba, Ondo State, renders secretarial services to students using her laptop.

“I charge N200 to type a page and sometimes I give N50 discount to compensate those with many pages to type. I type over 200 pages per day. I also do assignments for students, which I have to also type for them,” Kehinde said.

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But that is not all that Kehinde does to augment the allowance from her parents. She also makes hair at weekends.

“Sometimes I render home service, for which I automatically increase the charge to make the hair by N500. Alongside hair dressing, I also fix nails for female students,” she said.

A student of Edo State Polytechnic, Usen, who gave his name simply as Adie, said he writes library assignments for students at the rate of N2,000 per assignment.

“N500 from the N2,000 charge is for printing out the assignment, while N1,500 is my profit,” Adie said.

He also worked as a PoS attendant after school hours where he earned N500 daily.

“With the money I was paid, I bought my own PoS machine and became my own boss. Now I make over N2,000 daily and about N35,000 per month because I work on and off since I have to attend to my studies,” he said.

Adaezee Oma, a student of Benson Idahosa University (BIU) in Benin City, learnt tailoring before going to the university.

“Being a student and at the same time a nursing mother, I have to create measures that will serve as financial assistance while schooling.

“I make beautiful children’s outfits and sample them online, thanks to social media that helps us to network. People/parents from far and near often place orders for their children and relatives. This is how I started making money from dressmaking,” Oma said.

But beyond selling clothes that she makes, Oma said she also ventured into bedding accessories including duvets, bedsheets and pillowcases and the like, and she also makes window curtains to expand her sources of income.

“My take-home (profit) is about N80,000 to N100,000 in a month when the tide of business is good, but as you know, there will be high tide and low tide. Business is not always good and rosy,” Oma said.

“Over the years I advanced into making adult outfits. I also sell children’s pyjamas and bed accessories. I have part-time workers who work while I receive lectures. The amount I pay them depends on the type of clothes they make and the quantity the are able to produce while I am away. I always strive to ensure that they get due value for their service,” she said.

Nigerian higher institutions are brimming with student-led entrepreneurial ventures. From tech startups to innovative service providers, students are no longer focusing only on academic pursuits but are also venturing into the world of business. This growing trend may be a reflection of a shift in the traditional perception of students as mere recipients of knowledge to proactive contributors to the economic landscape.

Many campuses are also aiding this development by providing a collaborative environment through entrepreneurship clubs, workshops, and startup incubators that foster a culture of innovation. This not only helps students connect with like-minded individuals but also provides access to mentors and resources critical for business growth.

An expert in the education sector told The Nigerian Observer that this entrepreneurial wave sweeping across the country’s higher institutions is a welcome development.

The wave, the expert said, is driven not only by a desire for financial independence but also a passion for problem-solving and a hunger for real-world experience, adding that it is breeding a new generation of business leaders who are unafraid to turn their ideas into reality.

The expert, who does not want to be named, however, said running a business while still in school is not without its challenges as it has the potential to distract the student and ultimately affect his or her academic performance.

“Balancing academic commitments with the demands of running a business requires effective time management and resilience,” the person said.