Elizabeth Andreya Features Writer
Accommodation for university students has been a major challenge lately.
The rise in student population has led to challenges in providing on-campus accommodation, and problems that come with it.
Due to inadequate infrastructure, tertiary institutions have found it difficult to accommodate students, which has seen the majority of them looking for alternative residences outside campus. Accommodation outside campus, however, comes with its own challenges.
As reported recently in The Herald, landlords in Senga and Nehosho suburbs in Gweru, who offer lodgings to Midlands State University (MSU) off-campus students, are now charging monthly rentals in United States dollars.
A survey by this publication showed that new accommodation rates now range from US$35 to US$75 per room when sharing.
Previously, the students were paying $75 RTGs per head.
In an interview with The Herald, Mrs Sharon Ndlovu from Bulawayo, who has a child doing first year at MSU said she was shocked by the US dollar charges, a development she said was making higher learning expensive.
“Things are challenging now as most landlords are demanding US dollars, which are difficult to get.
“The equivalent rates in bond notes are also high, but there’s nothing we can do as parents, because we want accommodation for our children.”
She said off-campus accommodation is unfavourable as the money is required monthly.
With on-campus accommodation, she observed, one has the option to pay later, or even at once since the rates do not fluctuate.
Apart from US dollar charges that property-owners are demanding, the majority of students interviewed from other universities said the rooms were not spacious enough for them as they have to share.
Victor, a part three Engineering student at the University of Zimbabwe said students are overcrowded in most of these boarding houses.
“The rooms we stay in are not comfortable. As for me, I share a room with five other students. However, as compared to others, we are actually in a better position. In some instances, a room is shared by eight to 10 students.
“The owners of these houses only want money in their pockets. They do not care much about our health. “Last semester I was staying in a boarding house along the Chase Road in Mt Pleasant, and there was a week where everyone was complaining about diarrhoea. This could have been caused by water shortages at the boarding house,” he revealed.
Due to shortage of on-campus accommodation and high rentals being charged by property owners, “squatting” is now a common practice in tertiary institutions.
Although regulations prohibit it, the practice is fast becoming a way of life, with students “squatting” in friends’ rooms.
Off-campus accommodation is posing a lot of challenges for students, who fail to secure accommodation on campus.
This has led to immoral activities by university students, especially females, as they end up looking for “blessers” (elder men), to pay for their rentals and buy them food during the course of the semester.
It has also resulted in campus marriages, where students of opposite sex end up living together usually in a bid to minimise costs of rentals and food.
There are also reports of students being attacked by thieves at night on their way from campus libraries.
This is mainly because most of these boarding houses do not have enough facilities required by students. Only a few have reading rooms.
It is in light of these problems that tertiary institutions should work on building more hostels to accommodate students, for them to concentrate more on their studies without having to worry about how to get a roof over their heads, and where the next meal will come from.