Garikayi Chipfunde, Analysis SECURING a place to study at a university is one of the most exciting stages in university life for many, as it means further dispensation from expanding their knowledge and better job opportunities in the market.
We start aiming high and expect only an exhilarating university experience.
However, most would find their dreams stunted by the torturous road they would take to reach their intended destination.
There are a coterie of challenges, but what has become common to most universities is the unavailability of on-campus accommodation.
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It has become a crisis for most students which negatively impacts their productive hours and exciting college experience.
The experiences of Nombulelo and Kudzai are revealing. The two were excited after being offered places at one of Zimbabwe’s universities.
They thought they were going to be housed in a very conducive and peaceful learning environment. Having been to boarding school for most of their school career and coming from a family that does not know how to live frugally, it never occurred to them that they were going to face such problems at the establishment. of higher education.
They packed up leaving their leafy, comfortable homes for a new one – the college campus, only to be told that on-campus housing was scarce.
Nombulelo and Kudzai got stranded and phoned their parents whose connections couldn’t help them. Growing up in boarding schools, the two weren’t streetwise.
It was after consultations that they were directed to places closer to their university where there were places to stay.
Their hopes of being able to get single rooms went up in smoke when they realized they had entered an area of no frills landlords whose home rental businesses had taken over the pride and profit of the home business. sweet gold.
Their need for something called intimacy has led them to resist several temptations from “well-wishers” trying to trap them at every turn.
After exhausting all attempts, they finally settled for a single room in a certain house where they had to share with eight other students to make ten, each of them having to pay US$120 per month.
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They had no choice but to use the money they had planned for their upkeep, including food and other needs that would see them through the end of the month.
“It is not easy to find accommodation on the university campus. It’s first come first served. We paid our fees and registered last minute so all accommodations were taken.
Only the highest admissions like quarters and a few others are housed inside the campus. Worse still, we even struggled to find off-campus accommodation.
“Off-campus accommodation is expensive without the corresponding facilities. In the entire five kilometer radius around most universities, you cannot find cheap accommodation.
The landlords take advantage of our desperate situations as students who would have failed to obtain university accommodation.
In our case, our landlord does not allow us to keep the lights on past midnight. We don’t have internet, we’re beyond campus Wi-Fi, and data is expensive now.
“There is better freedom on campus because you can study until any time, unlike where we are staying. We would have liked to use the library which opens until 9 p.m.,” complains Nombulelo.
Some landlords around university campuses in Zimbabwe are building more spacious accommodation for students, which most universities do not do for their students.
The other challenge is that a lot of off-campus housing doesn’t even meet the minimum standards to compete with on-campus housing.
In the absence of competition from universities, these owners have created their own niche markets and would not want to suffer losses by leaving a small number of people in their rooms, such as families. They charge rentals per head.
To cope with this kind of life, some stranded learners end up asking their privileged colleagues on campus to allow them to squat in their rooms.
But in most cases, this led to some kind-hearted students also losing their privilege and being kicked out of their on-campus accommodation along with their colleagues whose fate they would have tried to ease.
It is a crisis that should not be ignored or solved by punishing students in this way. The problem is not the student, but the lack of accommodation that has made students so vulnerable, which must be fully addressed by the authorities.
Students from various universities have the same accommodation issues. They reported that although some of their parents or guardians could afford off-campus housing, they all preferred on-campus housing.
“Off-campus accommodation has its own challenges. You may not have enough time to interact and engage in academic discussions with colleagues from different backgrounds. You arrive at your accommodation; is that there is no water or electricity.
“Sometimes there is noise in the house or in the neighborhood and you cannot challenge anyone. They organize their parties or other functions, they don’t think there are students who want to study, they tell you it’s not a college.
You can get accommodation where landlords are still involved in domestic violence and various other unpleasant behaviors.
These are just some of the problems with off-campus accommodation, but you can’t have the same bad experiences on campus.
We implore the authorities to consider the welfare of all and not the privileged few,” said a concerned student.
“We would like to stay away from the various abuses that most of us experience in our homes and in this rental accommodation and stay in a supportive learning environment provided by universities.
We would be able to take advantage of learning facilities like libraries, online or offline, in the best environments of universities. »
It is therefore a great idea for universities to plan ahead for their students rather than leaving them at the mercy of some of the owners who seek to make a profit rather than protect the welfare of the students.
Even if the owners should take care of the well-being of the students at heart, the universities should not leave this obligation to someone else and consider that all is good.
Public-private partnerships (PPP) should be concluded for the construction of sufficient accommodation for students in universities.
It also calls for political reflection to improve the life and well-being of learners in these universities.
If sixteen students occupying a single room pay US$120 per person, that comes to US$1,920 and multiplied by ten rooms per house, it comes to about US$19,200.
This amount of money comes from a single house, which is a lot of money multiplied by the number of students.
If universities could work closely with all stakeholders and engage in thorough consultation, better accommodation models for students could be found.
If the choice of accommodation decided by the actors were to take the route of the private actors, it would be necessary to put in place actor licenses and other control mechanisms to ensure that they offer affordable, accessible, adapted and conducive to learning.
It is also necessary to take into account people with disabilities in the provision of accommodation.