Hostel fees rile MSU students
Midlands State University (MSU) in Gweru has been criticised by students for charging US$280 accommodation fee for shared hostels.
BY OUR CORESPONDENT
The university, battling to deal with the student accommodation crisis that has seen up to eight MSU students sharing a single room in the town’s high-density suburbs, has constructed new hostels that can accommodate only about 1 000 students although it enrols 13 000 every year.
The newly-completed hotels, christened the China Town because they were built by a Chinese contractor, have big class-like rooms shared by four students.
While they applauded the college for building more hostels, students complained that they could not afford the US$280 charged for accommodation per semester.
“I thank the college for constructing the hostels but the US$280 rentals per head is too much. Many of us cannot afford it,” said Rosemary Ruwende, a student with the university.
Another student, who identified herself as Tariro, said the college was milking them by charging the same rates charged by landlords in the town.
“The college is not being sensitive to our plight. We used to pay $80 for the entire semester but in these ‘China hostels’ they are charging the same rates that are being charged outside the college like in Senga and Nehosho,” she said.
“Again these rates cannot be justified as students share the rooms in pairs, or even four in a room.”
However, some students said the new hostels were convenient to them and could not be compared to the squalid conditions at Senga and Nehosho.
“It’s better now that we have more accommodation on campus. It’s convenient and we are saving a lot of money on transport than when we used to stay outside the campus. We would want the institution to build more hostels,” said another student, Memory Njini.
She however said the situation was still critical as many students still found it hard to get accommodation, forcing them to look for rooms to rent in the surrounding suburbs.
Landlords in suburbs near the university are taking advantage of the crisis and are charging the desperate students exorbitant rentals for sub-standard houses in which the students are crammed.
The astronomical rentals are forcing many students to engage in immoral activities such as prostitution in order to raise money for rent. Students pay between US$60 to US$80 per head per month and are made to share one small room for as many as five or six of them.
Njini said her colleagues were co-habiting with their boyfriends as a way of cutting costs.
“Many girls are dating off-campus guys in order to make ends meet. They look for these men who can afford to pay rent for them and buy them food. They are doing this out of desperation,” said Njini.
Efforts to get a comment from the university were fruitless last week.
But MSU vice-chancellor, professor Ngwabi Bhebhe, recently bemoaned the accommodation crisis at the university, saying the problem was troubling him.
“The accommodation crisis at this institution is causing me sleepless nights because it has become a niggling problem on my neck,” Bhebhe said. “I continue to look for ways to solve the problem, which has its other challenges, which I will not discuss now,” he added.
The construction of new hostels is bad news to the landlords in Gweru as that means losing their cash cow.