Parents of university students in Zimbabwe have condemned the authorities for failing to provide accommodation for their children, leading many to live in hovels, share rooms with the opposite sex or co-habit with married people.
Bindura, Great Zimbabwe and Midlands state universities were reported to be the worst affected by the accommodation crisis after government failed to complete halls of residence citing severe shortages of funds.
Authorities at MSU have been lambasted after opening a new campus for 4 000 students in Zvishavane without providing accommodation. Many of the students were found to have moved into filthy ghetto rooms unsuitable for study.
Investigations by Now Daily showed that hundreds of Bindura university students had moved into dilapidated farm houses around the town, many without electricity or bathroom facilities. At MSU in Gweru, transport fees were a challenge for many of the students, forcing them to walk long distances or offer sex to taxi drivers in exchange for rides to college and, sometimes, food.
Lorraine, a student at Bindura, said she was living with her boyfriend without the knowledge or consent of her parents. She said her parents had found a room for her in Chipadze township but she did not like living there because the area, though cheap, was filthy and dark and she found it hard and dangerous to get there at night after her college programmes which sometimes ended late.
“When my boyfriend who works for Bindura Nickel offered me accommodation I grabbed the chance. Little did I know that he was married and I can only live at his house during the week when his wife is at work in Harare. I have to move into a lodge at the weekend when she comes. It’s so inconvenient and dangerous. I fear that one day she will find out and attack me,” said Lorraine.
Another woman said she had moved in with her boyfriend, who was a fellow student and they ‘shared everything’. The problem, she said, was balancing her studies with the sexual demands of her partner.
“Before I started living with Lesley, I could concentrate on my studies. I could mix with anyone and get to my room at any hour. Now I have to act like a housewife, getting instructions on when I should get home and who I can or cannot talk to,” the woman said.
At the University of Zimbabwe, several students confirmed that they had moved in with gardeners and caretakers in Mount Pleasant to avoid paying rent, transport and also to get free food as their government study grants were always late.
“As a parent I am very concerned about the lack of accommodation at tertiary institutions. Many of these children are being abused by married men and unscrupulous landlords who charge high rentals and force them to perform endless chores,” said Elphinah Marimira, a parent.
Another parent said guardians should make an effort to visit their children without warning to establish how they were living.
“I was shocked to discover that my child was sharing a house with prostitutes. She was living in a virtual brothel. Instead of preaching about AIDS, the authorities should ensure that our children have decent accommodation away from these vices,” the parent said.
One student however said he was happy about his new-found freedom.
“My girls can visit me anytime. I can hang out with my friends as and when I choose. It’s not like on campus where there are a million rules and regulations,” said Itai.
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