GWERU — Students at the Midlands State University (MSU) continue to face accommodation problems, as the institution is unable to house its growing population. With an enrolment of 17 298 students, MSU cannot accommodate half of its students, and the learners are left to their vices. To cut down on costs most students in relationships have no option, but to co-habit, but this obviously comes with the risks of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and being exposed to HIV and Aids. A fourth year student, who only identified himself as Tinashe, said he stays with his second year girlfriend, as they make efforts to cut down on living costs. He said the exorbitant campus residence fees had left them with no option but to “move in together”.
REPORT BY STEPHEN CHADENGA
“A single room goes for $298 on campus and so if I and my girlfriend share that amount we are left with extra cash to cater for other needs,” he said. But when pressed if their parents would approve of the “unsanctioned marriage”, Tinashe was quick to point out that the tough college life needed survival strategies.
“You have to forego societal morals to make it through college,” he said. “Obviously no parent would approve their kids to cohabit but this is the reality and its happening.”
Asked about the dangers of sharing a bed with the opposite sex, he quipped “we use protection”.
“We practice safe sex all the time, but I do admit there are cases where students impregnate each other or even infect each other with STIs,” he said.
Not only are students cohabiting on campus, even in the nearby suburbs some have entered into marriages of convenience.
“I stay with my boyfriend in Senga and we have our little budget as husband and wife,” a student, who requested anonymity, said.
She said it was cheaper and more convenient to share a room with her boyfriend than with other girls.
Cohabitation by college students is a universal phenomenon. A recent study in Nigeria by Ogadimma Chukwubueze Arisukwu and published in the Journal Home Volume 3, No 5 (2013) showed students were living together because of accommodation problems.
“The increase in the number of undergraduate students and the inability of the school authorities to provide adequate hostel accommodation, has led to cohabitation among undergraduate students in some Nigerian public universities,” the study revealed.
A snap survey by the Sunday Southern Eye revealed that both female and male students cohabit with non-students in various suburbs, as they find ways to beat costs.
Recently university authorities announced that about 2 000 students will be accommodated at the new hostels, which have just been completed. Speaking on the side lines of business conference last Friday MSU vice chancellor, Ngwabi Bhebhe said the university “plans to accommodate about 5 000 students by December next year”.
Gweru City Council Assistant Town Clerk, Tapiwa Marerwa told delegates at the same meeting that the municipality had residential stands in Senga, which should be developed into flats to cater for students.
“We have five stands in Senga where developers have to construct high rise flats and we hope this will ease the accommodation crisis at MSU,” he said.
All these efforts are meant to address the accommodation woes at the college, but with the majority students faced with financial challenges, cohabitation has become an undesirable but only option to cut on costs.