WITH THE Midlands State University (MSU) opening for the first semester last week, landlords have capitalised on the accommodation crisis at the institution to make brisk business through renting their properties to students. One property owner and proprietor of Priscilla Hostel in Windsor Park low-density suburb posted flyers around town offering “quality” accommodation to students.
The hostel was offering students bedding, a kitchen with four-plate stoves, fridges and study rooms with tables and chairs for $85 per room a month inclusive of water and electricity. Although rentals are exorbitant for students, they said they had no choice as they were desperate for accommodation for the semester.
“Our parents have to fork out for off-campus accommodation as we have to put up somewhere,” a first year student, who identified herself as Sheila, said.
Most landlords in the nearby Senga and Nehosho suburbs have turned their houses into boarding facilities where they charge up to $100 per head a month.
“With my six roomed house if I manage to get two students in one room, I can get as much as $1 200 per month,” Anna Moyo of Senga said.
According to Simbarashe Govo, who owns a house in Nehosho, offering accommodation to students had become big business for most landlords as they raked in hundreds if not thousands non-taxed money per month.
Though MSU officials have been making frantic efforts to construct new hostels at the former Gweru Teachers’ College campus, they have admitted that solving the accommodation crisis at the institution gave them a “nightmare”.
Last year, MSU vice-chancellor Ngwabi Bhebhe told President Robert Mugabe during the institution’s graduation ceremony that the accommodation problem was giving him headaches.
“The accommodation crisis at this institution is causing me sleepless nights because it has become a niggling problem on my neck. I continue to look for ways to solve the problem, which has its other challenges, which I will not discuss now,” he said.
But critics have accused the university’s officials of continuing with its massive enrolment annually despite resources not permitting.
MSU has an enrolment of close to 20 000 students, but the institution can only offer accommodation to about 3 000 students.