By Mark Mhukayesango
Gweru-September 10, 2015-Whilst many are seeking for accommodation and spend years on council waiting lists, Senga landlords move out of their homes to pave way for lucrative boarding house business offered to thousands of desperate Midlands State University (MSU) who scrounge for accommodation at the beginning of every semester.
Its not surprising because Senga and sister surburb Nehosho landlords are multiple house owners with some owning properties in Mkoba and other surrounding surbubs ,whilst making a fortune through running boarding facilities for students.
MSU students live in deplorable conditions where four students share a room, paying $85 at most per month.
Landlords here make $340 per room every month profits that even the University have failed to question as there is not enough accommodation for an estimated 8 000 students.
They say college days are the ‘best’ ,but the conditions that most students live in do not resonate with that notion.
Students, like rats are staked in one room.
Profiteering landlords demand other fees like security, housing deposits and toiletries, amid biting economic conditions where parents struggle to raise tuition fees , accommodation and food.
Some offer luring services like bedding, refrigeration, standby generator and Wifi just to hike the boarding fees.
Affluent families who afford to pay for their children prefer such facilities, but hard pressed parents have settle for the descent accommodation.
MSU has 783 students who stay at the main campus, an estimated 1000 stay at the new hostels outside main campus , whilst a further 500 stay at Batanai complex which entails that more than 75 percent of MSU students stay off campus and are faced with such problems everyday.
“I have stayed in a room with three other students since I was in first year,” Nigel Mtemera , a Business Administration fourth year student chuckled.
“This is our life here, nothing much is going to change unless university authorities regulate the number of students who stay in a room,” Mtemera said.
Mtemera is excited to be graduating this year and would soon leave the squatter like living conditions.
Newman Mugada, a landlord in Senga said offering boarding facilities at exorbitant prices was the only way if survival amid massive job losses and industrial dearth in Gweru.
“We are making a killing through our houses,” Mugada told Radio VOP.
“I am able to take my children to school without hustles because of the income I earn from my house,” he added.
Mugada said life is tough when MSU students go on vacation as there is no source of income.
MSU has been the bedrock of Gweru economy ,boosting the property and retail sectors.
“Without these students , Gweru is dull. The university’s existence has really changed the fortunes of house owners here,” Gweru Residents Association chairman ,Cornellius Selipiwe said.
MSU Vice Chancellor, Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe is on record saying accommodation problems remain the institution’s number one challenge.
MSU is the country’s biggest tertiary institution with two intakes every year and churns out around 4000 students into industry annually.
“The accommodation crisis at this institution is causing me sleepless nights. We continue to look at ways to solve the problem,” Bhebhe was quoted saying.
In response to the accommodation challenge ,MSU is currently constructing more hostels, which accommodate thousand students.
Whilst Senga landlords make a killing with the students, more land has been availed for construction of more boarding facilities.
Leopold Mahamba, a parent blasted Senga landlords are not considerate of the prevailing harsh economic conditions where parents are struggling to send their children to school.
“The rentals are a rip off considering the living conditions. The conditions are not conducive for studying at all, because the students are over crowded in one room,” Mahamba said.
Mahamba said students are prone to peer pressure and engage in ill behavior.
“We have cases of students engaging in group sex, this is due to the living conditions where girls and boys cohabit,” he said.
“Due to high rentals ,female students fall in love with sugar daddies so as to supplement the little money they get from their families.”
Mahamba said the current living conditions in Senga and Nehosho are not conducive for studying ,hence MSU should hastily address the accomodation problems.
“Givernment and MSU should address this accommodation problem because our children are living in deplorable conditions,” he said.
Senga is one area in Gweru were water supply is unreliable and most households rely on unsafe wells for water.
The students are the ones who suffer as there is no water to bath and cook. To save the water situation, MSU provides water to students at Batanai borehole.
A health time bomb is also ticking as sewerage flows endlessly on the streets of Senga and Nehosho.