By Mark Mhukayesango
Zvishavane, February 17, 2016 – WHEN the Midlands State University (MSU) mooted the idea of relocating some of its faculties to its Zvishavane campus, authorities at the Gweru based institution did not anticipate that the small mining town lacked housing facilities for its thousands of students.
The recent intake of new students has only just worsened a problem which was already beyond them.
In locations like Makwasha, students are living in squalid conditions, with landlords cashing in on the desperate scholars.
Landlords are charging $80 per head, with a single room accommodating up to five students, a far cry from the Gweru campus where landlords have improved boarding facilities like beds, wifi and geysers.
With most landlords having been rendered jobless through the closure of asbestos mining giant, Shabanie and Mashava Mines, among a handful mines in the area, housing properties have suddenly become their biggest cash cow.
But while landlords are still celebrating striking gold, the mood is different among their new tenants some of whom are not used to relatively poor living conditions in their rented homes.
Mercy Makonese, a first year Development Studies student said her first two days at college were appalling and feels it would be a nightmare to live in the same conditions while pursuing a four year program.
“Most of these houses do not have good toilets because they are old. Four of us live in the same room and this is not good for my health,” Makonese told RadioVOP.
“MSU should do something because this is not what I expected. Accommodation is basic and that should be addressed.”
Munashe Maunga, a level 1 Arts student was also irritated by erratic water supplies which sometimes come at midnight.
It has also emerged that some landlords in the tiny Midlands town are now resorting to turning away locals in preference of students who seem to have revived the economic life of the mining town.
Marshall Kuvirimirwa, a landlord denied taking advantage of the students, saying house owners were just providing accommodation at reasonable rates.
“We are charging normal rates; it is just that the students are too many as compared to the accommodation here. They are a blessing in disguise because most of us are not going to work,” said Kuvirimirwa.
He however dismissed claims they were offering poor accommodation to their new tenants adding that most landlords were striving to make their properties habitable.
He claimed most students griping over poor accommodation were new to university life and were yet to get used to living away from family homes.
Also responding to the concerns, MSU registrar, Erasmus Mupfiga said his university has an agreement with Shabanie Mine to convert its houses to boarding houses.
In December last year, Shabanie Mine began evicting its former workers from company premises paving way for students but most workers are still to vacate the premises.
“We signed an agreement with Shabanie that it would lease its facilities to us so that we can accommodate over 1 000 students but they have not yet met their end of the bargain,” said Mupfiga.
Mupfiga admitted MSU underestimated the issue of accommodation, but is soon working at the same system it used at its main Campus in Gweru in efforts to alleviate the problem.
He said plans were in place to construct new hostels in Zvishavane.
Apart from poor living conditions in rented accommodation, the new students still have to contend with other social ills which have been brought by the influx of illegal gold panners believed to be fuelling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Similarly, other health fears have also been raised as Zvishavane’s sewer system is reportedly overwhelmed by a ballooning population while bursts have become a daily occurrence.
Erratic water supplies are a perpetual nightmare, something that has seen public toilets close for health reasons.