The introduction of two first-year student intakes -the first in February and the second in August- has created an accommodation crisis at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).
Although some believe the new double intake is a good initiative to reduce the waiting period for students to begin university after A’ Levels, many challenges have arisen from this move including inadequate accommodation, water rationing, and an overloaded sanitation system.
In order to deal with the doubling of students in residence, the UZ has introduced bunk beds in the dormitories. Unfortunately this now means that a small room that was designed to be occupied by one person is now occupied by two people.
Harare News spoke to the secretary for academic and legal affairs in the Student Executive Council, Thembinkosi Rushwaya who is also a third-year student in political science who said, “The idea of bunk beds is not good given the fact that the space in the rooms is not enough. The selected hostels were designed to only accommodate one student. Ablution facilities are likely not to cope. The problem of water rationing has not been dealt with and continues to be a problem regardless of the increased numbers. Humanitarian-wise this is likely to cause problems in the near future, although the administration have made it clear that they will upgrade facilities in the future.”
In spite of the introduction of bunk beds at the institution, accommodation availability continues to worsen for students who are forced to rent rooms in homes in surrounding neighbourhoods – Mt Pleasant, Vainona, Avondale and boarding houses in Mandara. There they live in deplorable conditions sharing with at least six students per room and commuting everyday to the institution.
When approached for comment, the UZ Director of Information and Public Relations, Mr. David Chihombori said, “The introduction of two semesters was demand-driven. It was not an ad-hoc decision by the University but rather a planned and calculated intervention that entailed developing capacity in terms of teaching and learning facilities, students’ accommodation and related infrastructure before enrolment of the additional students. Quality is the key word in higher education delivery by the University.”
But Makomborero Haruzivishe, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union and also a third year student at the UZ says, “The accommodation crisis at the UZ is a result of the infrastructural incapacity of the institution to cater for the students’ needs. It is a problem which has systematically deteriorated over the years as authorities tend to focus more on revenue accumulation at the expense of the students’ welfare, safety and dignity.
He explained that the water shortages and fears of an outbreak of typhoid or cholera were some of the issues that sparked the demonstration by students last year. He blames the privatization of education in Zimbabwe for the university’s increasing disregard for student welfare.
Haruzivishe added that the situation at the university has put students in a severely compromised situation while on campus – a place where they are should be able to focus on their work. “Many parents are ignorant about what their children endure every semester at UZ. There are sad, untold stories of those who resort to sexual manipulation to get accommodation on campus,” said
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Image: Urinals at a University of Zimbabwe dormitory