Construct halls of residence at all our institutions of higher and tertiary education
ENROLMENT at local universities and colleges has been rising in recent years.
Most of the institutions have full-time classes which learn during the day, parallel classes which learn later in the day as well as the block cohort which is on campus for two or so two-week sessions per semester.
While demand for places and enrolments are rising, on-campus residential space hasn’t. Homeowners around the institutions of higher learning, particularly in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Bindura and Masvingo, saw a business opportunity. They are taking in hundreds of students, cramming them in rooms and charging them a monthly rental of between US$50 and US$100 per head. That charge excludes electricity and water use.
An off-campus life is quite inconvenient and expensive. Apart from paying substantial rentals, some students have to pay for transport to and from college. Crammed in those rooms, they forego their privacy. Because they commute to and from college, sometimes at night, their security is always uncertain.
It has been a big challenge for them and their parents who still have to pay up to US$500 in fees per semester. We see this as a continuing challenge as the institutions of higher and tertiary education lack resources to build students’ accommodation on campus.
However, the first significant development to accommodate a huge number of students has come up in Bulawayo. The Bulawayo Students Complex, a US$17 million joint venture project led by the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ), situated near the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, charges about US$90 in monthly rentals. Opened recently, it has 516 rooms and has accommodated 1 023 students who learn at local institutions.
Old Mutual, Zimnat, and Mining Industry Pension Funds are the other partners.
It is a self-contained property, complete with fast-food outlets, shops, salons, sporting facilities, electricity, water and Wi-Fi connectivity. It provides a secure, modern and convenient living space.
The IDBZ, a public entity, and its private partners deserve all the praises for coming up with this Bulawayo project which eases the burden on students. Students resident there will be able to concentrate on their studies rather than always cracking their heads on high rentals, their security and so on.
It is unfortunate that this is the only such facility in a country where demand for decent student accommodation is outstripping supply. The partners are thus, encouraged to speedily start working on similar projects in Harare, Gweru, Masvingo, Bindura and Lupane where we know most students are living in environments that are not conducive to serious learning.
However, we encourage the Government to intensify its efforts to construct halls of residence at all our institutions of higher and tertiary education so that investments such as the one in Bulawayo would only come in to complement what the institutions provide in-house.