Varsity students: Coping with housing shortage
Notwithstanding hope for a better future after completion of their studies, most university students in the country claim to endure a lot of suffering that is perhaps better embodied by lack of enough accommodation at their campuses.
And no building epitomises the woes facing students than Guantanamo Bay, a decrepit private building in the Rugunga area of Kigali City that houses over 300 students. The structure consists of numerous tiny rooms each with a single wooden window furnished with double-decker beds which the best illustration of application of economies of scale.
In reality, Guantanamo Bay is a notorious American jail in Cuba where suspected high-profile terrorists are incarcerated.
Justin Kamanzi is a student at Kigali Health Institute (KHI) and a resident at the infamous building.
“As you can see there are double-decker beds, it means six places. In this room, we are five and the other place is reserved for our bags. This room has fewer dwellers since in other rooms, there are even more than ten,” Kamanzi explains.
”The biggest challenge is that this building is too old and lacks enough toilets and bathrooms. It is not fit for university students but we have no choice as we cannot afford better housing yet the university doesn’t have them,” he laments.
Another student who prefers to be known by his surname, Kalisa, and also a student at KHI occupies the next room.
“We are nine in this room and we live like in dormitories as there is no other option. This affects us as we take over 30 minutes to walk to the campus which requires energy,” says Kalisa, who discloses that they pay Rwf 40,000 per year as rent.
“Though we don’t pay much, the building is far from campus and we normally get there late. During the rainy seasons, we even miss classes,” says Kalisa, adding, “It is difficult, we don’t study well compared to students accommodated in campus or nearby.”
Guantanamo is a reflection of the accommodation woes bedevilling students in other universities countrywide.
Ihirwe Liguen studies at Kigali Institute of Sciences and Technology (KIST) and it takes him an hour to walk to his campus from his residence in the Kimisagara suburb of Kigali.
“We spend an hour or more from home to school, we usually trek and by the time we reach there, we are already too tired to study. We don’t even do group work or help one another because we are very scattered,” narrates Ihirwe.
Bosco Ndikubwayo, a student at the Huye based National University of Rwanda says he is compelled to walk a distance of five kilometres from Rango area of the district noting he is not able to attend classes regularly.
Claude Ntabyera faces a similar predicament. A student at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), he says he shares a single room outside his campus with five other persons in Nyagatovu, Kimironko Sector, Kigali.
“When you live off the campus, you are not comfortable to study and worse, it proves hard to get updates from the campus. Besides, the houses we live in are inhabitable,” says Ntabyera, saying they are forced to lay mattresses on the floor.
A KIH student residing at Guantanamo hostel alludes: “Normally, the public has a false notion that university students live comfortably. Imagine living in such a house and yet you will be, for instance a doctor in the future”.
To counter the increasingly problematic issue at hand, The New Times sought the views of administrators at some of the universities.
The Director of Planning and Development at KIST, Anselm Sano, said his university will soon embark on a campaign to raise funds in November this year to put up more student hostels.
He says some corporate bodies and organisations like the Rwanda Social Security Board, Bank of Kigali,UN Women, among others, have expressed a commitment to make a contribution towards the cause. He adds that engineering services would voluntarily be handled by the university’s personnel.
“We are planning to build the hostels that will host 700 people. We will first host female students to encourage them to study sciences and technology and other students with special needs and then the rest will be for boys, “he explains.
The Director of Marketing and Communications at the School of Finance and Banking, says the institution has no policy to build hostels but classes instead, adding that this may however change in future.
At the National University of Rwanda, the building of more hostels is presently ongoing but according to Medard Runyange, the Dean of Students at the university, the institution is not ready to host all the students and there are no plans to do so in the future.
“The university has no policy to build hostels to host all the students. We are instead encouraging the private sector to invest in building hostels. I however agree that lack of enough hostels negatively affects their studies,” says Runyange.
According to Charles Haba, the chairman of Rwanda Real Estate Association, investment in hostels is not profitable to investors.
“My idea is that investing in building hostels is not beneficial. The money students should pay cannot compensate for the amount you invested. So people (in real estate) prefer doing other forms of businesses like managing of houses and selling them,” says Haba.