By Linda Mupemo
Fourth Year Mass Communication Student
The decision by the University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) to initiate a boarding house harmonisation project is welcome as many students are being exploited by boarding house landlords in the name of providing them with accommodation near campus.
The University of Zambia has been gripped with the accommodation crisis for many years now.
Some landlords near the university premises have seen this as a business opportunity as they have turned their houses into boarding houses where students rent bed spaces at a fee decided by the landlord.
At the moment, there are over 10 boarding houses for both females and males around UNZA.
The initiative is commendable and very helpful to students coming from places as far as Mpulungu who are not accommodated on campus.
However, some landlords have taken advantage of the situation and are exploiting students by making them pay huge amounts of money for bed spaces in houses that are in deplorable states.
The living conditions in some boarding houses are bad and the terms unfair.
Students occupy the allocated bed spaces for three months and since most landlords charge them k 600 per month, they are expected to pay k 1 800 per term.
However, there are some landlords who have turned the UNZA accommodation crisis into a goldmine. These individuals charge students even during the vacation, failure to which the bed space is rendered vacant.
Students comply to this condition and pay with a view to ‘securing the space’ for the following term regardless of whether they will occupy it during the vacation or not.
Other landlords confine more students than a room can occupy , some rooms do not have wardrobes so students put their belongings in trunks like they are on a journey that has no destination. But what can one do when they don’t have a room on campus and are non-Lusaka based?
The boarding house harmonisation project could not have been done at a better time than this.
As the UNZASU Vice President Martin Nundwe is quoted to have said, the project will curb student exploitation and ensure that all the boarding house landlords adhere to the stipulated regulations.
Additionally, they will be monitored by the Lusaka City Council (LCC).
Providing students who are not accommodated on campus with alternative accommodation is commendable but the situation should in no way be used as a weapon of monetary exploitation.
We hope UNZA management, UNZASU, LCC and the boarding house landlords sign the memorandum of understanding as soon as possible.
We also hope that learning institutions experiencing the same problem will emulate this move.