TO-DATE it is six months since the general public is being stopped from spending leisure time within the Kivukoni Botanical Gardens (KBG), along Samora Avenue in Dar es Salaam.
Amongst those feeling the pinch of this most, in a very practical way, are students of the Institute of Finance Management (IFM), which is situated just around the corner, on Shaaban Robert Street. Speaking on behalf of the management, the Kivokoni Village Chairman, Jasper Makame, told the 'Daily News' on Monday that in the past students from the IFM were using this area as a place to study.
Then things changed and they started using the garden as their entertainment centre, with no regards to the laid-down rules. Instead of studying, as they came to do, they misused the garden and its surroundings, which have brought destruction to certain sections of it. "The garden had become a very dirty place because of these students' actions. Some of them have even been caught getting into sexual intercourse within the grounds. Such habits we felt should be stopped before we are seen as disrespecting the government by allowing such practices to continue there.
That is why we have stopped people coming here to spend time relaxing," Makame explained. Added to this he talked about a number the garden also being frequented by many young jobless people, who had started using the garden as a place to go and hang-out. These people would also misuse the grounds and would even use certain parts as an open toilet. This also added to the reasons why the management decided to restrict the general public to use of the garden.
Makame also said that they had talked with the administration at the Institute of Finance Management (IFM), who had even visited the grounds when requested to by them for this purpose. However, it did not bring any change from the decision they had made to restrict the time people spent in the garden. It should be noted here that the original use of the KBG was a leisure grounds for Members of Parliament (MP), when their parliamentary sessions was at the Karimjee Hall, which is directly across the road from the gardens, When parliament completed its move to Dodoma, in the early 1990s the ground was opened to the general public.
Bearing these facts in mind the 'Daily News' went to the Dean of Students at the IFM, Emmanuel Mushi, to hear what he had to say on students from IFM being labelled as having caused members of the public to be restricted to the time they spend within the garden grounds. "I may agree with part of what the garden's caretakers are saying, but not with the issue of sex because our students don't go there during the night.
I have never heard of such cases and can only say this cannot be a general issue because we also have corners within the campus grounds and our students have never been found indulging in such practices here," Mushi said. Nevertheless, he maintains that instead of preventing everybody from using the grounds for recreation, which is its purpose, the caretakers should arrange a monitoring system instead.
He had spoken to a number of their students, who unanimously agreed to follow any laid-down regulations towards proper usage of the garden. He further said that the students feel the caretakers were not being fair to them either. The Dean of Students also told the 'Daily News' yesterday that they have 7,800 students on that campus out of which 800 live on it. It is those 7,000, who live off the campus that are in most need of somewhere to go between classes for recreation purposes.
Although the campus is quite capable of handling these students, having access to the gardens provides an added dimension to the places they can go for recreation, when not in class. These 7,000 students, he explained come from hostels over in Kigamboni or other parts of the city, so by no stretch of the imagination can they go home in between lectures, which can be one to two hours apart. He mentioned that they always have access to the library or unused classrooms within the institute, together with benches throughout the grounds, where they could relax, but the garden had a different atmosphere.
"At the beginning we sent our estate manager to negotiate with the garden's caretakers, asking that they establish rules, which we would make sure our students abided to. We also offered to form a partnership, whether administrative or financial, with them for this purpose if they saw it was required, just to make sure our students have access to the garden grounds, but they were not interested," Mushi said. Before leaving the neighbourhood the 'Daily News' went across the road from the gardens, to the National Museum and House of Culture, to hear what they had to say on this issue.
The Senior Education and Programme Officer there, Lucia Shayo, said she had no experience of such behaviour taking place at the botanical gardens. "However, the place should not be restricted to all students or even worst the general public. Such action goes against the intended use of the place," Lucia said.
The museum's Acting Director, Mawazo Ramadhan, also found it strange hearing of such action being taken at a place that was designated to be a recreation garden for the general public. He suggests that the first thing the caretakers need to do is to establish clear and distinct rules regarding the use of the place. Then monitor the use of the place and put out those offenders they find. "We at the museum don't get problems from students here because we have done exactly that," Ramadhan added.