2 February 2013

Tanzania: Dar Public Varsity Hostels Under Siege By Swindlers

LACK of proper systems to check allocation and occupation of rooms at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and Muhimbili University of Health Sciences (MUHAS) provide loopholes for swindlers and other health and security risk at the areas.

The demand for rooms at both universities is higher than what the institutions could supply, hence prevailing of groups of student swindlers who have been taking advantage of the situation, earning themselves millions of shillings from desperate scholars.

Students from upcountry are the mostly affected. When seeking hostel accommodation, the scholars are required to pay annual rent of between 500,000/- and 1m/- instead of the official rate of about 200,000/-, a weeklong survey by the 'Daily News on Saturday' has revealed.

The cartel which is alleged to have support from some student governments officials at the two institutions, forks out a fortune to mainly first year undergraduate students coming from upcountry who miss out of the list of those allocated rooms. Most of these students report late.The accommodation committee at Students Services Bureau is chaired by Dean of Students at UDSM, Dr Rebeca Sima and Director of Planning and Development at MUHAS, one Mr Kajobile.

"We are forced to rent private houses outside the campus which is very expensive or opt to pay 500/- a day to share a two students room at the university's hostels with its rightful occupiers," said one UDSM student (name withheld) who resides at Mabibo Hostel.The student said owners of the room which she shares paid 500,000/- as a bribe to a third person who was hoarding several rooms in October, last year, when first year students arrived at the main campus.

The scholar represents a dozen or so first year students who were lucky to get some space to stay at the hostel after arriving late and missing out room allocation.Students at Mabibo hostels pay 400/- per day while those at the main campus pay 500/- and normally two students share a room. Due to the acute shortage of hostels, some rooms are hosting four students. When 'Daily News on Saturday' sought to know some of the landladies and landlords, students approached declined to identify them for fear of reprisals.

"I don't want to put them in trouble because they are simply helping me out," said another student. With over 19,000 students, a half of which are undergraduates, the UDSM has accommodation for less than 10,000 students at its hostels which include Halls I to VII, Water Resources Hostel, Mabibo hostel and FAST (Kunduchi) Hostel.

Contacted to comment on the allegations, Dr Sima did not return text messages and phone calls between Thursday and yesterday, while a visit to her office also proved futile as she was locked up in a meeting. Earlier, the UDSM public relations office referred the matter to the Dean.

Assistant Dean of Students, Abel Joseph and an official with Dar es Salaam University Students Organization, identified by a single name of Adam, wanted a mandate to explain things from Dean."I can only explain things to you if the Dean orders me to do so," Mr Joseph said.

But at MUHAS, the situation is a bit different because the administration has acknowledged the magnitude of the problem and is now seeking investors to find a solution to the problem. "I have not come across any student who has volunteered to bring forward evidence of corruption in room allocation but I know that we have a crisis here," said MUHAS Dean of Students, Dr Deodatus Kakoko.

Dr Kakoko said over a half of students at the country's prime college of training medical personnel, live out of campus which also interferes with their practical lessons which require that they visit patients at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) wards at night when it is convenient.

"I don't feel good to see our students stay at Magomeni, Mwananyamala with difficult transportation and risks of being mugged when going back home at night after their clinical sessions," Dr Kakoko noted while appealing to real estate investors to join MUHAS in constructing students hostels.

Only 47.3 per cent of the 2,037 students at MUHAS can be accommodated at its two premises which translates to 568 at its Chole campus and 396 at its main campus, both of which are in the city and pay 400/- and 500/- per day each.

But in an irony of sorts, Ardhi University's creative administration and students leadership has 100 empty beds at its newly leased Lufungila private hostel. "We don't have any shortage of rooms here so there is no corruption at all, in fact we have excess so we invite those in need to come over," said Matiko Chacha, President of Ardhi University Students Organization (ARUSO).

Mr Chacha said since last semester, the university administration and students' leadership approached a private developer of a five storey flat at Lufungila and agreed on a lease agreement which has enabled 700 students to get accommodation.

"The landlord demanded payment of 2,000/- per day per person of which the administration subsidises 500/- per students but also pays for electricity and water bills," said Matiko who paid tribute to AU administration for its commitment to ensure that students stay on campus.

There are over 2,700 students at AU of which 1,400 stay at the main campus, 600 girls stay at a nearby privately leased Survey hostel.

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