18 February 2013

Namibia: Serious Student Accommodation Shortage

Windhoek — Both the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) are unable to accommodate a mere 10 percent of their student bodies.

The situation is particularly difficult for foreign students and those coming from outside Windhoek.

Rauna Isack is a first-year nursing student at Unam, and rents a place in Okuryangava, located over 10 km away from Unam.

"It affects students badly. Some students have nowhere to stay, and have no money to rent, especially in the nearby suburbs from where they can walk to Unam," Isack told New Era.

Isack says students who live far from Unam and the Polytechnic spend a great deal of money on transportation and often do not have money to go and attend classes, leading to absenteeism and poor academic performance.

To go to Unam, especially for a student staying in Katutura and Khomasdal, one needs at least N$27 on a daily basis, which translates to N$837 a month. Students have to take a taxi from Katutura or Khomasdal to the city centre, and from there yet another taxi to Unam.

Unam and PoN students are often charged N$2 350 for a flat in Academia and Pionierspark and if they share they pay N$1 650.

In Windhoek West and in Khomasdal they pay up to N$2 300 for a room. Students mostly prefer areas located within walking distance of the institution where they have enrolled.

Another student, Matheus Namidi, a B.Sc Microbiology student says the lack of hostel accommodation has a negative impact on the academic performance of students. He says the long travelling distances to Unam also exhaust students.

"Students accommodated in the hostel perform better academically, and they should, because they have all the time and access to academic resources at any given time," he says.

Namidi says he has no doubts that if the university can accommodate most if not all students, students' academic performances would improve dramatically. "The management should just plan well in order to counter this worsening situation," he urged.

The same situation prevails at the PoN, which has already announced plans to undergo a change in name and status and will soon be known as the University of Science and Technology.

The PoN can only accommodate 400 of its 12 000-strong student population or a mere 3 percent as it were. A student at PoN, who preferred anonymity, said the situation forces students to rent, which is expensive and unsafe.

She pointed out for example that a student at Poly was murdered in a room she was renting by an ex-boyfriend last year. She said many students are regularly mugged and robbed of their valuables such as laptops and cellphones.

"The university is not in a position to admit all students who apply for accommodation. For example, the main campus has 1 080 rooms, while the number of applicants is in the range of about 3 000," said Unam spokesman Utaara Hoveka.

The number of students registered at the institution was unknown at the time of going to print since registration is still in progress. However, last year Unam admitted 16 000 students.

Hoveka said that the overdue construction of another hostel block is set to take place during the first half of this year.

"There have been numerous consultative meetings between Unam and Hanganeni. In terms of our latest discussions, I can say that we can expect to have additional rooms ready for students by February 2014," he said.

His counterpart at the PoN, Kaitira Kandjii, admitted that it is no secret that the PoN lacks on-campus accommodation for its students. "It is a great concern to the Polytechnic that an overwhelming number of students are not accommodated in hostels on campus," he said.

"There are many students that come from outside Windhoek that require accommodation, yet the institution is unable to provide a decent number with on-campus accommodation."

"This is an undesirable state of affairs, but the remarkable growth the institution has shown in recent years as it responds to national and international demands for its programmes, coupled with its difficult financial situation has left the Polytechnic's hands tied in this regard," Kandjii explained.

He said the PoN has, over a number of years, requested funding from government to construct student residences, but to date no funding for that purpose has been forthcoming.

"Some government funding projections for the current year are promising in respect of hostel construction projects for the 2013/2014 financial year, but nothing has concretised to date in terms of firm commitments," he concluded.

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