For most university students, the most challenging issue facing them is not the pile of assignments their lecturers give them to do, it is also neither the volume of books they have to read to gain the knowledge nor the tough exams they have to face at the end of the semester. For them, finding a suitable accommodation is the most challenging aspect.
Staying in campus is the best comfortable way for a university student to concentrate on books. However, with the increase in enrolment in universities that do not correspond to the expansion of physical infrastructures such as hostels, most students have found themselves living off campus, a situation that to some extent poses a big challenge in their endeavour to learn and earn their degrees with flying colours.
Kumbusho Kagine, a member of University Students Representative Council (USRC)-DARUSO from the University of Dar es Salaam, said despite the efforts to expand accommodation facilities for students, still the shortage is huge.
"Despite new hostels built in our campus, accommodation for students is still a challenge," he told Success Magazine, citing the high enrolment rate as the reason for the shortage.
"The problem is due to the high number of students enrolled, for example the 2017/18 academic year, 10,800 students have been enrolled at the University of Dar es Salaam," he said.
According to Kumbusho, hostel facilities at Udsm can accommodate some 9,982 students only. "The newly built hostel along Sam Nujoma Road has a capacity to accommodate 3,840 students while Mabibo Hostel can accommodate 4,342 students and 1,800 students can settle at the main campus," he noted, saying accommodation facilities cannot cope with the admission of between 20,000 and 25,000 students, leaving about 13,000 students with no other alternative than renting houses and rooms outside their college campus.
According to him, approximately 60 per cent of students at the university face accommodation challenges. Kumbusho is of the opinion that shortage of accommodation facilities coupled with the delays in allocation and disbursement of students' loans make life a living hell for students.
"Some of the students have not yet received their funds from Higher Education Students Loans Board (HESLB) for the 2017/18 academic year. The situation compels them to live a miserable life at the university," he said.
A nationwide problem
Life without assurance of accommodation for university students is one of the major challenge not only facing Udsm students but also students in both public and private higher learning institutions.
As most universities have already opened for the 2017/18 academic year, students especially those in their first year, struggle to get accommodation. Edward Noel, a first year student at Tumaini University- Dar es Salaam, had no choice than to find a colleague and rent a room in which they have to live during their school life.
"My colleague and I are new to the city. Worse still we didn't have enough money to sustain us and pay rent at the same time. Thanks to some continuing students who helped us to find a room to rent at Mwenge Mlalakuwa," said Edward.
With the high rent charged by landlords in various areas, students have to dig deep into their pockets to secure a place to stay outside their campus. "For a student, Sh50,000 a month which is equivalent to Sh600,000 a year is a lot of money we can't afford," noted the 23-year-old first year student.
For Edward, living off campus in sorrounding communities exposes students to a myriad of risks. "It raises security concerns. We are also subjected to other tolls such as electricity and water bills," said Edward.
According to him, things are more difficult for students as most of them have to find an alternative source of money apart from allowances and stipend they receive from HESLB.
Naomi Namhani* was one of the students who failed to realise their education dream. "When I joined the Institute of Finance Management (IFM) I was not allocated a hostel to live in. I teamed up with some few students and decided to rent a room at Kigamboni," she said.
Naomi was excited with the school life as a first year student. But as days went by, she became tired of taking frequent routes to and from the college. According to her, she could have rather stayed alone than living with her classmate.
Bad influence from her fellow roommate spoiled her. "I sometimes found myself absconding classes. I didn't concentrate on my studies and at the end of the day I was discontinued from the course because of failure to meet the required pass marks," she said, adding, "I don't want to remember those days; I wish I can turn back the days. Due to hard times, I dated someone's husband. When I decided to concentrate on my studies it was too late, I was disqualified."
Freshers under risk
Wilfred Luheda, a coordinator at Legendary Performers, said the shortage of accommodation puts first year students at risk of engaging in bad behaviour as most of them are fresh from high school, where they had too many restrictions from the school and their parents during holidays.
"To keep this young generation in college life without accommodation facilities exposes them to risk of bad behaviour. It is like a time bomb," he noted.
Erik Erikson and Joan Erikson, prominent psychologists, explain in their famous psychosocial development theory that late teens remain undecided about what they want in their lives, they have high hopes and extra expectations and are still reckoning with the ample freedom that comes with being an adult free to roam and decide at one's own.
"Soon as off campus students settle down in the community, they find out that living between college and community is disastrous and tempting. It translates into the complexity of living amidst school and community at a go," they say.
Students often times get exposed to the grimes of the society. This means that they are squeezed by the complex agencies of community life such as: the need to get and use money, the temptation to live classy and seem self-important before the eyes of the community. This is a distraction from learning" he added.
Apart from that, parents don't know what challenges their children are facing when they are off campus. Frank Msemwa, a second year student at Udsm said most parents are not aware of what their children are going through with lack of accommodation.
Living out of school exposes students to greater danger of losing their social morals. "Out of campus we find out that we have extensive freedom in a larger social neighbourhood than the campus would have allowed. This becomes more than what we should carry at the time and is irrelevant to our primary concern which is 'full time learning'," he noted.
Off campus learners tend to have too much to deal and contain with for example: transport hassles, keeping up with social decorum, weekend favours, living amidst non school goers, need for self-defense, self-actualization and formation of vital identities. Many innocent students breakdown and lose their purpose in the process
"Living off campus for a student is largely counterproductive and brings more odds'. The simple and earnest advice I can therefore make is that 'do not relax when your son or daughter is pursuing college education out of campus" noted Luhega
Philbert Komu, a lecturer at Udsm, is also of the opinion that students leaving off campus find it really hard to participate in group discussions and other engaging academic works after class hours. This therefore affects their academic performance.
"With the unreliable transport in Dar es Salaam, it is both expensive and time wasting for many students leaving off campus, and most of them fail to make it to class on time. Again, this affects their academic performance," said the lecturer in the department of Philosophy at Udsm.