CHILDREN’S CORNER with PANIC CHILUFYA
WITH University of Zambia (UNZA) expected to open for the first term of the 2014/2015 academic year this weekend, so begins the nightmare of many students who have failed to secure bed space at the institution.
This is also a challenge for parents and guardians who are already financially constrained; other than worrying about tuition fees and upkeep for their children, there is the headache of finding and paying for alternativeÂ accommodation outside UNZA.
For most students who fail to secure a room, the only option is to rent bed space and not even a room in one of the boarding houses that have mushroomed near the institution. This is not meant to condemn all landlords operating boarding houses because some are genuinely offering a much-needed service and complementing government effort to accommodate all students.
But there are some unscrupulous landlords who see the advent of a new term as a time to make a â€˜killingâ€™ by hiking the already high prices, much to the disappointment of the students. Unfortunately to be as close as possible to the institution, most students are forced to pay almost any price just to secure accommodation which in some cases is sub-standard.
I had an opportunity to visit one of the so-called boarding houses near UNZA. I was disappointed when I saw the facilities on offer but unfortunately because of desperation, students were scrambling to take up the bed space. The rooms were offered on first-come-first-served basis which meant that the students did not even have enough time to shop around other boarding houses lest they lost out.
In this particular boarding house, students were packed in poorly-ventilated rooms that left very little space to even turn around. There was only one bathroom catering for over 14 students; the kitchen was equally tiny with one domestic fridge and one stove to be used by all.
I shudder to think how chaotic the place tends to be when the students are all at â€˜homeâ€™ and are trying to either read, bath or cook at the same time. It must be a spectacle to behold.
If only some of these landlords were fair enough to plough back some of the money realised into the facilities to make them more habitable and conducive for living and studying for the students; but often this is not the case. It is a wonder that some students fail to perform because they are preoccupied with their living conditions.
Education is not only a human right, but it is also an essential tool for the country to break the poverty cycle and is key to building the much-needed human capital to push our nation forward.Â And as the President said, education and skills development are very important if Zambia is to achieve the overall goal of accelerated development; that is why it is imperative that our students are appropriately taken care of. Studying to get good grades is already stressful for students without having to deal with related issues of accommodation
To hear Minister of Education John Phiri announce that Government will this year start the construction of more than 4,000 bed spaces at UNZA must be music to the ears of so many students who are still renting bed spaces from boarding houses.
The minister, in a speech read for him by UNZA Council chairperson Sherry Thole at the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Confucius Institute at UNZA, said:Â â€œI stand on the platform of the statement made by the President in Parliament on the construction of bed spaces at learning institutions.
He assured the acting vice-chancellor that the project to construct bed spaces would begin this year and he called on the private sector to partner with UNZA in special projects.
It is hoped that the challenges associated with inadequate bed space will be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.
And other stakeholders should come on board to help make this a reality.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
CHILDREN’S CORNER with PANIC CHILUFYA