A serious shortage of hostels has hit college students in Kitui County, prompting them to seek accommodation in small rental rooms behind far-flung shopping centres.
Students at South Eastern Kenya University (Seku) and their counterparts at Kenyatta University’s Kwa-Vonza campus are in dire straits as the few facilities in the institutions cannot accommodate the increasing number of students.
Both colleges are based near Kwa-Vonza, about 60km from Kitui town, but about 10km apart. A spot check by People Daily showed that hundreds of students and staff– especially from Seku – have sought accommodation in Kitui town since all residential houses at Kwa-Vonza Trading Centre have been let out.
Students from other major colleges in Kitui town such as Kitui Medical Training College, Kitui Water Training Institute, Kitui Teachers College and mushrooming private colleges including Kitui Institute of Development Studies are also seeking hostel space.
Kwa-Vonza is one of the six economic zones created by the Kitui county government and reserved as an educational zone. In addition to the two campuses, it also hosts Nyumbani Village, one of the largest orphanages in Kenya.
The accommodation problem will be compounded next month when an additional 1,500 First Year students admitted at Seku join the campus, bring the student population to over 10,000, says Vice- Chancellor Professor Geoffrey Muluvi.
He challenges developers to tap the potential by investing in hostels as the demand for accommodation will remain higher as the universities grapple with growth.
“What is happening now is mushrooming of sub-standard buildings which developers are turning to hostels to capitalise on the windfall. What is really needed are decent hostels,” said Muluvi.
As the institutions contend with hostels headache, landlords and property agents have capitalised on the problem by hiking rents while land values in adjacent areas have sky-rocketed.
A single room in Kwa-Vonza is going for between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000 while double rooms range from Sh4,000 to Sh4,500 per month. Business is also brisk in shopping centres situated along Kwa-Vonza- Kitui town road where the students have sought accommodation.
Agnes Nzau, a real estate developer and property agent says in the last one year, prizes of land in Kwa-Vonza and in the adjacent shopping centres have jumped nearly 200 per cent after the establishment of the universities and subsequent declaration of the area as an economic zone.
She says 50 by 100 feet plot that used to sell at Sh120,000 two years ago is now going for between Sh600,000 and Sh700,000. Most have been sub-divided into 30 by 40 feet plots.
Just a year after it admitted its first Joint Admissions Board (JAB) students, Seku has completed construction of new tuition, administration and hostel blocks, a student welfare centre, a clinic, a guest house, staff cafeteria and a road network connecting the institute to major highways. “But lack of enough hostels has remained a challenge,” says Prof Muluvi.