Stories of campus girls dating rich, older men for money have increased over the past few months. The most recent, and one that has left everyone’s tongue wagging is that of the slain Sharon Otieno, a second year student at Rongo University. It is alleged to be a story of love gone sour between Sharon, who was seven months pregnant and a prominent leader.
Looking at past incidences that made headlines, the events leading to Sharon’s death are more of a same script, different cast. In the run-up to last year’s General Election, 21-year-old girl, Caro Ngumbu, was killed while in the company of the late Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ICT manager Chris Musando. Caro had just completed her studies at the Kenya Medical Training College. In 2015, Mercy Keino, 25, then a University of Nairobi, student died shortly after leaving a party hosted by a governor. Another fresh graduate from the University of Nairobi, Cheryl Gitonga confessed to have been hanging out with slain city tycoon Jacob Juma before he was murdered in cold blood in May 2016.
These series of events just go to confirm how university students are falling prey to moneyed men commonly known as sponsors. Samuel Oresi, who has been a university don for the last 10 years lays the blame on the parents. “The students have perfected the art of double life. At home, they are the cutest angels, the dearest, especially to the dads. On campus, the girls are daredevils with horns, spitting fire from smoking and snotting all manner of stuff financed by the sponsor who care less about the girls’ fate,” says the Presbyterian University of East Africa lecturer.
In all the cases Oresi has handled, the fathers seem to have lost touch with their children, the mothers always have clues, but probably decide to hide it from the husbands. An occasional visit to the university registrar is key. “Retakes, supplementally exams, special exams or missing marks, semester repeats are all redflags you need to follow up lest he/she arives in a coffin to say the least,” he advises.
However, the question remains, are these girls aware of the consequences when such relationships go sour? Nancy Nduta, a fourth year student in one of Nairobi public universities, attributes the love of sponsors by campus students to peer pressure. Joining the university, Nduta remembers classmates who had their nails manicured, donned expensive human hair, trendy clothes and faces with full make-up seemed to have it all together. Many of her friends were swept by the pressure to fit in, and as a result, were swallowed by the sponsor phenomenon.
But Nduta cannot remember any affair that had happy endings. Most of her friends were left so traumatised by their experiences. “I remember one incident where a classmate was locked up for weeks in an apartment by her sponsor because she had threatened to reveal their secret affair to his wife after he refused to spend Valentine’s Day with her. Realising the man could kill her, she promised to keep mum. Their relationship died a natural death,” she adds.
Back in the days university students received cash allowances every term—the famous ‘boom’ which was paid to students for their upkeep. They were given free accommodation and meals. With ‘boom’, campus men would afford to take their girlfriends for a treat at an expensive hotel such as Serena. Nowdays, students have to pay for accomodation and meals. The Higher Education Loans Board is barely enough to pay school fees.
Gilbert Marango, a sociologist, agrees that peer pressure, desperation, love for material things are some of reasons why campus girls feel the need to acquire sponsors. However, most of them are oblivious of the turn of events should the relationships go sour. He says when engaging in a secret love affair, one of the most important factors for men is keeping their affair a secret from their wives and the public if the man is a public figure.
But if for some reason a sugar babe threatens to expose his cheating activities, men, especially those rogue men in powerful political or business positions will do anything to shut the girl up, including killing her. Other times, Marango says, a sugar babe may be caught up in the wrong place with the wrong person. Politics and business competitions as the saying goes, are dirty games. Not forgetting the wrath of a scorned woman. “Women have been known to plan cold revenge on spouses who betray their trust, and just like that, an unsuspecting sugar babe loses her life,” he concludes.