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Student hostels edge out Murang’a chang’aa dens

By Boniface Gikandi | February 25th 2021
By Boniface Gikandi | February 25th 2021

One of the hostels accommodating students of Murang’a University of Technology at St Mary Village. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

A village once notorious for illicit brews has been transformed into a thriving business hub on the outskirts of Murang’a town.

St Mary village has experienced an upturn in standards of living following the upgrading of Murang’a College of Technology into a university a few years ago.

The hilly area offered a conducive environment for illicit activities, which prompted construction of a police base at the nearby Kiharu estate to beef up security. 

But the construction of student hostels has reduced the need for police patrols in pursuit of bhang peddlers and merchants of illicit brews.

One resident, Mary Waiyego, said the price of land in the village that has been renamed St Mary Estate has shot up, with a quarter acre fetching between Sh4 million and Sh6 million.

“Initially, a plot was fetching between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000 as nobody wanted to be associated with the chang’aa dens,” she told Home & Away.

There are now 17 hostels, shops, chemists and the Edinburg School. The transformation journey started in 2014 after the university signed a pact with the Murang’a County Government and Jamii Bora Bank to support construction of hostels, and to give developers Sh1 billion once they met the set conditions.

One hostel operator, Kariuki Kahore, says the investment is paying off as students go for the best-kept facilities. “The land was idle but now the place is appealing following the establishment of the university with thousands of students,” he said. 

Murang’a University of Technology (MUT) Vice-Chancellor Dickson Nyariki said there are 23 hostel operators accredited by the institution.

“The accredited hostels are frequently inspected by the university. We encourage more investors to construct hostels as there is a projection to increase the student population,” he said.

Edinburg Technical College is also set to open its doors to more than 2,000 students and more hostels will be needed.

Murang’a County Police Commander Josphat Kinyua said in 2005 there were more than 50 brewers on the police radar but the area is now one of the most vibrant business centres. “The village has been modernised with less criminals as illicit dealers are no more,” he said.

In nearby Kiharu estate, rental houses were converted to student hostels, shops, butcheries and eateries. Monica Kendi is one of the traders reaping from the student numbers with a cooking gas outlet.

“I refill between 10 and 15 gas cylinders for the learners and other neighbours daily. Initially, I was operating a grocer shop at Mukuyu market before I relocated to St Mary Village,” she said.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria said he promised to transform the villages to enable locals earn not less than Sh10,000 a month.

Murang’a town, he said, was home to KMTC, Murang’a University of Technology, and Edinburg School with thousands of students, with circulation of not less than Sh10 million a month.

“I am delighted that what was initiated to assist the university students with accommodation is a lifeline for investors,” said the governor.

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