Many hostels in Kisumu have remained empty since the closure of universities and colleges in March, and the owners are now using the break to renovate the facilities in readiness for the planned reopening of the institutions in September.
They are also putting in place measures to ensure that when the students resume, they meet the government guidelines on preventing the spread of coronavirus.
For others, diversification was key for them to remain afloat. Others have just sold the facilities.
James Nyaisu operates 45 rooms at Jogoo estate, in Kisii, many of them previously occupied by students from Kisii National Polytechnic.
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Mr Nyaisu has since converted the rooms into lodgings. “We have no option but to find an alternative way to raise money in order repay our loans,” he said.
Gladys Momanyi, who owns a hostel with 63 rooms, says before the Covid-19 pandemic, a room hosted four students, but with the new guidelines, she will be forced to reduce the number to three to ensure the chances of spreading the virus among students are reduced.
Ms Momanyi says the rooms have remained vacant since universities were closed, but she is hopeful businesses will return to normal.
“We have placed restrictions to hold one or two students per room. We sought other businesses as we closed our hostels after students went home,” Momanyi said.
She, however, said she would not increase her rental charges considering that everyone had been affected by the pandemic.
“At this point everyone has been affected and we would not want to place high fees to other parents who are struggling. We all are undergoing the same challenges and we wouldn’t want to charge high fees on other people’s children, as ours may be subjected to the same rules,” Mrs Momanyi said.
She said a student living alone in a room would pay Sh24,000 per semester while a room having two students will fetch pay Sh15,000 from each for a semester.
With limited accommodation spaces at Kisii University, most students had opted for rooms outside campus.
Currently, the university population at the main campus is slightly above 6,000 students, with more than 12 high-rise hostels around the university.
Makori Thomas, one of the landlords with at least 25 rooms, said he had opted to sell the houses.
“I am unable to repay my bank loan. KRA is also demanding that we make our returns, yet we are not receiving returns from the businesses,” he said.
Makori said the students left their belongings locked in the rooms.
“We thought the President would lift the curfew after a month or two, hence we allowed them to lock their rooms,” he said.