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Yala turning into a ghost town

By Olivia Odhiambo | May 3rd 2021
A picture of Yala town in Siaya County in a picture taken on July 18, 2020. (Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard)

The once vibrant Yala town is now in the doldrums after the closure of Odera Akang’o College campus that gave it a lifeline.

When the campus that was a constituent college of Moi University was shut in 2019, the livelihoods of more than 50,000 people was affected.

The town, situated along Kisumu-Busia highway in Gem Sub-county, suffered as a result of closed businesses, deserted restaurants and vacant rental houses. Business people and residents now say the town has lost its glory.

“A lot of traders have closed their businesses,” said Peter Adhaya, chairman of Yala Young Traders Association.

“When the university was still operating, business was good. Students would do everything within Yala town. Now rental houses have been converted to guest rooms, but there are no customers,” said Mr Adhaya.

Those who had shops and eateries around the hostels and the university were the worst-hit.

Businessman Asis Awan, 62, who was born in Yala town, said businesses in the area have gone down by 50 per cent since the closure of Odera Akang’o College.

Awan said business people who spent millions of shillings to put up rental houses and hostels are counting losses since some of them had taken loans.

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He revealed that his hardware business has not been spared as construction projects have stalled or gone down. Mr Awan, a member of the National Committee of Chamber of Commerce and Siaya branch representative, said there was no hope of businesses getting better.

Agnes Achieng, a vegetable vendor who had a stall just opposite the college where several hostels are situated, said she had to move to the market centre to start all over again.

“I stayed at home for two months trying to strategise. My vegetable business collapsed in 2019. I had a stall where most of the students were living and when all of them finally left, my business collapsed,” said Achieng. The campus was launched in 2008 as a satellite campus with only 32 students.

The college did not receive government-sponsored students from Moi University for some years, but managed to admit privately sponsored learners.

Before its closure, the college had received an ultimatum from the Commission of University Education that it risked closure if the management did not get 50 hectares of land for expansion after an inspection in 2016.

The Commission of University Education had given the campus a timeline of two years to ensure all the requirements were met by February 2018 when another inspection was to be conducted before a final decision was made.

Odera Akang’o College campus, which currently sits on six hectares, had 1,142 privately sponsored students at the time of its closure. 

In a bid to beat the closure warning, the college had received 90 hectares in Nyamininia near Yala.

The county government committed Sh35 million two years ago to help improve, construct and refurbish the campus structures and it was to offer tuition scholarships to its staff in return. However, Moi University administration pulled out, letting go all the workers who had remained at the campus, forcing it to close.

But there have been plans by other higher learning institutions seeking to take over the college.

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