The University of Nairobi can only accommodate 10,000Â studentsÂ on an on-campus basis against itsÂ studentÂ enrollment of 85,000 across the country
This is a shortfall of 75,000Â studentsÂ who seek alternative accommodation in private rentals or live with parents, relatives and friends
Not long ago, a video purportedly showing University of Nairobi (UoN)Â studentsÂ sleepingÂ on cold verandahs went viral on social media. TheÂ studentsÂ had just reported back to campus for a new semester, but could not find accommodation.
The university's administration has since denied that theÂ studentsÂ captured on the video were indeed from the institution. John Orindi, the university's director of corporate affairs, disputed the claims, saying the video was made and circulated by aÂ studentÂ who wanted to contest a leadership position at the university and and wanted to be seen to be championing the welfare ofÂ students.
He denied that the university was experiencing an accommodation crisis.
Just before the start of the current semester, UoN closed down its wooden hostels of residence, popularly known as prefabs, partly to comply with Commission for University Education (CUE) accommodation guideline. The prefabs used to accommodate about 1,000Â students.
Prof Jackson Maalu, the director ofÂ StudentÂ Welfare Association, says abiding by CUE regulations is for the benefit ofÂ students.
With the entrance of freshmen, some continuingÂ studentsÂ - mostly second and third years from main and Chiromo campuses - have been forced toÂ sleepÂ inÂ shiftsÂ in what is famously known amongÂ studentsÂ as 'pirating'.
Orindi says the UoN enrols a total of 85,000Â studentsÂ in all its campuses across the country against 10,000 bed spaces. That huge accommodation deficit has been compounded by the closing down of prefabs, which had a capacity to accommodate more than 957Â students.
â€œIt is for the safety of ourÂ studentsÂ that the prefabs are going to be demolished and replaced with a new building under a public-private partnership arrangement," says Prof Maalu.
Charles Kibiwot, a third year meteorologyÂ student, was captured in the video that went viral pleading with the Ministry of Education to come their rescue and address the accommodation problems.
"Itâ€™s very hard here... We are suffering: we donâ€™t haveÂ rooms, weÂ sleepÂ outside, and the university has turned a deaf ear. ManyÂ studentsÂ are suffering in silence andÂ sleepÂ in the TVÂ rooms,â€ says Kibiwot.
Kibiwot says he struggled to find a place toÂ sleepÂ at the beginning of the Semester. He opted to carry his bedding to the Central Catering Unit where he met otherÂ studentsÂ who had also failed to getÂ rooms. He is joined by his friend Kangu Faraji, a third-year MeteorologicalÂ studentÂ whom he shares his bedding with.
â€œSomeÂ studentsÂ here opt to enjoy the free Wi-Fi services... During the day, they goÂ sleepÂ in their comrades'Â rooms. SuchÂ studentsÂ sometimes miss lectures,â€ he says.
Orindi says that admission in universities is not linked to bed capacity. â€œWe admit the number that qualifies, not the number we can accommodate," he says.
But Kweyu Isaac, a third-year bachelor's of artsÂ student, says the administration should have accommodatedÂ studentsÂ in prefabs for a semester before a lasting solution can be found.
â€œWe want a place we can sit and relax after classes. That has to be a hostel,â€ says Kweyu.
Orindi says itâ€™s long since the institution built on-campus hostels: "Most of the hostels, especially prefabs, were built at the start of double intakes in the early 1990s. Universities were asked to build temporary structures to accommodate moreÂ studentsÂ and that is how the prefabs came into existence."
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