In a bid to save costs, students are increasingly sharing accommodation resulting to loosely defined relationships where sex is part of the cost/benefit in the equation. Although campus cohabitation is not new with Kenyan university and college students, the trend has taken a new dimension as harsh economic times push more students to take up shared living quarters and more often than the past, with the opposite gender.
Cohabitation in campuses started back in the 60’s ushered in by relaxed hostel rules, the availability of the ‘’pill,’’ a more liberal philosophy held by students in regards to sex and the new found freedom after high school.
While most private universities have stringent rules on hostel accommodation, some public universities have designated mixed gender hostels. But that’s for those who are lucky to get Uni accommodation. Although on-campus accommodation is cheaper, a majority of these hostels are in a state of disrepair and are slowly sliding to shanty status.
At Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) in Kakamega town, hundreds of students are forced to seek accommodation outside the campus. Ben* is one among the many MMUST students who has rented a room in one of the many private hostels outside the campus.
When Ben joined campus in 2010, all was promising. However, he could not get accommodation on the campus due to the huge demand for campus rooms. So he considered renting a room from a hostel near the campus.
“Accommodation is very expensive and I only survive on HELB. I had to find someone to share the rent,” says Ben.
In the process of looking for a room mate, Ben met Grace, a fellow student who was also looking for cheap accommodation. The idea to share costs seemed logical and economic at the time. But looking at their single-room accommodation, one would think it’s a room for just one guy in campus.
There is no sign of a chair or a table, but the room is extremely tidy with only three cooking pans, some dishes and a charcoal burner. It is clear they share the bed.
“So how do you guys live and survive here?” I ask.
Ben says cohabiting is loaded with its financial benefits.
“Living together can be fun and economical, and the setup costs are subtly woven in. With only Shs. 6000 as rent, we are able to share the expenses and live a good life,” reveals Ben.
But he also adds the two are neither dating nor married, though they have sex regularly, Ben admits. Grace laughs at Ben’s statement and I guess also from my surprised expression. I can see it’s not a big deal.
A kilometer away, Sammy lives with Michelle in his parent’s house. Sammy is one of the lucky students because his parents are not in the country.
“We enjoy living together,” says Sammy. “We share costs and of course the sex is an added advantage.”
Asked whether they are dating, Michelle avoids the question but hints that she enjoys everything from Sammy so she doesn’t consider him as a boyfriend, but a ‘friend with benefits’ relationship suits them.
Another student, Andrew, is a third year student at Maseno University, and has been living with Leah for the past six months. She recently gave birth to twins. Andrew is now struggling to take care of this family and he often misses class to fend for his family.
At Moi University, in Eldoret, Victor decided to move in with a female friend when his HELB funds proved to be too little to sustain his lifestyle. But he is facing a unique predicament.
“She is demanding too much sex. I can’t seem to keep up with her. But what do I do? I can’t afford to stay alone. It’s too expensive,” says Victor, with a sense of resignation.
Are you sharing a room with a college-mate of the opposite gender? what is your experience? would you consider that option if you haven’t been in one?