With regular students out of campus for holidays, the University of Nairobi main campus hostels have become a fast selling commodity, fueled by the high demand from parallel students seeking for cheap accommodation.
Regular students –sponsored by the Government- get accommodation from the University at highly subsidized rates. On average, a regular student pays Sh5,000 per year for a room, but some students are renting out their rooms to module II students for Sh5,000 per month.
The university hostels are cheaper than any other place, especially within the city. A QR, previously known as study rooms, costs regular students Sh21, Sh28 or Sh30 a day, depending on the size and privacy.
Prefabs costs 18 shillings per day. These are the cheapest and always given to 1st years and 2nd years.
This situation has persisted for a long time because the administrative structures put in place by the Student Welfare Authority (SWA) are either too weak or students are taking advantage of the loop holes.
According to Boniface Ngenoh, an official of the influential UoN’s student association, the administration is reluctant to solve the problem.
“Accommodation has never gotten a solution here. No options are given,” he says.
The parallel students occupy the rooms without the knowledge of the administration.
Damaris Safari, a parallel student, says negotiation depends on the interpersonal relationship between the two parties (the student landlord and the tenant).
“Most of the times you do not negotiate because you are in need. The high demand also gives them an advantage,” she says.
The hostel representatives, know as student congressmen/women, wield a lot of influence and can determine who gets a room and who will have to look for alternative accommodation.
The administration always leaves some 6-7 rooms in every hostel to cater for special cases. Some are rented out by congressmen.
“They are in charge of the hostel, so they can do pretty much do what they want…others even rent to non-student,” says Ngenoh.
But the administration insists students found renting out their rooms are punished.
“The room owner will not be allocated a room for 3 consecutive years. They will have to find accommodation outside the university,” said a SWA official.