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Students paying with their lives for hostel shortage in varsities

Saturday March 16 2019

university student

A house in Nakuru where a university student was killed by her boyfriend in February 2018. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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By NATION TEAM
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On March 4, a student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), was admitted to Thika Level 5 Hospital after being stabbed by two armed men at High Point in Juja, Kiambu.

Mofasa Shawn was walking with his girlfriend when the gang attacked them. Wananchi came to their rescue and lynched one suspect as his accomplices escaped.

The attack came less than a month after a first-year student at the same institution was stabbed to death as she tried to fight off robbers.

STABBED

Tabitha Muthoni and a friend were walking near Segal Hotel at 8pm when they were confronted by gangsters who demanded their mobile phones.

Ms Muthoni put up a fight while her friend complied. She  was stabbed in the neck and was rushed to the university hospital where she died.

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Most of the victims of gang attacks are students who live outside the university campuses. Others have also been attacked on their way to hostels located within the universities.

On January 22, Eric Mugambi Chieta, a second-year Bachelor of Arts student at Mount Kenya University, was stabbed to death by unknown attackers while walking to his home in Kiandutu slums, Thika.

He was in the company of three colleagues from the main campus when the attackers waylaid them. His colleagues fled for their lives.

On July 24 last year, 21-year-old Tabitha Kitaa Kiiti, a second-year student at JKUAT, went missing, only for her body to be found dumped in a thicket outside one of the hostels near the main campus. Next to her body was her national identity card and a used condom.

ROBBERIES

The Business of Information Technology student had last been seen on July 21 at the Juja bus stop at around 6.30am.

Exactly a week later, 19-year-old Isaac Ndung’u Njogu, a second-year student at MKU was waylaid by two men while walking along Thika Road towards Witeithie. He was stabbed to death.

On May 4, 2018, Tim Sydney Aomba was stabbed at night as he walked to his hostel. He died on the way to hospital.

On July 10, last year, Rodgers Mengo, a second-year student at the Kiambu Institute of Science at Technology (KIST), was asleep in his rented single room at Thathi-ini village, about two kilometres from the institution, when gun-wielding robbers forced their way in.

They shot him in the back and stomach, killing him on the spot. These incidents bring to the fore the dangers students are exposed to on a daily basis, largely due to an accommodation crisis in universities and colleges.

According to KIST students’ president Franklin Ng’eno, cases of students being attacked, at times fatally, as they walk to and from their hostels, are on the rise.

“Students no longer carry their laptops or computers because there have been incidents of robbers attacking them while walking to the hostels,” Ng’eno said.

AMBUSHED

KIST principal Michael Ndung’u, while acknowledging the dangers students encounter, however says the institution can do very little to address the situation.

“When we admit students, they initially scramble for accommodation within the institution but come the following semester, they move out.

Some even lie to their parents that they live in the school’s hostels yet they moved out. And because living outside the school is expensive, some of them end up spending part of their fees to pay rent,” the principal said.

At Masinde Muliro University, a fourth-year student was murdered and his body dumped in a trench next to a timber yard in Lurambi Estate last month.

His colleagues said he was bludgeoned to death after they were ambushed by the gang as they walked home after attending classes in the evening.

Masinde Muliro University Students Organisation chairman  Clifton Kisera accused the police of failing to deal with insecurity in Kakamega town.

“We have reported several incidents to police after our colleagues were attacked on their way home at night, but the response has been very poor,” said Mr Kisera.

They complained that students who live in Lurambi, Koromatangi and Sichirayi were frequently targeted by criminals.

PATROLS

Kakamega Central OCPD Joseph Chebii said two suspects were arrested following the student’s death.

“We have intensified patrols but it is unfortunate that students expose themselves by loitering in town late in the night and end up being attacked by criminals,” he added.

Mr Chebii warned that students found roaming in town at night would be arrested.

Kenya Association of Private Universities chairman Mumo Kisau says the government should consider deploying armed police officers in private universities across the country.

Prof Kisau observes that security guards are not well-equipped to deal with security threats in those institutions.

“We need one or two police officers in each of our universities,” adds Prof Kisau.

Kenya University Students Association (Kuso) president Antony Manyara says the government should step in and address the problem of insecurity in learning institutions.

“It is sad that students are being killed in learning institutions yet parents have invested heavily in them,” adds Mr Manyara.

BOOKINGS

A report by the Commission for University Education (CUE) released last year revealed several security challenges in universities.

“Rapid changes in security environment within and around universities and constituent colleges call for concerted efforts between the Ministry of Education, CUE and other relevant government agencies to ensure that the major security challenges and threats in universities and constituent colleges are identified and mitigating measures put in place,” stated the report.

Shortage of accommodation facilities in public and private universities is forcing students to live in hostels outside the campuses, exposing them to insecurity.

A government scheme to encourage the private sector to put up hostels near universities has not met the demand for accommodation, leaving most students at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords and criminals.

Thousands of students live kilometres away from the campuses, leaving them exposed to criminals.

Data from the Ministry of Education indicate that there are 520,750 students in both public and private universities.

At the University of Nairobi, students have on several occasions had to make advance bookings for hostels from their colleagues who are about to complete studies.

3,000 STUDENTS

Such bookings come at a fee, known as “deposit”.

At Chuka University, out of 16,000 students, the institution can only accommodate 1,000, most of them female.

The University Student Council chairman Cornelius Kimutai says most of the students would like to stay in the campus hostels because of their safety but it is not possible.

At Kisii University, students have been forced to seek alternative accommodation outside the institution.

The university has a student population of about 13,000 at the main campus with about 7,000 of them in session at any given time.

The university has only nine hostels hosting about 3,000 students.

CRISIS

Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Mount Kenya University also face a serious hostel shortage.

In Kirinyaga and Embu universities, most of the students reside outside because of the accommodation crisis with the former having a population of 6,000 students and the latter 6,500 students respectively.

Kirinyaga University can only accommodate 1,500 students.

Reporting by Benson Amadala, Ouma Wanzala, Mary Wambui, Eric Wainaina, Alex Njeru, Ruth Mbula and George Munene.