Former Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo has said President Hakainde Hichilema should tackle the issues of increasing unsupervised student boarding houses that are being abused as he addresses Parliament on Friday on the Application of National Values, Ethics, and Principles.
Mr. Lusambo said mushrooming unsupervised student boarding houses are being used for drug abuse and sexual activities by students.
The former Kabushi Member of Parliament said some students are engaging in “mini-marriages” with no regard for traditional and cultural values.
Mr. Lusambo observed that the growth in tertiary education over the last few years has evidently brought with it unprecedented demand for student accommodation.
“The tragedy of unsupervised student boarding houses. As President Hichilema addresses Parliament on Friday on the Application of National Values, Ethics and Principles, we wish to draw the nation to a matter of serious concern, one that threatens national values and risks decimating the moral fiber of this great nation. The growth in tertiary education over the last few years has evidently brought with it unprecedented demand for student accommodation. All Universities and Colleges, both private and public have been outstripped with regard to student bed spaces while a number of these Institutions are operating with no provision for student accommodation. In their desire to obtain a qualification, most young people are choosing to live in boarding houses as they pursue their educational goals,” Mr. Lusambo said.
“What we have seen now is the emergence of a social tsunami where students as young as 17 are being forced to look for boarding houses to rent for the entire duration of their study programmes. Their level of vulnerability is so high such that by the time they graduate, these young people would have been exposed to so many social and moral ills that would have a lasting impact on their lives forever. Gathered evidence is showing that most boarding houses are now dens of sin, criminality and outright moral decay. We now have students engaged in “mini-marriages” with no regard to traditional and cultural values. Others have been introduced and have gotten addicted to hard drugs while living in these boarding houses and the lack of adequate sanitation services at these boarding houses poses a serious public health threat. If nothing is done urgently to curb the rise in these boarding houses, Zambia will face a huge public health crisis in the next 10 years. We will have a generation of young adults that won’t be able to function as the moral backbone would have been weakened,” Mr. Lusambo stated.
He proposed measures aimed at helping address the crisis of student accommodation.
“The Higher Education Authority should place a moratorium on the issuance of new licenses for Universities and Colleges that do not have student ready accommodation spaces. An application should only be reviewed after evidence has been provided to show that adequate bed spaces to absorb at least 90% of students is available. Existing higher learning institutions should be given a two year grace period to provide accommodation facilities for at least 90% of the students. After the two year period has elapsed, the Higher Education Authority should review and inspect the bed spaces before renewing the license. The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance working with the Bankers Association of Zambia should collaborate to develop a financing framework for higher learning institutions to access cheaper financing for them to construct student hostels closer to campus,” Mr. Lusambo said.
He further urged councils to collaborate with Higher Education Authority to carry out inspections on all boarding houses to check for compliance to public health laws
“Local authorities should work with Higher Education Authority to carry out inspections on all boarding houses to check for compliance to public health laws. Institutions flouting those guidelines should face stiffer penalties. Higher learning institutions should insist on only offering Acceptance Letters to students who will present Lease Agreements signed off by guardians and property owners that will show how and where the student will be accommodated for the duration of their study programme. Higher learning institutions should carry out periodical compliance checks to ensure that students are staying in boarding houses that are traceable. It is our strongly considered view that President Hichilema should take this matter seriously to protect the future of this great nation,” Mr. Lusambo said.