By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK An acute shortage of lodgings for thousands of students at the University of Namibia still remains a great challenge, even for this academic year. The situation is made worse by the fact that no concrete plans are in place at the moment for constructing more accommodation facilities. Although university management 12 years ago at its developmental planning meeting agreed to increase accommodation for students by 20 percent each year to address the problem, it has not been able to fulfill its pledge. Since 1995 when Unam built hostels that tripled the number that existed at the time, no other structure has been erected to house the increasing number of students at the institution. According to the university spokesperson Utaara Hoveka, the institution does not have enough funds to carry out such a job. “The money that is available is for other educational materials. Building hostels needs a lot of money,” he said. However, plans are under way to engage prospective business individuals or companies (private sector) in talks that might lead to the construction of more hostels. A Chinese company was contracted in 2004 to do the work but withdrew at the last minute due to US dollar fluctuations, or alternatively Unam could have been compelled to double accommodation fees to recoup the investment. Utaara explained the solution would be if someone from the private sector builds hostels and agrees on how much students could pay per year. Preferably, the hostel fees should not exceed what the university is currently asking from students. The accommodation fee for SADC students is N$8 330 per annum while non-SADC students cough up N$14 830 per year. Assistant dean of students Levi Shigwedha yesterday described the existing accommodation problem at campus as hectic. While the university received about 5000 student accommodation applications for this year, the institution can only meet the needs of 1080 students. Every year, Unam can only take in about 400 new students in its hostels with the rest being those who were already in hostels the previous year. “We are appealing to members of the public with extra accommodation, preferably rooms and small flats near campus, to help us,” Shigwedha said. He added that the public should be sympathetic towards students when they take them in as tenants, especially that most students are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Students who come from faraway places and who do not have friends or relatives in the Khomas Region are usually given accommodation preference.
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