Hunger, destitution show that university life isn’t a fairy tale

Kenyatta University students

Kenyatta University students at the main campus make their way to class.

Photo credit: Pool

Like my fellow students, I believe getting admission to university and other institutions of higher learning is a great milestone.

Many of us expected the fabled “good life” after working hard to score top grades in high school.

With freedom to make decisions on our lives and cash from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) to spend, we thought everything would be smooth. Far from it, alas.

Before one gets the honours of adorning the graduation regalia, it has dawned on us, they have to face a lot of challenges — prolonged holidays, strikes and a high cost of living. For a majority of students, every day is a struggle to afford the basic necessities.

Internet bundles

The latest basic need, Wi-Fi and internet bundles, has only made matters worse for financially struggling comrades. Stories you have read about university students sleeping hungry are not fairy tales.

Students often survive on one meal a day. Interactions are at the minimum on campus and many remain isolated, facing their troubles alone, after attending the few classes on Zoom that their limited data bundles could allow.

Hardship is one of the factors fuelling the rise of the student-entrepreneur. Thousands of students now have to balance between studies and eking out a living, with some becoming hawkers. While many parents believe Helb loans should see their children through college, the truth is that this money is not enough and usually comes late. Tough campus life has seen emotions boil over, with the most recent strike linked to hunger and starvation rocking Moi University.

But as we continue being innovative and creative to make ends meet, I believe university administrators can improve the quality of our lives on campus.

Poor students

First, reinstate food subsidies and enable the cafeterias to offer quality meals to poor students.

If possible, and just like in high school, universities should make it known to parents and guardians that they have to send their children upkeep every month.

It is increasingly becoming hard to convince our parents that we need financial support because many think Helb gives us millions of shillings every semester.

Universities should also reinstate and expand work-study programmes to help more students in need of financial aid.

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