CAMEROON: Student housing and security problems

Students in Douala are facing increasing housing problems as landlords prefer to rent to more lucrative tenants, as well as burglaries when they do find student accommodation, according to newspapers Douala's area of Bonamoussadi contained buildings composed of bedsits intended for housing students, said of Yaound�. But it was clear that many of these rooms were occupied by workers and their families. Baby clothes were hung out to dry and shrieking children ran along the corridors said the publication, which interviewed students living in the area.

One student, whose neighbour was a builder living with his young brother still at school, said: "these guys, who are workers, are practically everywhere".

Another said it was "even more annoying when they have children; you have to put up with their racket. The rooms and the corridors are narrow, the noise hurts everyone and it's impossible to study". A third said that the hours the other residents kept made it clear "they are shopkeepers, workers, even civil servants who have been transplanted among us, sometimes with their families".

Accusations were made of deals between incomers and landlords. Since a recent official decision to reduce university rents from 10,000 FCFA (US$21) to 4,500FCFA, students had been in dispute with landlords, demanding application of the new rates, said Quotidienmutations.

It also spoke to the non-student tenants who, not surprisingly, were paying a higher rent than the fixed student rate. All were low-paid workers, and some were former students. They paid their rent on time, and were less trouble than the students, said Quotidienmutations.

Meanwhile, students from Douala University living in purpose-built university housing were facing increasing numbers of burglaries, reported Cameroon Tribune of Yaound�. Gangs of between six and 12 hooded invaders armed with machetes were focusing on a modern student accommodation block to steal items such as mobile phones, jewellery, money and computers.

A gendarme told the paper it was not clear why these units were targeted as students did not own very much. The police had increased their presence around the university campus but the thieves had adapted their methods, for example telephoning to lay false trails.

The gangs appeared to know the students' movements, indicating there were informers tipping them off, said the Tribune.