Students plead for more on-campus accommodation facilities

Much as they hope for a brighter future after graduation, university students in the Democratic Republic of the Congo grapple with a shortage of hostels across the country. In none of the hundreds of institutions of higher learning can all enrolled students be housed.

The private sector also lags behind in investing in building affordable housing for students.

At the University of Lubumbashi, one of the prestigious university institutions in the country, only 4,500 of the 22,000 students can be accommodated – even though tiny rooms meant for only two house double the number. This leaves thousands of students stranded.

Built during colonial times in the 1950s, the University of Lubumbashi is one of the oldest and has not been renovated regularly. To be accommodated on campus, students pay between US$110 and US$150 as an entry fee. In a hostel that accommodates 192 female students, there is only one bathroom and one toilet.

Travelling derails performance

“The main issue is to get admitted due to the high demand for on-campus accommodation,” lamented one student who prefers not to be identified.

Some students resort to staying far from the campus where they can afford the accommodation. “The issue then is transport and time management. Sometimes, we are delayed or miss some morning classes due to the shortage of transport. Sometimes we walk long distances, as we cannot afford to pay all the time,” the student said.

Gadielle Wetshi, a student from l’Université de Kisangani (the University of Kisangani) walks 50 minutes to and from his home where he stays with his family after he failed to raise the US$400 to pay for a space on campus.

Others, who live in the University of Kisangani’s hostels, share a room with six other students. Like the University of Lubumbashi, the University of Kisangani suffers from a lack of facilities such as toilets and bathrooms.

“The conditions are deplorable for both those living on campus and us who trek distances every day to look for a place to stay,” Wetshi said. “It is not practical to trek all the way and expect good performance. We often feel too tired to concentrate; sometimes we fail courses due to the distance we have to travel.”

The third-year student in agronomy appeals to the government to put in more effort to build affordable housing facilities for university students. “This can boost the quality of education. It can also ensure the students’ safety, especially our female counterparts who [risk] sexual exploitation,” he said.

Muhindo Nzangi Butondo, the minister of higher and university education, said in April 2023 during an inspection of a construction site at the University of Kinshasa (UNIKIN) that the country was working on plans to renovate both public and semi-public universities and higher learning institutions to ensure that the number of accommodated students increases.

Rehabilitation work at the university in the capital city was completed in May 2023, and will be progressively, over time, expanded to other higher learning institutions.

UNIKIN served as a village for the Francophonie Games in Kinshasa in July 2024. “We started here, and the students will be relocated to the renovated hostels,” the minister said.