Relocate Campus, Residents Urge
The Zvishavane community has called on responsible authorities to relocate the newly established Midlands State University campus as a way of dealing with the rise in prostitution, drug abuse and gender based violence cases in the mining town.
This was revealed through a research carried out by Hands of Hope Trust , a community based organisation that focuses on women empowerment. The research sought to find out how the establishment of the campus has influenced behavioural trends in Zvishavane.
Mrs Phiri a housewife whose husband lost his job when Shabani mine closed a few years ago recalled how prostitution used to be in the mining town, though the levels have significantly gone up since the campus was established in 2015.
“These girls from university will do anything for a quick buck. Way back we used to see prostitutes roaming around looking for clients. Now it's even worse. The way these girls dress, they could as well be naked.”
“Anyone can walk from the campus into town anytime. Students can get into all kinds of mischief because they can afford to. Had the campus been located at least 15-20km out if town in any direction, fewer students would afford to get into town as and when they wish. This would not only decongest our town but also see a marked decrease in criminal activity”
Fanuel Muchena is an unemployed high school dropout. He says he dropped out of school when his uncle lost his job at the mine.
“For years, the mine sustained many families. It was my dream that I would also work at the mine one day. Now all my hopes have dried up and the opening of the campus - while a welcome development for those who are academically gifted and can afford to pay fees- for most of us suggests that the mine has been shut down for good.
“Before the opening of the campus, everyone knew everyone. We even knew the makorokozas who plied their trade here. Now we have been invaded by these boys and girls with alien cultures.
“We may not have the figures but domestic violence has increased significantly. Our men have set their sights on those young university girls. Monies which were previously used to take care of families are now being channelled towards the upkeep of these girls. They call our men blessers,” said one Mrs Munyavi.
Mrs Munyavi said some women are bearing the brunt of domestic violence. When they ask for monies to take care of the family, they are either verbally abused or beaten up.
“It would be better if the campus was moved to some place out of town,” added Mrs Munyavi.
A health expert who preferred anonymity said Zvishavane had become a ticking time bomb. He said the town was initially meant to accommodate about 70 000 people but now had an excess of 120 000. This is far above its carrying capacity. The establishment of the campus has only worsened the situation.
“We are not only looking at sexually transmitted infections but cases air borne diseases are likely to rise. We have seen a rise in TB cases in the last 2 years and we attribute this to overcrowding which has been worsened by the opening of the campus. We hope measures will be put in place to address accommodation challenges also taking into account that the available infrastructure cannot sustain the current population,” said the health expert.
Across the globe, most universities have always been situated in areas that are considered ideal, often away from densely populated locations that would not provide a conducive environment for academic pursuit.
In some instances, an urban settlement can develop around a university, with subordinate institutions or industries like printing presses and research centres as in the case of the world famous Oxford University, where Oxford town continues to grow around the University’s thirty eight colleges located in the town.
Back home, Zimbabwe’s first university the University of Zimbabwe, is located in one of Harare’s quiet, upmarket low density areas of Mount Pleasant. The National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe’s second university is also located in a similarly quiet location in Zimbabwe’s second biggest city, Bulawayo.
One of the biggest problems in Zimbabwe’s state owned universities is that they are being developed without the necessary accommodation facilities, leaving students -particularly the young ones who would be fresh out of high school- having to face various problems associated with having to find their own accommodation.