Kenya has experienced tremendous growth in the academic sector, more so in the higher education field. From a mere three public universities in the 1990’s, it has grown to an astounding 22 fully chartered public universities, constituent colleges and public universities. This growth has been attributed to efforts by the government to increase literacy levels in the country by providing free primary education and subsidizing tuition fees at secondary school level.
The government, through the Joint Admissions Board (JAB), has increased enrollment of qualified students into public universities, giving special allocations to female students and those from marginalized areas of the country. Students who are admitted into university through the Joints Admissions Board (Module I/Regular intake) have their university fees heavily waived by the government. These students however have to cater for their meals and accommodation while at the university.
However, due to the rising numbers of students being admitted each year, most public universities have been unable to expand accordingly to meet the accommodation demand. In 2013 for example, 53,010 students were admitted into public universities by JAB, a 26% increment from the numbers enrolled in 2011. This number is almost double the 20,221 students that were admitted in 2011. Almost half the regular students who are admitted miss out on accommodation on campus as the hostels have a minimum bed capacity. The University of Nairobi for example, with a total student population of about 57,000 can only afford to accommodate a fifth of these students.
Lack of funding and adequate finances as well as the time factor remain the key factors that inhibit the public universities from constructing more hostels. The private universities however are not faced with such challenges as they have a wider capital base, fewer students and ready funds from investors.
This accommodation debacle in the public universities has caused a strain especially on the students from humble backgrounds who are forced to sublet or rent apartments at a very costly price. Private hostels are very expensive whereas finding an affordable apartment is another headache.
It is because of this that public universities have now embarked on a mission to solve the scourge by partnering with private investors to provide hostels for their students. The university provides land for construction whereas the investors provide the requisite capital. Payment terms are then agreed upon as per the contract. This ensures that the private investor makes profit while the university is able to provide quality accommodation for its students.
Jomo Kenyatta University, Kenyatta University as well as Moi University and Dedan Kimathi University are among the public universities that have embraced this system to solve the accommodation issue. This kind of private-public partnership might just be the long awaited solution that will revolutionize the management and provision of accommodation in public universities across the country.