US$17m students complex complete
Sikhumbuzo Moyo Senior Reporter
THE Government, through the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ), has completed the construction of the US$17 million massive student accommodation complex in Bulawayo, which is now ready for occupation.
The multi-purpose three-block of flats complex dubbed “Bulawayo Students City” has 516 rooms that are expected to accommodate 1 023 students.
The complex, which is located near the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), is expected to go a long way in easing accommodation challenges for tertiary students in the city. The facility is self-contained as it would have fast food outlets, shops, salons, and sporting facilities.
The Government under the Second Republic, has embarked on several major infrastructural development projects countrywide, which include housing, roads, dams, schools, health centres and irrigation schemes in line with the National Development Strategy NDS1 (2021-2025) economic blueprint.
The Government launched NDS1 to lay the foundation towards the country becoming an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
The Bulawayo Students City, which is situated at Selbourne Park, was first mooted in 2016 under a programme called the University Students and Staff Accommodation Programme (USSAP).
The complex, which is a joint venture project comprising the IDBZ, Old Mutual, Zimnat, and Mining Industry Pension Funds, is expected to be replicated in cities where there are universities, with Lupane expected to be the second beneficiary of such a facility.
IDBZ and Wah Kong Enterprises Limited in 2018 signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in the construction of the university students and staff accommodation project across the country.
Due to increased enrolment figures at State universities, only 15 percent of students have accommodation at the campus halls of residence while the rest rely on lodgings in areas surrounding the universities.
The past two decades have recorded a surge in the number of enrolments at universities and the current number is estimated to be more than 70 000 with only 11 000 having accommodation provided by the institutions.
The Government has called for increased investment in the learning space, accommodation facilities, recreational and other supporting facilities.
IDBZ chief executive officer Mr Thomas Sakala said the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions resulted in delays in construction works.
“Construction is virtually done and the complex is ready for occupation. We are just doing minor things like cleaning the area and other minor things,” he said.
Mr Sakala could, however, not give detailed information on the commissioning of the project by President Mnangagwa.
“I cannot give you the exact date for commissioning as that is going to be determined by the programme of the guest of honour.”
Mr Sakala said under the USSAP, IDBZ will spearhead the construction of accommodation facilities for students and staff at universities and other tertiary institutions across the country.
He said the programme is a critical intervention in complementing Government efforts towards alleviating the plight of students and staff by providing secure and affordable accommodation facilities which are conducive to effective teaching and learning.
Besides accommodation, there is a canteen, laundry facility as well as shop space for big retail shops with leading retailer OK Zimbabwe having already taken up space. It has fast-food outlets space, saloon as well as sporting facilities.
The Second Republic has embarked on several major infrastructural development projects countrywide in line with President Mnangagwa’s development agenda of leaving no one and no place behind.
Bulawayo City Council had initially rejected the proposal to build the hostels claiming the land had already been earmarked for townhouses.
Residents from the suburb had objected to the students’ accommodation complex being built off-campus, arguing that the development would downgrade the status of the up-market residential area.
Last year, Government said about 100 000 university students in the country were struggling for accommodation with indications that Nust is the worst affected institution in the country.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said out of 10 000 students at Nust, only 120 are staying on campus.
IDBZ is a Government-owned development bank mandated to fund long and medium-term funding for key infrastructure projects.
The bank was primarily set up as a vehicle for the promotion of economic development and growth, and improvement of the living standards of Zimbabweans through the development of infrastructure, which includes but, is not limited to roads, dams, water reticulation, housing, sewerage, technology, amenities and utilities.
IDBZ was established through the IDBZ Act (Chapter 24:14) to champion sustainable infrastructure development in Zimbabwe through mobilisation of resources, capacity building, knowledge generation and sharing in support of national efforts for inclusive socio-economic development.