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Students live in some of Nairobi’s worst housing
– by Alphonce Shiundu
Many students live in slums.
They rent houses in groups or live in hostels located in slums near the universities. Such housing is cheap – albeit substandard. Sanitation, security and safety are secondary considerations for people who need a roof over their heads.
The picture is not much better for recent graduates. About 15 years ago, when I came to Nairobi after university, I stayed with my cousins in their home. After I got a job, I moved with my brother in a single-roomed house in a working-class neighbourhood.
Some of my new colleagues were less lucky and lived in hostels. Others shared a single room costing 5,000 Kenyan shillings (KES) (50 US$) a month in rent with others.
These rooms had thin mattresses on the floor for sleeping at night and sitting on during the day; a cooker atop a 5-kg cylinder of cooking gas; a small metal box used as a makeshift ironing board for clothes; and three or four 20-litre jerrycans with water for cooking, bathing and cleaning. The rest of the room was filled with clothes, a few utensils, and a bucket for trash. Bathrooms and toilets were outside, usually shared among many tenants.
With slightly more income, some residents can move out of a shared room to occupy bedsits. These are single-roomed houses in decent neighbourhoods with a toilet and bathroom, and often a sink in one corner that denotes a cooking area. The rent for these small houses is typically twice the amount of the one-room rentals – about 10,000 KES (100 US$) per month.