Acquiring bed space in Makerere Halls of residence is increasingly becoming lucrative for opportunists due to the high competition around the process.
The bed spaces are preserved for government-sponsored students doing particular science courses.
There is no guarantee for private sponsored students that succeed to apply for bed space through direct application to the office of the Dean of Students.
There are nine halls of residences namely Lumumba, Mitchel, Living stone, Nsibirwa, Nkrumah and University hall for males and then Complex, Mary Stuart and Africa Hall for female students.
They are meant to host over 40,000 students.
While the university charges Sh300,000 for each occupant for four months, the students who sell off bed space charge as must as Sh600,000.
The stretched bureaucracy when students apply for accommodation through the dean’s office is not a guarantee that a successful applicant will find space.
At that point, admission to the hall is under the warden who is in a position to identify whether bed space is available or not, and who to consider as a priority for those who end up on the waiting list.
For the privately sponsored students where it is first come first serve basis, along the way the process is largely dependent on “who can speak for you?”, can you pay extra money or are you persistent enough?
It is this bureaucracy that forces students to consider shortcuts.
Micheal Asaba, a third-year student explains that joining Mitchel Hall as a continuing student took him over three weeks.
While he had succeeded in getting a recommendation from the deans’ office to the warden at Mitchel Hall, it was an entire process where he had to check on the warden daily to ensure that he actually gets a room.
It is as a result of this process that students find it easier to negotiate amongst themselves off the books to secure bed space.
On the other hand, Kelvin Luyombia, a resident in Lumumba hall explained that some government-sponsored students prefer to live in hostels and therefore choose to sell their bed space to private students like himself.
Polly Nagaba, a student at Livingstone hall said that at times there are government-sponsored students who opt-out of the hall, and sell off bed space as the only way they can raise money for the hostel, which is more costly.
This makes them sell their bed space at a higher cost as well as keep their rights to get back to the hall when they wish to without re-applying.
Sometimes, however, according to the students, the need to move to a hall of residence closer to their college for convenience while accessing lecture rooms gets them into the trade.
This is because rooms are allocated according to one’s hall of attachment at the time of admission into the university.
The attachment binds one to only get bed space in that particular hall of residence, which may be far from a students’ lecture venue.
At the extreme through observation, some students allow in colleagues who are financially hard up but can raise the minimum fee of Sh100,000 for four months.
The colleagues are given space to squeeze in where one finds that a room meant for two students has a third student using the floor at night.
The small fee is usually used by the host to stock foodstuff.
The students advertise bed space for sale mainly on their halls of residence WhatsApp groups.
Following the most recent incident of rivalry between Mitchel and University Hall, the university is working to streamline such actions including unofficial renting out of space.
Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, the University Vice-Chancellor, says that renting out of space and possible corruption through offices to acquire bed space is illegal and under investigation.
However, he did not name any penalty for it but noted that necessary action would be taken thereafter.
Lumumba Hall, which was designed to accommodate the highest number of males has a capacity of 752 students supplemented by other halls including Mitchel, Livingstone, Nkrumah, Nsibirwa and University Hall at an average of 500 students.
The halls for females, which are only three in number have Mary Stuart accommodating the highest number of students with 752 supplemented by Complex and Africa Hall at an average of 400 students.