I visited Grand hostels the other day and what I saw had my thoughts running back in time. Just a few months ago Nyeri prominently featured in the headlines for very bad reasons. It seemed that the womenfolk in the county had found a new type of punching bag, their husbands. Their major complaint was that their men were only men by name and nothing else. People from other counties were torn between revering and rubbishing this female awakening. The one thing that was constant was the ridicule that the men received from all corners of the country. Apparently, some kind of weakness in men is contemptible. None more than the dishonor of being battered by your own wife to the extent of running from your ancestral home and begging on mass media for the government to intervene. Above that, some of these men, it turned out, were actually drunkards who depended on their wives. If anyone had to intervene in such a case, the only appropriate action would have been to chop off the man’s balls because he is a disgrace to himself and the entire male gender. Being a weak man who neglects his ultimate duty as a provider for his family should be a crime. Intrinsic to this duty is the need for any man, with or without a family, to protect his dignity. Unfortunately, the law is forgiving of such wrongs.
What has this got to do with Grand hostels? Well, to put it short and nicely, Grand hostels is a health hazard waiting to turn into a disaster. Conversely, to put it grossly, I’d have to paint to you a picture of blocked toilets full of excreta and sinks that make you feel dirtier after washing than before. What is even worse is that the toilets are built like those in most bedsitters – the toilet bowl is at the far end while the space left near the door serves as a bathroom. I shudder to imagine taking a shower in a place like that. Apart from the obvious risk of contaminating any of the numerable diseases whose spread is facilitated by such conditions, don’t the people who live here dread going to the toilet, let alone showering, around such filthy conditions? There’s a guy who likes reminding me that having grown up in one of the dirtiest slums in Africa, I should be used to such things as these. Honestly, not at all. Shouldn’t buildings have caretakers or an equivalent substitute? What happened to Grand’s caretaker?
Two things strike me as really odd. One is how students can comfortably live in such a place without raising any complaints with the landlord. But maybe they have complained many a time and nothing has been done which brings us to the second oddity. How can our student organization let comrades live like that? Does DeKUTSO through its external affairs office ever take time to investigate the conditions in which students live? Forget visiting a building when it’s new and everything sparkling white, am talking like a few months down the line to see how the state of living conditions are varying – positively or negatively? Careful observation should be enough to tell apart the effects of age or wear from those of sheer neglect. Case in point here, go look at the toilets in our university and compare them to more recent installations like those in the Catholic hostels. The janitor’s and housecleaning department is one of the strong suits of our university. Despite the fact that the toilets in the school hostels are quite old, the university has toilets, washrooms and sinks to which you can confidently and proudly direct someone.
Unlike the privately owned hostels, a university requires ISO certification hence the need to maintain such levels of cleanliness. Regardless, hygiene should be as important to a private landlord as it is to an institution like Kimathi. No one should expose their tenants to unhygienic living conditions; I think the same thing is stated somewhere in the Rent Control Act or some such other act which outlines both a landlord’s and tenant’s obligations. To cut a long story short, DeKUTSO should intervene whenever it can to make sure comrades are living in favourable conditions. Otherwise I fail to see the purpose of the Community and External Affairs plus the Catering and Accommodation offices within our student organization’s leadership structure. But I am not holding DeKUTSO accountable for the mess in Grand and other hostels, some of which might actually be worse off. This is because the students who live in such hostels have a responsibility, they owe it to themselves, to report to DeKUTSO when unwanted things like these happen in their hostels. Truth be told, the student organization has neither the time nor the resources to visit every hostel inspecting if it meets basic living standards. They are after all students just like you, and their annual financial budget is almost always strained to say the least.
The next time you visit someone and find filthy sinks, toilets, bathrooms, etc., the question to ask them is why they do not want to protect their dignity. Why debase yourself by agreeing to live in conditions only fit for a certain type animal? Please, let’s quit allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of by these landlords. To be a gentleman you and where you live have to be at least hygienic, being well-groomed too gets you extra points. Don’t allow a landlord to unscrupulously take away this coveted title. Why is he cutting costs by exposing you to dirt and filth yet you pay the full, agreed upon rent every month? I have seen tenant students refuse to pay rent after an impromptu rent increment, and the dean of students at the time backed them. I am not saying you withhold rent. You could end up being fined for that if your landlord sought legal redress. Plus it helps to be seen as cooperative, and as acting in goodwill, by the surrounding community, boycotting rent payment won’t serve that purpose. But in any case know what you are entitled to, then go ahead and demand it. Seek help and official support from the offices we have if you have to, they are only there to serve you. One of the things I am sure you are entitled to is hygienic living conditions. And I think hygiene is as important as the comfort and safety of being inside a well-built room(s). It is just one of those things which a human being with a modicum of self-respect should find indispensable. I hope the next time I visit Grand, there will be better things to write about.