Astronomical university fees fuel students’ sex work

By Lorraine Metha

On 13th of September 2022 the university of Zimbabwe (UZ) and other state universities in the country announced a hike in feed from RTGS$50 000 to RTGS$500 000. The astronomical fees hike exerts pressure on the already financially burdened students and may see a spike in sex work as students, particularly young women and girls battle for survival on campus.

Universities in Zimbabwe have already been flagged as hotspots for transactional sexual activities. Sandra Moyo (22) from KMP Gweru says the increase in fees will worsen the situation, especially among girls.

“The change in environment for girls, from high school life where they are protected by school authorities or parents to staying alone is overwhelming. Girls abuse that freedom and start to engage in transactional sexual activities to make money. Most parents cannot afford the luxuries that their children desire,” says Sandra.

Sandra says there is peer pressure among girls as they are always competing to show off. She says girls want to be seen arriving at campus driven in beautiful cars but these drives will not be for free.

“The increase in fees will force parents to reduce allowances for their children and this will definitely force a lot of girls into sex work as a way of generating income to support their flashy lifestyles,” says Sandra.

Simbarashe Marimba (26) another student from the Midlands State University says the increase in fees will force some students to drop out of school and turn to sex work as a way of earning money to support themselves.

“It is unfortunate that university students are now caught between a rock and a hard place. Dropping out will make the situation worse because there will be nothing to do back home. The main option for many girls is to do whatever it takes to make money so that they get a degree,” says Simbarashe.

Simbarashe says some girls report making as much as US$200 per week from their sex work. He adds that this amount is a lot considering that their parents earn local currency. Simbarashe says only elderly married men have the capacity to satisfy the financial needs of the young desperate students.

Rumbidzai Nhende (24) a fourth year student at a local university says she is one of the students who raise money through transactional sex.

“I have realise that my options are limited. As long as I get money to pay for my degree and look classy as I do, I do not mind what other people have to say. At the end of the day it is my life and I have to make decisions that shape my future,” says Rumbidzai.

While girls engage in sex work to respond to the increase in fees, some young men at university are engaging in other criminal activities such as stealing to generate money to fund themselves at university.

Takudzwa Kafesu (22), a third year student at a local university says young men also have their diverse options of making money.

“Some young men have sugar mamas, elderly women who pay desperate students in exchange for sex. It is unacceptable but what can one do. We need to survive in this harsh environment and we have to do whatever it takes to fund our stay on campus,” says Takudzwa.



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