YWCA accused of overcharging on run-down, overcrowded rooms
by Naledi Mokgwathi
Some of the students living at YWCA feel that the living conditions at the center are far from Christian-like. Other than having to pay what they term ridiculously high prices for rent, the young people say that the rules and regulations at the center are barbaric and ridiculous in today’s modern age.
A fourth-year Bachelor of Science student at the University of Botswana, who refused to be named for fear of victimization, said that she pays P625 a month for a small room that she shares with three other females.
“We sleep on bunk beds and there are no plugs/sockets in the room.”
She also said that there is very little ventilation in the room as there is just one small window which is not enough to carter for everyone.
“The room is very stuffy.”
The exasperated student said that the reason she stays at the center is because she has absolutely no choice.
“You have a choice to either stay or leave. They always tell us that they have a long waiting list. But I know that they never use this waiting list to admit new residents. If you have money and there is space available, you are given a room immediately.”
Explaining the living conditions, she said that YWCA currently has two blocks. The senior block which costs P700 for two people and the junior block that costs P625 a month for four people. She said that she could not afford to spend any more money as she has to pay an extra P25 for gas and buy food for herself. The students have to do their own cooking in the common kitchen.
“I pay rent for P625, gas for P25 and then I buy groceries for around P350.”
Asked how she manages to maintain herself, the student said that some people depend on the help they get from their parents.
But a look of concern descended on her face when she said that some people are forced to seek help from what she termed “Friends with Benefits”.
Elaborating on the matter of the sockets she said having a phone or laptop is a risk.
“There is one socket in the common room and that common room is adjacent to the matron’s office so this means you have loads of people passing through at all times of the day.”
Asked if this means they have to sit by the phone while it charges, she said that it is impossible to sit next to a phone for two hours as it charges.
“You just leave it there and hope it doesn’t get stolen. And the more ridiculous thing is that while still charging, someone can come in and unplug if they want to watch BTV news, for example.”
The student explained that she was not looking for luxury but just a bearable place to live in.
“It would be nice to have more sockets around the dormitories.”
She said that as if the fact that they only have one socket in the whole dormitory that accommodates forty eight people is not of concern, they also have to deal with the unhygienic conditions of sharing three showers and toilets.
“There are 12 rooms in a block. This means that there are 48 of us in one dormitory so how then are we supposed to share just 3 toilets and showers? This becomes a troubling matter in the mornings.
“The geysers are not working so we have to carry water with buckets from the kitchen.”
This made her conclude that there is nothing Mother Theresa would approve of at YWCA.
“Isn’t it supposed to be cheaper than other places? Isn’t this place a charitable organization? We have church services every Sunday but I feel like it is hypocritical for them to stand at the front of the church and preach and then turn around to do these things. There is absolutely nothing saint-like about these prices.”
She also firmly stated that she feels being told what to wear around the premises is barbaric and of ancient times, adding that she is disheartened by the fact that the center has a right to terminate a lease without giving a reason, which is why they cannot approach them and voice these concerns directly.
On her part, Botswelelo John, the National Executive Director of YWCA, explained that the YWCA offers so many amenities that one could not just look at P625 and say that it is a steep price. She pointed out that the YWCA, which is located just opposite Princess Marina, is strategically located in a coveted area.
“The money is inclusive of the bed, the kitchen, the ablution block and the common room. We also have a security wall and security guards watching the premises at all times,” said John. “If you look at it, you’ll realize that our tenants are paying just P21 a day for all of these.”
The National Executive Director also said that costs from organizations like BPC and Water Utilities are not lowered just because they are a civil society.
She said that they had to charge these prices in order to break-even, something which she says, at the moment, they are not close to, despite their nearing of their 50th anniversary.
“Our operational needs surpass what we are getting.”
Asked if the organization does not get any help from sponsors as it is registered as a charitable organization, John said that the only help they get is from Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) only for the YWCA day care center. She, however, pointed out that they do get sponsors from different parastatals should they need to hold such things as conventions, amongst others. Touching on the issue of what many might term a dilapidated building at the center, she said that the state of the building is simply due to the fact that the buildings were built a long time ago in the 1980s. Something which she said restricts development as it is an old building.
John said that they have intentions of improving the facilities but she could not promise a radical improvement but one that will be taken step by step.
She also added that they couldn’t haphazardly put more sockets in rooms as electricity can be hazardous when a group of people are left to use it.
John said that students are allowed to use the 5 classrooms at the center at any time of the night, should they need to study or use sockets.
“We have guards stationed at the doors so the students can talk to them and inform them of their needs at any point.”
On the issue of the times and the dress codes, she said that they have tenants who are not in tertiary school but who are still under parental guidance/under-age and, therefore, they could not let them come in and out at different times of the night unmonitored.
“With the dress code we know that a girl-child has to dress appropriately. We have adults who provide us with services around this place and sometimes during lunch time they take a break and relax under the shade of the trees. It’d be inappropriate for someone to pass by in a transparent night-gown.”
On the issue of the times, she said that if a student has a valid reason for being out late, they can always provide that reason and they will be opened for.
John also said that it is wrong for anyone to claim that the organization is being hypocritical as no one has the right to judge anyone except for the Lord.
She explained that they do not have any mechanisms to force anyone to live at their facilities, pointing out that potential tenants may have the good sense to make the decision to stay at YWCA as it is still a cheaper place to live, considering the alternatives.
John said that it is better than having to rent a room in Mogoditshane for P400 and still have to catch three combis to different locations.