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The Mushrooming of Semester Marriages

Ever wondered what happens to your adorable daughter or son when you say your final goodbyes at a college? Parents or guardians are happy that their children are growing up in the right direction by acquiring education and often envisage a bright future for them. However, most parents turn a blind eye to the practical realities that will confront students at tertiary colleges if proper counsel and life skills are not imparted.

It is an undeniable fact that some if not all of our tertiary institutions have serious challenges when it comes to accommodating their students. The accommodation crisis has resulted in some students seeking residence at nearby houses or locations, as they are coupled with facing the harsh realities of juggling school work and house work. For instance at the University of Zimbabwe students with external residence stay in areas such as Mt Pleasant whilst at the Midlands State University students reside in Senga and other suburbs. This phenomenon has somewhat become a norm, as colleges have even intensified the challenge by taking two intakes per year.

The accommodation shortage has created more challenges and vices, especially for the female students. The Midlands State University, for example, has a total student number of over 20 000 students one wonders if the halls of residence erected at the institute will be able to accommodate them all. A discussion held with the students at some of Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions confirmed that indeed a new idea or ideology has been mushrooming amongst the students in a bid to curb the accommodation shortages, the dreaded “semester marriages”.

Evidence is alarming that even though some of the students rent out places at the nearby locations, they still face a plethora of challenges. These challenges affect mostly the girl child as in most instances they are harassed at the so called “boarding houses”. At the end of the day they will see it proper to share a room with other students to lessen the chances of being harassed and feel protected. However landlords have become wolves in sheep’s clothing charging an arm and a leg for students of the same sex but less for students that might be married or in a relationship. The resultant effect has been the mushrooming of these so called “semester marriages”.

A semester marriage is an agreement entered between a male and a female to share a room in a bid to lessen the harsh economic challenges that are prevailing. In this regard the agreement might even stretch to these two young people “pretending” or actually being in a relationship, in most cases an open relationship. The girl child assumes the role of the wife and the boy the role of the father of the house. The students might assist each other in their studies but this might overlap to their social lives as well. At the end of the day the said “relationship” lasts for only that semester, as this would have been a relationship of convenience.

The real question, however, is what will become of these young people? In that open relationship will there be issues of getting tested and knowing one’s status? Will there be open discussions on the use of condoms or any family planning methods? What bearing does the emerging trend of playing “house” have to the young people’s future?  Most of the young people confirmed semester unions are marriage of convenience with most “marriages” terminated after completion of study. If anyone wants the relationship to continue then a new agreement has to be tabled.

A research conducted by Senanayake P etal entitled “The Adolescent sexual and reproductive health: the challenge for society” states that, adolescent and young people face many sexual and reproductive health challenges such as high rates of unplanned pregnancies, early childbearing and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.” If the trend of semester marriages is allowed to thrive in our tertiary institutions we might have challenges in ending AIDS by 2030 as attested by UNAIDS.

The government of Zimbabwe recently realised the need for more infrastructural development and according to the Zimbabwean Herald dated 2 March 2017, the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) has been awarded a tender to build infrastructure at Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions, a move that will go a long way in ensuring that young people’s challenges are addressed. The question that is left to all of us is when will such a dream be realised and will it be helpful in stopping the mushrooming of semester marriages? Will we even reach the 90 90 90 set targets, with the first 90 talking about 90% of people knowing their HIV status? One can only hope for the best.

By Cleopatra Chikumba – I am a content contributor for theKatchUp a special news portal that curates topics (past and upcoming) from theSpace event, join us on the 15th of September 2017 for our 3rd edition as we ‘Challenge Power’. We would love for you to follow us on @thespacezw and like us on our facebook.com/thespacezw


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