The Sunday Mail
TWO university students, a male and a female, leisurely walk along a street before entering a house located near their college campus in Harare.
Moments later, another pair follows the same route and make their way into the run-down house.
Although the students are not married, they are living together as couples at a house that has been turned into an illegal students’ hostel.
For university and college students, co-habitation, which is living together as a couple and having sexual relations before marriage, has become widely accepted.
Unbeknown to their parents and guardians, some tertiary education students are living as couples, a conduct that is despised by many religions.
For university and college students, co-habiting has far-reaching negative effects such as illegal termination of pregnancies, unwanted babies and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, among other effects.
Co-habiting by college and university students, which is being beautified as “campus marriage”, is a growing cultural trend in Zimbabwe.
Pastor Winston Fundira, a marriage counsellor and founder of the Jehovah Shammah Ministries, said any form of co-habiting is not only highly immoral but also unsafe.
“The Bible is very clear on this one. Living together and having sexual relations before marriage is sexual immorality and has its associated risks. Under whatever circumstances, unmarried couples should not live together as husband and wife,” Pastor Fundira said.
In traditional Shona culture, co-habiting, which is known as kuchaya mapoto, is considered indecent. Co-habiting couples often do not practice safe sex, thereby inviting dangers such as illegal termination of pregnancies and transmission of STIs.
The high demand for emergency contraception pills, commonly known as “morning after pills”, in areas near universities and colleges, proves that most tertiary students do not practice safe sex.
A study produced by the Bulawayo Polytechnic’s Department of Adult and Continuing Education titled “Cohabitation among Tertiary Education Students: An Exploratory Study in Bulawayo” revealed that co-habitation is common at tertiary institutions.
According to the study, co-habiting has been associated with a number of problems, including sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, sexual abuse and violence, low academic performance, increased cost of medical care and unwanted pregnancies.
The study noted that co-habiting is mostly caused by lack of accommodation, problems with room mates, lack of privacy and the need to be close and intimate with one’s lover.
Furthermore, the study noted that co-habitation exposes students to premarital sex, unwanted pregnancies and abortion. The Sunday Mail Society spoke to a number of college students, with the majority of them defending co-habitation. Some of them argued that as adults, students are free to choose their lifestyles.
“We are moving with the times. I do not want to marry and settle down with a total stranger. For the three years that I have been living with my girlfriend, I got to know her better and this has cemented our relationship,” said a university student only identified as Stan.
Apart from unwanted pregnancies and academic under performance, some tertiary students have landed in hot soup because of co-habiting.
Early this year, a Masvingo Polytechnic student was jailed an effective five years after he stole a car and tried to sell it to raise money for the upkeep of his demanding lover, who was studying at the same institution.
Darlington Sagia (21) was convicted on his own plea of guilt when he appeared before Masvingo regional magistrate Mrs Dambudzo Malunga facing theft charges.
He said his live-in girlfriend was always pestering him for money to pay rentals and other household needs, yet he was still a student without a reliable source of income.
College students co-habiting often take nude pictures of themselves and cases of revenge porn are common.
A college student reportedly committed suicide after her former live-in boyfriend leaked her nude pictures.
Apart from co-habiting, some of the vices that are associated with college students are excessive drinking, wild parties and the sneaking of guests into college premises. Some female students are also in the habit of dating older men who are commonly referred to as “blessers” while male students also date older women known as “cougars”.
To curb co-habiting, the aforementioned study recommended that tertiary education students should be enlightened about the dangers of the vice during orientations. Parents are also encouraged to visit their children and find out where they live while at college as well as their room mates.
The study recommended that accommodation on campus should be made affordable to students so that they are not vulnerable to various kinds of exploitation, including co-habitation.