Uganda: How University Girls Live Large in Hostels

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An undercover investigation in various city hostels unveils how university girls have been able to turn their hostel rooms into havens worth millions of shillings without robbing a bank.

TRUE STORIES:

Lisa

Lisa is a 21-year-old second year student of development studies at Makerere University. She stays in a single room in Kiwamirembe Hostel. She says she bought her home theatre from Sony world in her first year at sh2m.

“Actually, it was almost the end of the first year that I bought my laptop, iPhone and the galaxy tab. That money was from a small deal that I struck with a few friends whose names I will not mention,” Lisa says.

The only thing that Lisa remembers carrying from home is her four-inch mattress, but cannot quite figure out where it is now after she replaced it with a fancy bed and mattress worth sh2m. Lisa drives a Toyota Spacio UAR series which, she says, she bought at sh13m.

Like many other girls, Lisa’s parents never get time to visit her. “I am just one lucky girl. My dad, a tea and coffee grower has not had time to visit me for a long time. That is why after my course I will be moving to my boyfriend’s house.”

Lisa has no job, but once worked as an usher-for-hire with a company in town.

That is where she got the connections to be who she is now.

Brenda

Brenda is a student of Makerere University Business School (MUBS), living in a Hostel at Nakawa. The envy of many of her peers, Brenda drives a state-of-the-art Range Rover whose fuel tank is refilled every month.

Her wardrobe is piled with designer clothes which friends say she buys from Dubai. She gets an expensive hairstyle every week. On top of all this, she wears a diamond ring and has a string of gold necklaces.

Rita, Brenda’s close friend and course mate, says she has no clue where Brenda gets her money from because she does not work anywhere.

“Every day, she goes out she comes with something new or with lots of money that she sometimes shares with us. By the way, her dad sells milk in Mbarara town – that’s all we know about her. She does not even eat in these cheap restaurants around this place (Nakawa). She goes to town for both lunch and supper.

“When she takes us out, she spends close to sh1m in a night because she takes almost half of our class. There are so many things that people say about where she gets all this money.

“Others say she has a private business while others say she is dating an ambassador. If that is true, then it’s very sad because she has another boyfriend in our class who usually does her coursework,” Rita says.

Faridah

She is a third-year student of education at Kyambogo University. She resides in Nanziri Hall. Faridah drives a car which, she says, she got as a birthday gift from her ex-boyfriend. She says she owns a small plot of land in Banda that she bought recently.

She is not short of jewellery, designer clothes and expensive perfumes. She also owns two iPads, a laptop and two iPhones.

Faridah’s story is not different from all the others. She says she keeps her private life and property a secret from her parents. “If my parents know what I have they would kill me. That is why when they visit, I ask my roommate to sit on my bed so that they say everything in that corner is hers.”

Just like all the other loaded girls in hostels, Faridah is not willing to give us the truth behind where the money she splashes comes from. Faridah’s close friends say she hangs out in casinos and at Serena Hotel and always goes to night clubs where she splashes lots of money on expensive wines.

“When we all go out, Faridah spends at least sh1m on us. She almost kills us with booze,” Janat, Faridah’s close friend says.

WHERE DO THE GIRLS GET THE MONEY?

The call girl business:

This is now a booming business in most hostels. It entails a group of girls who specialise in connecting good looking girls to famous and loaded city men. The girls who do the connection are commonly referred to as Sengas, and are usually well connected to the rich men in and out of town.

They get these connections while serving as ushers during corporate functions, fashion shows or product launches.

Julie, a billboard girl for a leading telecom company explains how she got connected.

“I was studying at Kyambogo when my friend asked me why I was not working, yet I looked pretty. She promised to help me get a job. When we met again, she told me how she had got for me a company that requires ushers.

Attractive girls are enrolled into an ushering company where the senga, in the course of ushering, introduces them to rich patrons. ILLUSTRATIONS/Danny Barongo

“A few days later, I was ushering for a breweries company that was re-branding.

“That night I received over 40 business cards of managers, CEOs and business tycoons who promised to connect me to their companies if I called them. I called a few. I have never regretted it. I got my first deal to appear as a model on a billboard of a leading telecom company.

“Shortly after that, I bought my first car. When girls in my hall realised what I had acquired in just one semester, they pleaded with me to hook them up and I did. The men I hooked them to gave me lots of money as gifts.

“I realised it was working out for me, now I do nothing but connect chicks who want to get on top. It’s funny I know, maybe that is why they call us sengas. I usually tell my girls to deal with these men cautiously because most of them are married.” she says.

Police not aware:

Police spokesperson Ibin Ssenkumbi says they are not aware of the vice.

“From the way you are describing it, that is prostitution and prostitution is illegal in Uganda. This habit should be discouraged. Maybe the girls involved are happy to be involved. No one has come to report to us about it,” says Senkumbi.

Hostel owners say they are not at liberty to interfere with their students’ lives.

“All we ensure is security of our students. Whoever is entering has to show us a valid ID and register which room they are visiting.

“We also check them so they do not enter with a bomb. No stranger is allowed into the hostel after midnight, but students can come in anytime they want, even after partying,” says a senior custodian at Queens Paradise Hostel near Kikoni.

Another hostel proprietor who prefers anonymity says at university, one is an adult to make their own choices. ” If they are sleeping with rich men, what we can we do? That is beyond us. All we need is money for the rooms where they are staying,” he says.

While the labour ministry is tasked to license nay organisation, Sunday Vision has learnt that many of the agencies are not registered.

“Some might register for a specific purpose but do a different cause altogether. Some might be none existent and are operated in one room,” says a source in the ministry.

‘Ushering’ business:

Simon Sipate, the managing director Sketch Agency, boasts of managing over 200 university girls. He offers both modelling and ushering services with offices located along Lumumba Avenue.

Sipate says: “Men are very funny, someone can give a university girl sh1m as a tip or to thank her for good-looking. Now when such a thing happens, the young girl gets totally confused because some of them have never received such an amount of money at once.

“Some girls drop out (of university) at this point because they see they are getting lots of free money every now and then. This business of sengas is growing strong in hostels.

“Now, that’s the reason we insist that our girls don’t stay long at a function we are presiding over. After we have offered our services, I always want the girls to leave as soon as possible so that those hungry men who want them can remain craving for them. That will, of course, force them to call us again for more business.

“Of course, some people comment that the girls dress very skimpily. That is very true. Usually the dressing is done by the company that has hired our services.

“Some companies want them in very short clothes to match with their brand names while others want them in decent clothes to protect the brand name. Usually, it is not what human beings turn up in but what behaviour they are hiding inside those clothes that matters.”

Despite all the above, an insider says during private house parties, boat cruises and bachelor parties for loaded men, young hostel girls get not only money but also contacts of loaded city men to hang out with.

“I have been in this business for over seven years now, I have seen girls get hooked to loaded CEOs and business tycoons, but the outcomes are not usually good for both the company and the girl herself.

“What happens is that after this loaded man has used the girl, he will not want to look at her again. He will actually want that very girl to connect him to a friend.

Unless parents join in to supervise and guide their daughters very well, especially while they are in hostels, this business could escalate into the spread of HIV/AIDS in universities and the country at large.

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