Run-down government hostels for students in Kochi leave a lot to be desired

Stench of rotting garbage, plaster peeling off ceilings, bathroom queues and jam-packed living quarters – these are some of the tales that students living in hostels in the city tell about their abodes.

Lack of cleanliness is a problem faced by the students living at the government post-matric hostel for boys near Rajendra Maidan in the city. “The water tank here hasn't been cleaned in ages and our premises are full of overgrown weeds,” said Sharath M. K., a student of Government Law College staying at the post-matric hostel. The two septic tanks in the hostel have developed small cracks, and the stench leaking out of the tanks forces students to keep their windows shut. The students themselves have closed some of these cracks using cement. Adding to the stench is a pile of waste from the hostel mess that is dumped in an open space near the hostel, attracting flies and crows.

In spite of the problems, students at the hostel say they are better off compared to other hostels in the city.

Unclean surroundings are only one of the many problems faced by those in the men's hostel of Maharaja's College. This hostel built over 60 years ago is falling apart. Rooms with broken windows greet visitors to the run-down building. The plaster has fallen off the ceiling in many parts of the hostel. The larger holes left due to these have been patched up with cement, but others remain, showing the rusty metal skeleton of the building.

The hostel has 98 rooms. But some of these are empty due to the broken windows and poor electrical wiring. “Some of the rooms have faulty wiring. Fans and lights have not been installed in a few other rooms,” said an official of the college.

College officials say little money is available for the upkeep of the hostel. Even when money is available, it is difficult to get the Public Works Department to carry out the maintenance work.

The hostel had received some funds for the preparation for accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). These have been utilised to buy fans, furniture, utensils and water purifiers. Some re-tiling work is also being undertaken in the hostel.

The newer women's hostel of Maharaja's is much better maintained. The problem here, however, is overcrowding.

“After the Centralised Allotment Process began, we have more students coming from faraway districts like Malappuram and Idukki. We cannot deny them admission to the hostel,” said a hostel official. “So we have many more students staying here, but the facilities have not increased accordingly,” he said.

The hostel has only 12 bathrooms for over 130 girls living here. Five or more girls live in one room, with only four or less cots available per room. Due to space crunch, reading rooms in the hostel have been converted to bedrooms. These larger rooms house up to nine people.

Students of the Government Law College in the city have held several protests over the years to get the women's hostel building in their campus open. The hostel building was constructed in 2006, but is yet to open. “The building can house only 21 girls and the government is unwilling to appoint a warden and other staff for so few a number,” said a college official.

Girls from the college are thus forced to find accommodation elsewhere. Shabna Sathar, a student of the college, says that her friends come to the college from as far as Angamaly and Chalakudy. “During the exams, they are forced to stay in private hostels that charge high fees for very poor facilities,” she said.