Rose Auma owns a makeshift kibanda at Kenyatta market where for years Kenya Medical Training College students have been having their meals. Just across her shop is a famous nyama choma zone where President Uhuru Kenyatta once enjoyed the delicacy during a tour a few months ago.
As they sit on the wobbly benches waiting for their order to be served, the students can only enjoy the smell of the nyama choma since their pockets cannot allow them have a taste. Most foods here are sold at Sh50. From Ugali served with meat and vegetables to rice, or chapatti served with the same.
“I barely get any profits anymore, especially not from students, but I have learnt to survive,” said Ms Auma.
Auma’s shack is just one of the options available to the medical students who have been forced to adjust to the high cost of living. Unlike other institutions of higher learning like the University of Nairobi where students cook in the hostels, which is outlawed, at KMTC the rule has been enforced. This has forced students to identify places where they can eat at affordable rates.
Auma says she has established a relationship with the students that go beyond business hence the subsidized price. She, however, admits that the increase in unga prices has taken a heavy toll on her business.
“Male students pass your ugali back and insist that you serve them a ‘man’s portion’. We buy two kilos of unga at Sh160, which we suspect is the Government subsided unga packed in plastic bags, and even then it is rare to find,” she laments.
For Josephine Chepkosgei, a first-year student taking Orthopaedic and Trauma studies, food is the greatest hurdle in getting through school life and getting it at a cheaper price is all they need for survival.
“If you are sure of food, you only need a little more money for buying other basic things. When I reported for the first semester, I ran out of cash just after a few weeks and had to call home often asking for money,” she said.
Josephine said she was shown a place by a senior student where she could get sufficient food at a comrade-friendly price and she has since made it her eating joint.
“You need food to survive, but by day, food becomes more and more expensive. I could eat in the school cafeteria (popularly known as mess), but they only serve you a pinch of tasteless food that cannot sufficiently take you through the day,” said Josephine.
Josephine says they get some items at a reduced price within the school premises as most businesses are illegal in the school.
“We buy a type of mandazi known as KDF at Sh10 in the morning. Sometimes, we skip either lunch or dinner, to save some cash. Printing services are also offered at a friendly cost,” she says.
Miriam Kioko, a first year student at KMTC reiterated Josephine’s statement saying that the only business that they engage in within the school compound is hairdressing. She says men have a major challenge since the food served is rarely enough for them.
“Most male students, however, engage in sports betting to earn more cash. Some own motorcycles, which they use for boda boda business outside school hours. Some have also specialised in doing take away assignments for the lazy Mary and the partying John,” she said.