Countless numbers of students staying in their hometowns away from the capital owing to various reasons are forced to fork out a considerable amount every month
Jerin Afrin Anna, a master’s student at the University of Dhaka, has been occupying a seat in a hostel in the capital’s Farmgate area for the last five years and had to pay the full rent for seven months even when she went to her hometown in Barguna after the announcement of the lockdown on March 17 last year.
She used to provide tuition to the young to fend for herself, but that income source dried up at the same time owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She later returned to her hostel room in November and got two tutoring jobs to survive in the city, as she was reluctant to ask her parents for money.
But things went south for her again with the announcement of another lockdown in May this year. She lost her tutoring jobs and returned to her hometown but still has to pay Tk3,000 as rent every month.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Anna said: “Some days I didn't even have enough money to take a rickshaw to go from one place to another, I had to walk. Even in such circumstances, I had to pay my landlord the full amount every month.”
“I don’t use my allocated seat at Shamsun Nahar Hall due to various reasons and instead live in a private hostel. That is why I don’t want to ask my parents to pay my rent for me. I try to earn money by providing lessons. Besides, my father has retired from his job, which makes it difficult for him to pay my hostel rent,” she continued.
Anna said she would have had to pay Tk5,000-7,000 every month if she had chosen to buy meals from the hostel. “I pay Tk3,000 as I cook for myself.”
Asked why she did not leave the hostel, the DU student said: “Many girls left this place in March 2020. But I cannot do that. I have a lot of books and other possessions here. Moreover, my hometown is near the Bay of Bengal, far from the capital.”
Ainul Islam Navid, a student of American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB) living in a house in the capital’s Nikunja area, is also in a similar situation.
“I have been paying rent despite not staying there as I need a place to keep my personal items and furniture. It is not feasible to move everything to my hometown Feni, which is far from Dhaka,” he said.
He continued: “Many people have left the place but my elder brother advised against it because I would have to return to the capital eventually, be it to complete my studies or to seek a job. I am forced to pay Tk3,000 as rent … I am out of options.”
Sumaita Linea, another student of the same university, had taken a room on hire in a hostel in Bashundhara Residential Area.
She had been paying Tk8,000 a month since March last year to retain her room because she, like most students, thought universities would reopen soon. She vacated her room this month and returned home to Rajshahi as she had grown tired of paying rent despite not staying at her accommodation.
“My graduation is around the corner as a result of online academic activities. There is no reason for me to occupy the room now,” Sumaita said.
Appreciating the hostel owner’s cognizance of the situation, she said: “The rent for my room was Tk10,000 but the owner reduced it by Tk2,000 due to the pandemic.”
There are countless other students like these three young people who are staying home due to the pandemic but have to fork out a considerable amount of money for rent every month owing to various reasons.
Other side of the aisle
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, Tuhin Rahman was managing eight apartments in total as hostels in the capital, but he is currently running only two of them.
He had to invest Tk7,00,000 on each apartment and his hostels used to house almost 130 young girls. He used to earn around TkTk6,00,000 each month from his hostel business.
But then came the pandemic.
Fewer than 30 girls reside in his hostels at present. Those who are still occupying the seats of his hostels are only paying around two-thirds of the usual rent.
“I can somehow make ends meet because I am not dependent on this business; I have a job. But owners solely relying on income from hostels are in dire straits,” said Tuhin.
He, however, mentioned that the landlord was demanding full rent — around Tk60,000-70,000 — and service charge — Tk8,500 — from him.
Tuhin also said Nibedika, one of the largest hostels in the city, was going through a rough time.
The person in charge of one of the hostels under the banner of Nibedika, Neela, said: “The hostel authorities have left more than 20 buildings so far. More than 2,000 girls used to live in our hostels, but we only have 300 occupants right now. We have also reduced the rent by Tk500-1,000 for those who are living at home right now.”