By Robert Tapfumaneyi
SOME hard-pressed Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) and Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU) female students have reportedly turned to sex work to raise some money to pay rent and tuition fees.
Their involvement in the world’s oldest profession is said to have brought competition to professional sex workers in the small Mashonaland Central mining town.
As it turns out that sex consumers prefer students seen as having less ‘mileage’ in the trade, professional sex workers have also devised their own ways to survive.
They now carry books in satchels around to try and deceive men into thinking they were also students.
The involvement of students in sex work has prompted the National AIDS Council (NAC) to scale up intervention programmes at the tertiary institutions.
“They (students) also go and solicit for sex but most of them need guidance especially from peer educators who work with sex workers in Bindura,” said a SAYWHAT officer based in the town while requesting anonymity.
“Some of them have full of I know, but they are not aware of the dangers of sex work, which are the hot spots, which clients are violent; so they need guidance from these (older sex workers) people.
“Some even pay for their own accommodation and school fees using those means.
“So, for them to be protected from GBV, STIs and HIV, they also need peer educators to assist them.
“The challenge to us, they do not open up because they are afraid of stigma, they are afraid that a peer educator who is a student if they get to know that they sell sex, the whole school will end up knowing.
“However, this has also brought competition with those that are full time into selling sex.
“So, what is happening now is the full-time sex workers now also carry backpacks with books to appear as if they are students during the night.”
NAC provincial manager, Edgar Muzulu said as an institution, they were working around the clock to disseminate information on anti-retroviral therapy and HIV.
“We are working with SAYWHAT, we have also engaged them,” he said.
“At universities, we are doing our best. We do orientation, we work through the Dean of Students and we have one week where new students are given this information on STIs and HIV.
“Besides that, they also have some days where they actually gather, like sports days, some events and they also invite us NAC, we go there and continuously give information.
“They even ask us to contribute information to their website so that the students continuously get information.”
Sarah, a peer educator, said they can easily identify students at one of the new local beer outlets and have taken it upon themselves to educate them.
“You can easily notice them because during the night and in night clubs, they will be wearing their name tags,” she said.
“They also use the name tags to avoid being arrested by the police for soliciting for sex.”