Ngonidzashe Emmanuel Chikandiwa

The culture of “semester marriages”, is fast becoming the new norm among tertiary students.

Every so often, word on campus is about who “divorced” or “moved in together”.

“Semester marriages”, as co-habitation is commonly referred to, sees student couples sharing living quarters and assuming the setting of “a married couple”.

The stay-ins, may be between those in significant relationships or get classified as, “no-strings attached” unions.

Relations in co-habitations are in most cases for a short period, and new semesters bring potential new opposite sex room-mates. These “marriages”  have brought in their fair share of problems such as STIs ,GBV, unwanted pregnancies, poor academic grades, depression and the excessive use of oral contraceptives by female students.

What has prompted student co-habitation unions?

According to a 2017 National AIDS Council Tertiary Institutions Survey, students enter into “semester marriages”, to cut costs of living quarters and expenses, due to lack of accommodation on campuses and because of “new found freedom”.

Co-habiting is is largely practised because it is of financial benefit to some students. This is a result of economic hardships.

However, student poverty appears to be a minor justification among reasons for co-habiting.

However, for some students it is out of a desire for sexual gratification, the thrills of intimacy away from parental restriction, privacy or couples thinking of scaling up their commitment levels. For male students, having a student “wife” makes one lead a comfortable life as their partners prepare meals and do the laundry work.

Another exploratory study on co-habitations among tertiary student conducted in Bulawayo by Matthew Svodziwa and Faith Kurete for their research paper, revealed that the willingness to co-habit is more common among male than female students.

In “Semester Marriages”, especially those classified as not having emotional ties, infidelity is largely present and multi -sexual partners leading to spread of diseases such as STIs and HIV and AIDS. These marriages only use condoms for the first few encounters of sexual interaction and abandon their use, exposing the female student to unwanted pregnancies, abortions and diseases. This also leads to excessive use of oral contraceptives — “morning afters” — among females students.

The primary aim of being in school is undermined and academic pursuits aborted, females are usually the most affected.

Gender based violence is an issue of concern in “marriages” because girls experience greater abuse especially as most students are into alcohol and drug abuse.

These unions cause a lot of added stress as both young  partners do not anticipate, and at most fail to handle them thus leading to depression or worse – suicide amongst university and college students.

The issue of “Semester marriages” is far from over. Statistics reveal that two in every five college-age people co-habit.

A cursory Google search on university and college student co-habitation, exposes an issue of universality across the global tertiary landscape.