Kenyan Universities Toying With A Hot Coal

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When a university administration starts gagging students, it spells trouble for itself.

I remember back in the day at our rural home, we used to rear dogs. They are nolonger there. We used to lock them in their kennels for the whole day and only let them out at 10:00pm to guard the homestead while we sleep. I was keddo 11 years back then. It was a routine thing that even the dogs had internalized and knew when it was time to be locked up and they would go wait for whoever it was to do the necessary at the door to their kennels.

They were three dogs: two females and one male.

One day, there was a funeral in the village and all the people who were responsible for locking up the dogs spend the night at the funeral and did not come back home until around 8:00am the following day. The dogs had had enough fun by then. Apart from filling the whole compound with their droppings, a neighbour’s 6-year-old son was in hospital undergoing a circumcision previously started by one of the dogs.

Well, enough of my dog stories!

I’m not trying to liken University Students to dogs. Get my drift. It must be noted that under intense stress, the animosity in humanity is brought to the fore. This is the hot coal that most Kenyan Universities are playing around with. Soon and very soon, it’s going to burn them really bad.

I believe that a kid who doesn’t speak in the presence of their father has nothing but bad memories about him. Silence is not always a show of respect. When such a kid is given an opportunity and a platform, the father will wish for the ground to open up and swallow him alive.

This is the scenario that Kenyan Universities are facing. There was no social media, no or limited inter-university student interactions, no print or electronic media for students to air their views and interract. The University administration had a field day in imposing policies to students. They could do whatever they wanted with the student welfare without thinking twice.

They had nothing to fear because the only way students could interact on a large scale was during Kamukunji. The Kamukunjis were under watch by the Administration and the Police and anybody who seemed to reason outside the Administration’s box got their wings clip. But with technology and expanded channels of communication, this is no more.

Gone are the days when University Students had no say in the management of their institutions. When the likes of Orengo, Miguna and others were being detained and tortured for their fight for inclusion and appreciation of students in Kenyan Universities, they were paying the price of freedom. The freedom of speech; the freedom of expression; the freedom of association ; the freedom to have a religion.

As students in campuses today, we need to enjoy these freedoms. We need to feel part and parcel of decisions made by the Management. We, however, understand that not every student can sit on the University Senate or Council. That’s why we elect representatives to these crucial decision-making organs. They carry students needs and aspirations on their backs.

An intimidation to these student leaders is an intimidation to the entire student population. However, intimidation does not produce results in the 21st Century. All it does is fuel the resentment. Once it reaches fever-pitch, stories of demonstrations and strikes are heard. The 21st Century is not like the 20th Century Student. Therefore, University Administrations need to change the tact with which they address student needs.

The 21st Century Student understands both human and beast languages. When University Administrators use the human language, students will be more than willing to sit down and dialogue. When the Administrators turn into beastly language, students are ready to teach them one or two rules of the jungle.

As students, we need to use our freedom and rights with the understanding that ‘our rights stop at where other people’s rights start.’ Let’s not overstep our mandates. Let’s remain sane even as we address our challenges as students.

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