The year 2013 is definitely going down memory lane as one that greatly influenced the kind of person that I am, and that I will continue being for the rest of my life. It is a year that shaped my character and challenged me to think about others other than myself. A year that I made glaring mistakes and vowed to learn from them. But most importantly, a year that I touched the lives of many, a trait that makes me proud considering that such acts of kindness towards me has been the main reason why I have reached this far.
The year started on a high, having just been elected into the Students Union of Egerton University as the Secretary General. We were out to begin delivering to the electorate as per our promises to them. When most leaders are elected into these unions, many really don’t know what their responsibilities are or even how to carry them out. We faced similar challenges and especially with completing the Union budget that was estimated at Ksh. 8 Million. Having already began the process the previous semester, and unanimously agreeing to factor in things like the Class reps airtime allowance ;Meal Vouchers for needy students ;Union Bursary ;Care funds for students with accumulated medical expenses to mention but a few, I thought that everything else would fall into place. Our team work was put to the test and at least that early we scored highly. Keen enough to listen to everyone’s view and accommodate the diverse interests. Coming up with what many would concur, was the first students centered budget in the History of the Union. That far, unity and desire to make every right move, drove everyone’s heart.
Defending the budget before the Students Welfare Committee that is chaired by the DVC (AA) was the other milestone, and even though most members appreciated what we had come up with, I personally learnt great lessons on how to become keen to detail. A trait that no one embodies better than one Prof. Owido, the Registrar Academic Affairs.
Another defining moment was the motion to suspend the then Director for Finance, Miss Lillian Mutuku. I had my personal differences with miss Mutuku and never supported the introduction of this motion. The Union’s constitution is not clear on how such matters should be addressed. When the matter was introduced before the executive meeting, being the only member of the Reconciliatory committee, it was upon me to strike a balance. The meeting was very emotional. The tussle being mainly between the then Chairperson and the said Director. A solution was not forthcoming and after a very lengthy session, I had to put the matter to the vote. I sided with her, I was the student lawyer after all. And at that time, to me, she was another student. However much she obviously was in the wrong. The decision stood and she had to step aside. Then again, I had to defend this stand. The Union stand in all University Management meetings that cared to question. A stand I never actually supported. Here, I learnt collective responsibility. A trait of honor.
Students leadership is a very complicated experience. You can not always act cool. There are times you have to fold sleeves and become the ugly version of yourself to be taken seriously. Writing protest letters against lazy staff and appreciating those who are ready to listen. Recommending transfers for staff who mishandle students and even apologies to the Students Union on behalf of the Students. I had such a problem with an officer from the Admissions. A Mr. Mwangi who was never in the office to rectify registration numbers and other errors in registration documents. Never mind that we later on became good friends .Blowing hot and cold was necessary at some moments.
The March 28th Students Unrest was arguably the event that stood out in the calendar of every comrade in session in the year 2013. With explanations not forthcoming on how a Student admitted in critical condition in the morning of Sunday 24th March, would succumb in the same afternoon due to majorly negligence from persons employed to take care of such cases. The treatment was inhuman and we believed that something better could have been done to save the dear life of the comrade. We met the Registrar Academic Affairs the following day and he was on the same Page with us. We could not let this go unexplained and we set out to the Security Department for explanations which were not forthcoming. Instead, the Chief Security Officer resulted to his usual rants and threats about that being none of the Union’s interest. We set out to Njoro for explanations only to meet the family of the deceased arriving in campus. I couldn’t help but shed a tear. It was a moving moment which greatly strengthened our course.
The Njoro OCPD was very generous with information. He expressed his commitment to the investigations. Surprising however was the statement recorded at the police station. It said that the deceased had died upon arrival at the sanatorium. We couldn’t take any more of these lies and attempts to save face that was apparently the intent of the University Management through the Security Department. It is there then we decided to take the battle to them. Life should not be taken that casually. It is irreplaceable and hence such attempts are unacceptable. We were going for a demonstration. It was a matter of when and not if.
Our request to the OCPD was rejected. This was after the Dean of Students,prevailed on behalf of the administration. We vowed never to serve them with a request in person again. We served them via Facebook. Where everyone is a friend.
The events that followed is known to all, I never regret standing for my students. I never will. I did what my conscience told me was right. However, I do not support the destruction of property that was experienced on the D-Day. Until today, I still believe that those who opted for the destruction of property corrupted what we had intended. And that they should know from deep inside themselves, that we took the bullets for them. If you destroyed anyone’s property, you should have a session with your God and ask Him to pardon you.
I would also like to inform all who cared to read this article, that We protected every student who was spotted in compromising acts in the unrest. They therefore continue with their studies uninterrupted. I can also confirm that no single student was victimized. And that just as we called for the demonstration, we shouldered all the responsibilities that came with it.
In my term, I have attended 4 burial ceremonies for departed comrades. Those were my lowest moments Every time I had to stand up to eulogize a fallen comrade. A life ended so soon. The late Dennis Ogoye’s however was my most emotional. The news reached me via text while sitting for one of my End of Semester exam papers. Just before scribbling down my first answer. That’s what it meant to be a Student leader at times.
I am still humbled by just how many of our fellow students are needy. Many go through a lot to be able to attend classes and even successfully sit for their examinations. Many brave the glaring challenges they undergo to afford the smiles their colleagues are used to seeing on their pleasant faces. I have met students who were almost terminating their lives for various reasons. Students who did not know where their next meal would come from. Others who knew not not where their school fees would come from yet never lost the optimism that things would work out. Students who could secure rooms but not the accommodation fees. Others who were forced by circumstances to reside outside campus yet food was a challenge, leave alone the rent. These instances will continue being with us. It is the objective of everyone of us to stand up and be counted when met by such. At times, just touching the life of a fellow Comrade leaves you satisfied with yourself . This is what comes to my mind, every time one asks me what I have achieved in my tenure. I have touched the lives of many fellow comrades in positive ways. I have in the process also learnt life lessons from them. And I have become a better me.
The Union Review of the Union constitution and it’s subsequent submission for a Referendum will be the game changer in the Egerton University students politics. When I assumed office, my obligation then was to complete the review then submit the Draft through the University Management steps till it reached the University council for it to become adopted. After completing the review however, I realized that through that route, it was a futile battle. My advice to the sitting union, set aside funds for a referendum on the constitution and begin civic education on the constitution. It is only through that that our union could be on its way to autonomy. The Union belongs to the Students, and only they should have a say on what their referendum should contain. How it should govern them. As long as this constitution continues being elusive, so shall our quest for autonomy. This is what I never saw when I got into office. What I wish I could have done different.
The year 2013 marked the 4th time I got on the wrong side with an academic institution’s management. And here I am. Blogging about it. I also learnt to speak out whatever was in my heart. To put it down in writing and share it out with friends and interested strangers. 2013 is a year I became me.
Ookoscope, the way it is!