Colleges and universities are unique environments that require security solutions based on complex and often changing factors.
A university is responsible for all its operations as an autonomous body by law, devoid of control or patronage from any other entity.
A public university is, therefore equivalent to any other government parastatal responsible for its employees and clients, including their security.
Therefore, university administrations have no business blaming the government for inadequate security on their premises since this should be an integral part of the institutions’ planning and budgetary processes. A safe environment is the cornerstone of any institution offering quality education and should be emphasised with equal zeal as academic matters.
While private universities have made considerable and deliberate efforts to restrict entry into their campuses and hostels, their public counterparts are more laid back, with negligible procedures in place to ensure safety and security on their premises. Public universities offer virtually unrestricted entry for all and sundry, with cursory searching of visitors at only major entry points.
These institutions should adopt campus security best practices that have been successful elsewhere. Strict review and implementation of emergency response plans should be conducted to ensure an ongoing cycle of mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery.
Notably absent even in the oldest university in Kenya is a mass notification communication system to provide information on emergencies. This is a critical link in the information chain of communication with county law enforcement, fire, emergency, medical, and other local first responders off campus.
This most basic and first-line security aspect of education and prevention programmes for students, faculty, and staff is virtually non-existent. This link is imperative to help recognise and proactively respond to signs of trouble from at-risk individuals under a broad range of circumstances.
Technology, despite being an invaluable tool in security, has seen slow uptake by universities. It can effectively improve access control through biometrics, card readers, and pin numbers rather than mere frisking. Video systems are of critical importance on campus, identifying highly valuable, real-time anomalies in traffic patterns and crowd movements that may signal danger.
The undeniable fact emerging from the acts of terrorism that have targeted Kenyans in recent years is that the perpetrators employ elaborate schemes to infiltrate the target before they strike.
This knowledge should enable students to take charge of their own safety by staying alert, observant, and aware of their surroundings and colleagues to be able to actively report suspicious activity to the responsible security personnel.
The architects of terrorism do not exist in a vacuum. Often, they are regular people around campus, cafeterias, hostels, and recreational places.
If students are on the look-out for questionable characters, it is possible to prevent some of these attacks and minimise loss of lives. The tragic attack on Garissa University College should force institutions of higher learning to rethink their security policies.
Mr Ndubi is a Fourth Year journalism student at Technical University of Kenya. [email protected]