It is commendable that Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has recalled its students, who were only a few days ago sent home following violent protests at their main campus. This is as it should be. In the past, some public universities have been closed down for long periods. This blanket punishment of students for voicing their grievances puts their lives on hold and delays their graduation.
There has been an upsurge in student protests, leading to closing of various institutions. While this is sometimes a useful precautionary measure for the students’ own safety, it is certainly not the best, as it disrupts academic programmes, throwing the institutions into disarray. The unrest at JKUAT should not have happened in the first place. It is the responsibility of the university administration and the security organs, especially the police service, to ensure the safety of the students and their property. Before they staged their protest, they had complained several times to the university managers and the police about insecurity around their campus. It was only when they realised that nobody was taking action that they took to the streets.
Hopefully, the issues the students have raised have now been addressed and they will be assured of their safety and security around the campus and hostels when they return. As past experience has shown, students resort to violent protests only when the channels of communication with the administration are blocked. While the majority of the students are law-abiding citizens, there are pockets with criminal tendencies.
It is only fair that only these should be punished whenever something goes wrong. It is also encouraging to note that the four police officers caught on camera brutalising a hapless and helpless student have been interdicted. This should serve as a warning to security personnel to up their game and deal firmly with student hooliganism without using excessive force and endangering lives. We are a civilised society.