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Authorities should resolve the rampant university strikes

Friday November 15 2019

Over the past few years, the operations at institutions of higher learning, particularly universities, have often been disrupted by student unrest.

Last month, Kenyatta University was closed following demonstrations by students, who were complaining about increased fees by the institution.

And on Monday, students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) held what organisers had said would be a peaceful protest but turned out to be chaotic, causing massive disorder in Juja town and its environs.

A memo by the students association said the protesters were exercising their fundamental right to expression, accusing the local security apparatus of laxity.

They claimed that rising insecurity on and around the main campus had led to students being murdered in cold blood.

Early this year, the students had held a similar demonstration.

GRIEVANCES

On Monday, traders in Juja were forced to shut their shops and stalls to avoid damage while the institution ordered all the students to vacate the campus.

Then the local residents chipped in to “assist” the police in stopping the angry demonstrators, amid claims by the students that they robbed and seriously injured them.

But this is ironic because the students were protesting against insecurity in the first place!

So when will the violent protests end? A leading cause of the riots is claims by students that the institutions are poorly run and provide an unconducive environment for learning.

They cite “unilateral” and “unfair” fee increment by the universities, saying most of them come from poor families and are forced to do odd jobs to finance their needs.

CIVILITY

Universities should charge fees that parents can afford while examination and graduation fees, especially for supplementary papers, remain constant.

County authorities, too, should beef up security on and around campuses since the lives of students are put at risk by robbers and hostile locals.

Cases of boda-boda operators being involved in crime should also be taken into consideration.

The police should not only improve security but also come up effective measures to stop such protests instead of brutally attacking innocent students who are only venting their frustration.

The neighbouring community should also play a role in ensuring the safety of these students since they hugely depend on them for business.

They should report to the police incidents of crime or suspicious characters and activities and alert the students of insecure places around the campus so that they do not stay out late.

Lastly, students, too, have a role in ending the strikes, which usually slow down their academic progress, resulting in delayed graduation.

The students associations leaders should work with the university administration on solutions to problems instead of luring their colleagues to engage in violent protests whose effects are more dangerous than the issues being addressed.

Mark Kipchumba, mass communication student, JKUAT