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Varsity administrators told to keep off students’ elections

26 March 2015, 10:46 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – University administrators have been warned against interfering with students’ elections as this is considered to be among the causes of the witnessed students’ unrest in the country.

The National Assembly's Education committee probing into causes of rampant varsity student unrests and immediate closure of some institutions of higher learning, said students should be allowed to exercise their democratic right in choosing their leaders without any interference.

“This is an era of dialogue and strikes in our institutions of higher learning are a thing of the past. There are complaints that university administrations are having a hand in students’ politics regarding who should be elected. This undermines democracy, causing tension and leading to students’ unrest,” said Education committee vice chair, Julius Melly during the questioning of Multi-Media University (MMU) top management on causes of the February 2015 strike and the subsequent closure of the institution.

Melly insisted that the students’ Organization is recognized in the Universities Act 2012 as part of the seven university management structures thus need to be allowed to play its outlined roles independently without intimidation or interference.

The questioned MMU vice chancellor, Festus Kaberia said power blackout triggered the February 8 strike because the students were set to watch two international soccer matches between Manchester United vs. Westham,  and the CAF final between Ghana vs. Ivory Coast contrary to speculations that the institution’s administrations had interfered with students’ planned elections.

Read Also: Headteacher arrested for forcing students to take peppered food

“The administration was not leaning towards any contesting student and it was not aware of any student vying for the Presidency in the elections that were to be held in three weeks’ time. Non-interference to the students’ politics is a strategy to avoid any blame or unrest,” said Kaberia.

Kaberia told the committee that the varsity administration had informed students that there would be power interruptions due to internal upgrading from single to three phase to contain electricity interruptions as recommended by Kenya Power.

“The technical team informed students and promised to get the power upgrade works done by 7:30pm. By this time, the students were gathered at their pavilion and anxious to watch an international soccer match.  Between 7:00 and 7:30pm, students started demanding that power be restored and a group of them left the pavilion for the university main gate,” said Kaberia.

He added that they blocked traffic while others started stoning motorists. The rowdy students were repelled back to the University by police forcing them to go to the administration block where they caused a lot of damage.

“They stoned, breaking most of the glass doors and windows on the ground, first and second floors. They vandalized the Prado virtually at the parking lot beyond recognition, looted property in the university hotel among other damages,” said Kaberia.

Upon the University’s Senate assessment of the damage caused, Kaberia said it established that the loss amounted to KES 13 987 085 million and the 3 837 students on session were fined KES 3 645 each.

The VC told the committee that the University reopened and normal learning is going on. He added that although the learning calendar was interfered with after the closure of the institution for two weeks, the lost time will be recovered in April holiday where students will not break for vacation.

However, Melly directed the VC not to impose heavy charges on students particularly fining them on insurable damaged property and the unwanted lost business income the University’s hotel encountered during the closure of the institution.

“There is need to relook into damage charges to students to avoid blanket judgments on loss incurred. It is the first time I witness a university impose a fine on its lost business yet it should only charge students on damaged property,” said Melly.

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