Bring back student activism

Uon 2009 Protests

University of Nairobi students demonstrate on the Uhuru Highway in Nairobi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya has witnessed a series of controversial policies passed by Parliament, including the Housing Levy, and now we have the Finance Bill 2024, which threatens to exacerbate the already high cost of living.

Citizens, burdened by oppressive taxes, are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the Kenya Kwanza government has increased university fees, putting higher education out of reach for many students from poor backgrounds, and scrapped the Edu Afya programme that benefited numerous learners. This raises the question: where are the university students and lecturers in these times of crisis?

Historically, university students have been at the forefront of social and political movements, advocating for change and fighting against injustice. Kenya has a rich history of student activism.

University students were instrumental in pushing for multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. They understood the power of collective action and the importance of fighting for their rights and those of others.

However, today’s university students and lecturers are conspicuously silent on the pressing issues of rising cost of living and oppressive policies. This silence is perplexing, given the critical role education plays in social and political advocacy. President Julius Nyerere said that it is the responsibility of the educated to initiate and sustain intellectual and social liberation.

The current situation in Kenya demands a revival of the spirit of activism. Teachers should educate the masses on the importance of joining demonstrations and fighting for their rights. University students must realise that the rising cost of living affects everyone. By engaging in advocacy and mass actions, they can drive meaningful change and ensure that the government is held accountable.

The power of education lies not just in personal advancement but in its potential to transform society.

Mr Kilonzo is an [email protected]