Universities in Kenya are established under institutional Acts of Parliament as stipulated by the Universities Act 2012 with Parliament’s approval. That means their formation is premised on the Constitution and they also ought to conduct their mandate in accordance with it.
A mockery of this democracy was opened with the invocation of the Universities Amendment Act 2016 fronted by then-National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale. It sought to take away university students’ power to elect their student leaders and delegate it to faculty representatives. A disdain of Article 37 of the Constitution that provides for rights to vote, it was unsuccessfully challenged legally.
Fuelling the flames, universities enact statutes governing the conduct of students in total disregard of the Constitution. Whilst Article 38 provides for peaceful unarmed demonstrations and picketing, most university statutes attempt to silence the students by making these rights illegal.
Recently, some university students in most campuses were agitating owing to fee increment by their respective institutions. They voiced their woes to the media, hoping that their cries would influence the authorities’ decisions. They risked summons by their respective university senates.
University senates crucify students through exaggerated actions. In the senate, the vice-chancellor runs the show, most of the plenary members his lieutenants in silencing dissent from students, who perceive that their tribulations emanate from the university heads milking the institution’s coffers.
Students face many tribulations but their lamentations land on the deaf ears of the administration. These include lecturers withholding marks for lack of pay; the punitive requirement to pay fees in advance; devastating infrastructure; insecurity on campus; and the waiting anathema of unemployment with looming study loan repayment.
Denying students their right to peacefully voice their tribulations is unconstitutional. The Duale Bill needs a rethink.
Mr Mutuku is a student at the University of Kabianga (UoK). [email protected]