How not to hold University protests

I am very sure that I express the sentiments of most Kenyans when I say that I am disappointed with the manner in which university students have been conducting their affairs. 

As parents, business people and Kenyans, we are weary of the reckless behavior; the looting; the torching of valuable assets; and the wanton destruction of property.  It happened a few weeks back when the University of Nairobi almost successfully held peaceful protests, and now the trend seems to be escalating. 

Are we saying that as Kenyans we cannot ensure proper discourse in our society without resorting to violence?  Somebody help me understand.  Do these students not see the implication of their actions?  How can you chop off the hand that feeds you?

I don’t want to appear as if am disregarding the fact that these students have underlying grievances which may not have received the attention they deserved.  But then I cannot support their methods. 

Personally, I feel strongly about these riots because I had given a talk to KU students about the need to create a Kenyatta University Brand that separates them from their past association with stone-throwing on Thika Road. 

I have also sat down with a student leader from University of Nairobi and he eloquently explained to me the challenges experienced by their Kenyatta University colleagues, some of which have not been amply reported by the media.

Nonetheless, I want to echo words of wisdom from Mahatma Gandhi.  “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” 

And so it goes with the beautiful campus on Thika Road; the evil done is permanent.  Furthermore, violence tends to draw attention away from a noble cause. 

Now, nobody wants to hear that the students had genuine issues; all that matters is that they burnt property worth millions and it will take a prospering institution of higher learning ten steps backwards. 

Some students’ lives have forever been changed and we don’t know whether the same opportunities will ever present themselves again.  And I say to all young people, your life is in your hands.  If your father doesn’t listen to you or do as you wish, do you then clobber his head with a club? 

To the University, I feel that there should be an ombudsman’s office which can interface the students with the administration or the governing council and provide opportunities for meaningful dialogue.  This office would also play an important role in deflecting tension when it arises.  We must not always castigate our young people, but must alternate carrot and stick when dealing with them. 

Still at the end of the day, we must choose different avenues for venting our frustrations, that are more acceptable to our society otherwise we stuck in a rut.

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