NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 – Security has been heightened across Nairobi following plans by university students to stage protests over a controversial fee increment.
Nairobi Police Chief Benson Kibue told Capital FM News that anti-riot police officers were prepared to deal with the demonstrators in case they turned violent.
While stating that it was not the time to hold demonstrations due to increased terror threats, Kibue warned the students to remain peaceful in their protests “or prepare for consequences.”
“In line with what has been happening recently with the terror threats, this is not the right time for people to be holding demonstrations. Unscrupulous people may be lurking around with the sole aim of disrupting the process. However, we wish to assure everyone that the proper security measures have been put in place,” he stated.
The Students Organisation of Nairobi University (SONU) Chairman Babu Owino said they would be calling for the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) to increase their bursary allocations by 50 percent to be able to cater for students’ needs.
Owino said the protests would start from University Way through Uhuru Highway, Parliament Road to Jogoo House where they planned to present their petition to the Education Cabinet Secretary.
“The fee that is there at the moment compared to the HELB that is being disbursed to the students cannot sustain us so the idea of increasing fee is very irrelevant; we are planning a peaceful demonstration that will take us from Uhuru Highway, to Parliament, KICC and then finally to Jogoo House where we will end our demonstration,” he stated.
The students from public universities vowed to stage demonstrations countrywide after negotiations between their unions and the government failed.
“Kaimenyi is fond of appearing in the media and stating that fees will be increased and then the following day he states otherwise so we do not know his stand. Let him issue a circular that is signed by him and let him give it to all the Vice Chancellors. But as at now, we take all his statements as speculation,” he said.
Owino explained that they were in touch with their colleagues from other universities who would join the strike.
But as the students prepared to embark on the strike, Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi denied claims that he ordered the contentious fee increment in public universities.
“The Government would like to allay the fears of stakeholders, and particularly university students about the purported increase,” Kaimenyi noted.
In a statement, the Education Secretary stated that any increase must be initiated by University Councils, after a consultative process before it is endorsed by the Education Ministry.
According to Kaimenyi, the Universities Act, 2012 provides for setting up of the Universities Funding Board which would determining the maximum differentiated unit cost for the academic programmes offered in public universities.
“No such process has been started to this effect,” he noted.