University students strike over delayed HELB cash

September 19, 2014 9:09 am
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At the University of Nairobi, students have blocked University Way and adjacent roads, demanding the immediate release of the funds by the Higher Education Loans Board/FILE
At the University of Nairobi, students have blocked University Way and adjacent roads, demanding the immediate release of the funds by the Higher Education Loans Board/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 19 – Learning in most public universities was Friday paralyzed after students went on rampage protesting the delay in the release of their loans by the government.

In a typical cat and mouse game the students and the police chased each other back and forth with police finally employing the use of tear-gas to disperse the rowdy students who were pelting stones.

Even journalists had to cower as the students threw stones at them.

In Nairobi, students blocked the busy University Way and adjacent roads, demanding the immediate release of the funds by the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB).

The angry rioters had to be dispersed by the Police using teargas as they attempted to storm Anniversary Towers where the HELB offices are located.

“Tukiona Ringera leo atatembea naked in Nairobi, (if we see Ringera (HELB CEO) today, he will walk naked in Nairobi) said one student.”

His sentiments were reiterated by his colleagues who lashed out at the police for firing teargas on them.

“We have said as comrades if we see him (HELB CEO) somewhere; we are going to walk with his trouser today—we have no violence, we want the police to tell us why they are throwing teargas at us, I have lost 10 litres of my tears, now they should be answerable. ” posed the angry students, amid stone throwing.

And while the rest of the demonstrators ran away from the teargas fired by the police, one courageous demonstrator picked up several of the fired canisters and hurled it back at the Anti-riot police amid cheers from his comrades.

The police however managed to disperse the students.

Although the Higher Education and Loans Board said it released Sh1.8 billion on Thursday to avert the strike, the students said they have not received a dime.

They now lament that the delay in releasing the funds has impacted negatively in their studies, because they had banked on it while joining campus.

The students also claim that their allocations have been reduced by almost 50 percent compared to how much they got the previous year.

“Unajua kuna wengine wetu tulikuwa tunapewa 50,000 plus bursary, this time round wameandika 37,000 minus the bursary , now we are wondering, na hata haijaingia(you know some of us used to get 50,000 plus the bursary , this time they have indicated 37,000 minus the bursary, now we are wondering, in fact the money has not been remitted) said another student.

More than 30 students were arrested in the day-long demonstrations witnessed in different parts of the country including the Technical University of Kenya in Nairobi and Mombasa.

One particular student from the University of Nairobi had a difficult time pleading his case to the angry anti- riot police officers after he was arrested.

“I am asking a very genuine question, can you strike with a laptop, would you go and run and throw stones with a machine like this one, and it is an expensive machine, I was just from the library, even if you go to my status update on Facebook, you will see that I was condemning the strike,” pleaded the student whose appeal fell on deaf ears.

The strike was announced last week by leaders of the university students unions, who have vowed to paralyse learning until the funds are released.

And even as the students await the release of the loans some 56,938 government – sponsored first year students who began reporting last month will have to wait until November to get the money.

It should also be noted that this year’s admission to public universities increased by 7.4 percent compared to last years’ admission rate where 53,010 students were enrolled.

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