Previously, whenever university students plotted to go on strike, planning was done in hushed tones, lest the conspiracy fell unto the wrong ears. Those were the dark ages, because if word got out, then the special police force designed to extend Moi’s eternal reign would pounce on you. A sleep over at Nyayo House would inevitably follow, and the invite did not have the option of an RSVP. You had to go one way or another. Those were the times when it was regarded high treason to speak ill of baba. A slight misconception of your tone would earn your head a place on his platter or if he was in a good mood on your day of judgment, you would get a few years in the cubes. Ask akina Orengo, Miguna, Agwambo and others of their kind.
Clearly, these are not those days. That is why varsity student leaders even have the family jewels to announce early enough that they will be throwing stones in a week. Sometime last week, I was added into a WhatsApp group specifically created for the May 20th nationwide demonstration. The allegation was that the cabinet secretary had set in motion a policy change that had the net effect on raising university fees in general. That is the spanner that caused a clog in Kenya’s works last weeks. That coupled with another allegation that they (it is not clear who) sought to also reduce HELB loan drastically.
The domino effect of these two rumors was chaos everywhere. The veracity of the allegations still cannot be determined as the said cabinet secretary distanced himself from the allegation as soon as the drumbeats of war were heard in a distance.
Here is the thing about students. They cannot let anything to slide as long as it rocks their comfort boat. More so if it has anything to do with money. At the beginning of the semester when the government loan checks in, students live high on the hog. The royal lifestyle lasts a fortnight and then they are low in their purse. Right now, a month or so into the semester, comrades are becoming broke, so it is an opportune time to drive them up the wall. Then comes this HELB story, and you have an irate overdrawn mob with a reason to cause chaos.
If you want campus students rampaging mad like bats in a belfry, then threaten their wallets. They will place a bounty on your head. You will be wanted, dead or alive. They will not care if you are a high ranking government honcho. They do not bottle out, they are no respecters of age or title. That is because a broke campus student is like a wounded bull, so when they hear that someone is plotting to rob them, such a threat is a red cloak. They will charge. An affront to their financial security, whether real or rumored, is a capital offence- and they will look over hell’s half acre until they find the supposed thief.
The only thing is, the law of comrades is the law of the jungle. It rides on a simple principle- that a comrade is always right. That is why according to Babu Owino, students were peacefully demonstrating and then the police decided to riot.
There is also this other chap who responds to the name Jim Akach. A rising political star with promise. Babu might have the money and phony fanatical following, but Jim is a horse of a different colour. He administrates the WhatsApp group aforementioned. His eye is fixed on the ultimate throne that kamwana currently warms. Rock his boat by pulling a stunt like Kaimenyi and you have stirred him into action. He rides on a wind of revolution. So Kaimneyi’s threat is like a bone to a dog. His love for comrades might be genuine, but it’s also a stepping stone. It comes close, but no cigar.
But who cares? Right now a common enemy unites all university students. He is a man waiting eagerly for a legitimate excuse to turn the town into a frenzy- give him one good reason to unleash his hounds, and you will have a motely band of foxes with burning tails. There rallying call clear as a bell: Valar Morghulis!
That is what happened on May 20th. The strike was a knee jerk reaction from a motley band of campus students whose pecuniary security had been threatened; fueled by aspirants to the throne. So they took it personally. And let’s face it, you would too.
I wish I was there during the strike. I miss the adrenalin of being part of a rioting crowd. The rush. The cacophony brewed by a short-lived sense of brotherhood. When you get down to the real meat, you will realize that this goes deeper than students fighting financial hardship. It’s about nationals unhappy with a government policy and doing something about it. Even if the allegations were not true; the threat was imminent. A government that schemes to make education inaccessible by putting hefty tariffs craps on its future. Insecurity is chewing us apart as it is; the last thing we need is illiteracy.
StoryMoja is working on a project called start a library. “Start A Library”. They collect books to give to children in less fortunate schools. The idea is to make children love books- to make reading blissful. And when you think of it, that is where it all begins- with a child holding a book, and then enjoying school. Loving education. It’s a cycle. And it’s hard to keep this cycle spinning. So making someone who grew up loving books to pay through the nose for education is unfair, and quite frankly anyone who does that deserves more than a demo. He deserves a crown- a hot melting dripping crown of plastic on his head.
Does that make sense to you? No? Well, it does to me. That’s also why I wish I was at that demo. For future’s sake.