Attaining university education is every Kenyan’s dream. Much as having a basic degree does not guarantee securing employment, just owning the certificate injects a sense pride and accomplishment among degree holders.
It is on this premise that parents of school-going children would do everything to ensure their children pass the requisite examinations to gain admission to a university. Even those who missed the chance in their teens to join a university revive their hopes of obtaining a degree by registering for the parallel degree programmes while in employment – even in old age.
Indeed, the rush to secure university education has led the institutions of higher learning to nearly burst at the seams amid record admissions.
But recently, the institutions seem to have become a source of consternation, dismay, and utter horror for many parents. Now they send their children to university to go and die, get entangled in crime, or simply wallow in the ignominy that our universities have become. If some students do not die mysteriously in these campuses, they simply disappear.
Others commit suicide in unexplained circumstances, apparently after being overwhelmed by the pressure and iniquity. Recently the son of a Cabinet minister committed suicide at their home in Runda in Nairobi in an unclear circumstances.
The 26-year-old was a Fourth Year student at the University of Nairobi studying Computer Science. Early this week, the body of a university student kidnapped by people suspected to be her colleagues was found in a coffee plantation in Kiambu.
The body of Sarah Aruwa, a Fourth Year International Relations student at the United States International University (USIU) was discovered in Githunguri on Sunday, a day after she went missing. Ms Aruwa, 24, was kidnapped as she walked from her residence in Roysambu by men who later used her phone to call her mother demanding Sh100,000 ransom.
Last week, police arrested the suspects – three university students, including two from USIU – over the kidnapping . The suspects were arraigned in court.
In June last year, the body of another University of Nairobi student, Mercy Chepkosgei Keino was found along Waiyaki Way. The student died in mysterious circumstances after attending a party in Westlands.
Not surprising that now many people say if you need a gun for hire you do not have to go to Eastleigh, but just walk into the nearest university and you could land one on the cheap. This claim is supported by the fact that a cache of ammunition was once found in the room of a university student.
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The varsities are now said to be melting pots of fraud with students being sucked into international money laundering using their computer skills, and the relaxed environment at the universities. But there are reasons the authorities need to get worried.
Sociology experts say unless the untamed freedom at the universities is checked, the vices would go on and probably metamorphose into a national crisis. Freedom, they say, is good, but too much of it is dangerous.
Too much freedom makes students able to freely access and abuse substances and drugs – this leads them to be aggressive and violent – without even knowing for a majority of them. When they get away with this aggressiveness and violence, they think they can get away with everything else, with some beginning to get involved in criminal activities – including colluding or aiding criminals to commit crimes.
But we must never lose the battle to right the wrong. The solution lies squarely in the hands of the Government, the institutions, and society. Sociologists believe our drastically changing socio-economic, cultural, and political environment encourages the unfortunate incidents.
To reverse the sorry situation, sociologists say solutions must be found. The solutions must be embraced by the students so that they can be more responsible and accountable for their actions. This calls for a review of the universities’ structures, academically and socially.
Universities must not only be places to mould people intellectually, but they must also produce wholesome individuals who can live in harmony with others.