Students unhappy with universities’ polls model, want mass voting back

Kenya Universities Student organization officials assembling outside one of the universities on October 9, 2019.
University students are championing for return of a system where they directly elect their leaders.

The students are opposed to the current electoral college system adopted in late 2016 by local universities, saying it has killed the voice of vibrant leaders.

In multiple interviews, the learners say the current system has predisposed student leadership to manipulation by other forces.

Isaac Kweyu of the University of Nairobi says the new voting system has been programmed to ensure those chosen serve the universities’ interests.

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“Students chosen are those who can be manipulated by the management of the university, thereby suppressing their roles as the voice of the student organisation,” says Kweyu.

He says in most cases, leaders picked are not the true reflection of what students want.

“A candidate who wins is the administration’s choice not that of majority students. It annoys to see a group of 34 people making the choice for thousands of students,” he says.

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According to the new system adopted by universities, the students’ association constitutes itself into electoral colleges based on their academic departments, schools or faculties.

Students from each of these faculties referred to us electoral colleges elect three representatives who then elect the students governing council that observes the two-third gender rule.

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Killing activism

“The representatives of each electoral college shall elect the members of the student council within thirty days of the election under this subsection,” reads section 41(1)(e) of the Universities Act.

Suleiman Wangila, the president of Nakuru County Students Caucus, says the new law was aimed at killing students’ vibrancy and activism.

He says the previous system (students union) motivated student leaders to agitate for comrades’ rights, since all students were answerable for any damage done in case of chaos unlike the current system (students association) that targets individuals. “When it is an association, it means whenever there is an issue in your areas of jurisdiction, the individual responsible will be liable and answerable to the administration,” says Wangila.

Deogracious Obella, Director Academic Affairs at Egerton University, says the system has turned the students body slave to the administration.

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On Monday, five student leaders at Moi University were expelled for allegedly organising violent protests that caused the university to be closed indefinitely.

Weldon Rono, Congressman for Faculty of Education at Egerton University, tells the Saturday Standard that the system is a sham and does not support democracy.

Corruption

He says corruption during elections of the students governing council has denied comrades their will and desire for competent leaders.

“The delegates whom we vote for have their own interests. Some are lured by the administration who corrupt them with money and other benefits, thereby influencing their decisions way before the election,” says Rono.

Fikirini Jacobs, the students president of Pwani University, who is also the chairman of Kenya Universities Students Organisation (KUSO), says they are making a proposal to Parliament to amend the Universities Act and revert to old system of election.

This was after a constitutional petition by student leaders on January 24, 2017 highlighting the loopholes was dismissed by High Court judge Chacha Mwita.

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