Ideally, university is supposed to be the place where a country’s top, young brains gather to be refined and molded into intellectual giants. Also, introducing yourself as a university student in certain quotas earns you a lot of respect and admiration. Due to the accompanying prestige, it’s almost every young person’s dream to go to the said institution of higher learning.
It’s, however, unfortunate that these institutions have now turned into the most dangerous places a parent can send a child. The alarming number of tragic deaths reported in our universities says it all. So common are these deaths that they hardly make it to the front pages of our newspapers.
Stories of girls getting raped or murdered or boys getting killed in riots are so common place, that we now squeeze them into three of four sentences paragraph briefs, which get buried in the dead pages of our newspapers. Or once in a while, get five or so seconds of mention in TV bulletin roundups.
This could be the reason why most of you missed the story of a blind student who was clobbered to death by cops during last year’s riot at a city university, following a disputed students’ leaders election. The reckless assumption here is that the cops didn’t know the deceased was visually impaired. But then, this goes on to show how thoughtless and clumsy our police are when dealing with riots among students.
Back in the day the death of a comrade was such a big deal, the city almost always came to a standstill whenever it happened, and the entire world always knew about it. Such was the case decades back, leading to a hostel — Stella Awinja — being named after a student who died on campus at the University of Nairobi. Unfortunately, such is no longer the case. One wonders, could this be due to the fact that universities are way too many these days, or that the danger that lurks in universities and in rented hostels has become too commonplace to merit national outrage?
Hormones on rampage
Parents may not know it, but the truth of the matter is, university has increasingly become probably the most dangerous and unpredictable place for a young person to hang around. If you are a parent reading this, when you go for your kid’s graduation, my friend, don’t bother gasping with excitement at their degrees. Peck and hug your boy or girl, roll on the ground with excitement and raise your hands to the heavens and thank God that they survived.
For the uninitiated, university today is a place where your child’s rogue hormones are constantly on the rampage; weed is on high supply; biological and illegal experiments are addictive; the rich and randy men in the city patronise daily in search of young secret lovers; throats are permanently in need of booze and cash, to make matters worse, is, of course, always in short supply.
On the long list of priorities, matters to do with books now come a distant and boring third or fourth after matters below the belt or between the sheets and entertainment.
However, in my opinion, the real monster is alcohol and the so-called weed. A good number of students can’t fully function unless they are high on one illegal or banned substance or other. But then again, where is the motivation? I mean, why struggle to post great grades, yet mediocrity characterise the job market? Why would, for instance, the army and other security forces recruit jokers who scored Ds, whilst the Al-shabaab enemy they are going to fight recruits crème de la crème of academia?
Considering the fact that most students tend to be cash-strapped, they don’t exactly get high as rockets on the finest of drinks or substances. To them, anything goes, just anything, so long as it gives a high. Experts will tell you college binge-drinking plays a huge role in campus deaths, destruction of property, sexual assaults, poor academic performance, sexually transmitted diseases, early pregnancies among other social ills.
But, knowing Kenyans, this is the point where parents stop reading, start scratching their heads — students on the other hand start scratching their groins — and get into denial mode, accusing me of peddling malicious rumours.
Sober parents, however, are with me on this and are knowingly nodding as they read because it vividly reminds them of those rowdy university goons who fondled their wife’s boobs, or punched their husbands in the face, kicked them in the nuts or insulted them before smashing their car windscreens during riots.
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