Alternative dispute resolution methods for University students

By Meshack Munyiri Kiruki | Tuesday, Mar 10th 2020 at 14:43
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 In the wake of yet another fickle series of arson cases in our tertiary institutions, its time students evaluate the whole gamut of dispute resolution.

Last year most public universities were characterised by kerfuffles, and running battles with the police as both students and the University administration engaged in battles of wits, each faction trying to outdo the other. In one of the campuses, comrades went back to the streets immediately after resuming from yet another strike.

It is overt that very few demands were met by the respective universities. Students were ignominiously surmounted by the aftermath of the strikes. Their time, money, and resources were wasted while others were injured in the tumult.

The Universities administrations took advantage of the situation by extorting parents and students through exaggerated damage fees and imposing even more punitive policies on their students. A good number were expelled while others who were caught on camera were subjected to disciplinary action.

Students became the ultimate losers.

 Long gone are the days when student leadership was a strong influence even in national politics. Nowadays, those elected as leaders are credulous, docile individuals who are inept in terms of leadership. Others are made puppets of the administration with promises of cash and small tokens. Student leadership has blatantly lost its meaning.

Rioting has only proved to be beneficial to vice-chancellors who end up charging exaggerated damage fees, which ends up in their pockets.

It's, therefore, time for comrades to take a different and a more conventional method of airing their grievances. One that will be effective and will not involve third parties like student unions.

Court processes are obviously the best and most efficacious methods of explicating issues affecting students.

Most concerns raised by students are cogent and authentic and can stand in court. This is owing to the fact that public universities are now run like detention camps with administrators going rogue. Public funds are misused with stalled projects everywhere, especially in universities outside the capital. Some universities do not even have expensive facades to deceive the public.

Article one of the Constitution vests all sovereign power in the people of Kenya. Before the law, no one is puny. However, most Kenyans still believe in the putrid narrative of "big people" and "connected people." As the intellectual elites in the society, students must rise above this insane myth and take their positions at the table.

The so-called "small people" have sued the so-called "big people" and won in infinite occasions. The likes of Okiya Omtata have won so many cases against the government, yet they don't occupy any state office in this country. They are normal Kenyan citizens who believe in the rule of law, as portrayed by the Constitution. The most powerful person in this country is the local mwananchi.

Students have also won suits against their respective institutions. Expelled Seventh Day Adventist students from Kabianga High School are back in class after the court ordered them to return to school, pending the hearing of their case.

Last year, thirteen Moi University students sued the University after missing out on the graduation list, among other issues. They won the case with the High Court ordering the University to cover the cost of the petition and pay them fifty thousand shillings in damages.

It's therefore overtly clear that students can win in court.

Suing will save comrades from altercations with the police, exaggerated surcharges, transport costs, and, most importantly, time. In the process, the school will not be closed, and learning will take place as usual.

Due to the sometimes intricate nature of legal processes, a lawyer may come in handy. A good lawyer will go between two hundred and five hundred thousand shillings. By a good lawyer, I mean the big names in law practice. Suppose around five thousand students decide that enough is enough and contribute a mere two hundred shillings each. This will amount to a million Kenyan shillings, which is enough to hire two of the very best Lawyers in the country. This will guarantee the students great representation and an almost guaranteed win.

Let us do quick math. The least amount paid as damage fee during last year's stint of unrest was five hundred shillings while the greatest amount paid was seventeen thousand shillings, the latter being a complete violation of student's rights. To make matters worse, none of their demands were met. How about opening a paybill number account and raising as little as two hundred shillings from a third of the school's population and having your demands heard before an independent court of law? This would leave the University administrators in fear and unbridled shame and would restore sanity, justice, and normalcy in our universities.

Let's style up, match our standards, and be the impetus of change in our public institutions. Let us embrace court processes as a conduit for justice. Long live comrades.

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