Last week I watched the news items on the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) students going berserk and destroying anything in their wake, including two County Government of Mombasa garbage trucks, in utter disgust.
The students were protesting against increase in college fees.
Obviously, this had nothing to do with the trucks or any other public or private property that they damaged. Characteristically, students in institutions of higher learning and those in secondary schools, have resorted to destruction of property, including the premises they learn from and the resources they use for their education.
To right thinking Kenyans, this is beyond comprehension.
In any case, most times the students are protesting against issues out of their ambit, such as school or college fees increases. It is the parents and/or guardians who pay for school/college fees and if there is any issue to do with these, the students should instead of going to the streets, inform their parents of the increase who then should approach the school/college administration.
If need be, the parents can stage a peaceful demonstration and knowing the pain of raising school fees and the cost of paying for any damage caused during violent demonstrations, they would obviously think twice before causing any.
Apparently, some of the TUM students who torched the Mombasa trucks, are beneficiaries of county bursaries and now according to county governor Hassan Joho, students will find it much more difficult than before to access this facility.
In addition to that, the student body will have to pay for the damage caused during that riotous demonstration, which will run into millions of shillings.
It turns out some of the students have been deregistered because of the indiscipline they displayed when they staged that demonstration. This should serve as a warning to students countrywide, against violent protest and destroying property.
Hopefully this will serve as some warning to university and other students, but many of these students come from humble backgrounds and it must pain their parents to see them turn into street thugs and eventually school or college dropouts.
Some of the parents have gone to great lengths to send their children to school, including selling their prized land and livestock, only to have their sons and daughters sent back home because of gross indiscipline. The amounts they are asked to pay to cover the damages caused by their children are usually beyond their means and hopefully the Mombasa incident will be an eye-opener and students will think twice before they act in future.
That said, the mushrooming of local universities and the attendant campuses in every small town and street has resulted in what one lawyer recently called the ‘kiosknization’ of university education.
Some of the so-called campuses do not have the requisite facilities and resources, including teaching manpower and learning materials.
Libraries that were meant for a few hundred students now cater to thousands and there could not have been any re-stocking of books since the 1970s.
The various public university campuses and even some private institutions employ the services of the same lecturers in the various disciplines and these professionals have to hop from one campus or university to the other. One is teaching in Nairobi in the morning and panting out another lecture at the Coast in the afternoon. The next morning he would be somewhere in Nyeri or Meru. Many are the times when students get into a lecture room (some of them are not fit to be called that) only to find the teacher absent with no apology.
In their greed, some universities have also come up with a way of assigning various names to what is in effect the same degree course, which leads students to believe they are doing different marketable courses, while in fact the course work is literally the same and in most cases the degree much more inferior than what was provided before. The result is one graduating with a degree that will never propel them to any meaningful engagement.
And with this devaluation of a college degree to a mere piece of paper, many do not even care to study but instead look for money to employ the services of ‘consultants’ who do term papers for them or simply plagiarise. Many are the times similar papers from different candidates are presented to examiners. Stories have also been told of students buying certificates openly.
For students who have a sense of what is going on, this is a very frustrating situation that could easily lead to unease and ultimately unrest. It is therefore the moral duty of the body responsible for registering universities to ensure that they have the required facilities, resources and proper degree course outlines, before opening them for business.
The writer is a freelance journalist.