YOU AGAINST THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE

Here is what I think will happen when we report back to school. First, destruction of property took place; the extent of the damage is irrelevant as far as charges to the student are concerned. Be ready to be charged for that, and expect the charges per student to be highly out of proportion to the damage. Apart from the punitive aspect, it also serves to send a message to students: strikes are bad for you in more ways than one. It’s also an opportune way to temporarily hike the fees, and raise more money to take care of the deficits. Second, someone might have to go home. And as these things often go, the real perpetrators will be left in class while some unfortunate, innocent Dick and Harry take the fall. Apart from the current first years, the rest of us saw what happened last time. Suspected students missed classes for almost a month. Yet, as it turned out, some of them were actually innocent, or at least there was no enough evidence against them. Even some of those who went home still insist they were not guilty. You can hardly win against the disciplinary committee. If you carefully read “Rules and Regulations Governing the Conduct and Discipline of Students of the University”, you will notice that the student has almost no way of defending him/herself. At one place it states that:
“…the principal, acting on behalf of the Council, is the disciplinary authority of the University and may in that capacity…. suspend any student suspected of committing any disciplinary offence under this regulation from the University pending appropriate disciplinary action.”
It neither stipulates the length of such a suspension nor specifies a timeframe within which the disciplinary committee should conduct the hearing and issue a verdict. All it says is that the first meeting must be within one month, and that after the committee’s decision one has 14 days to table an appeal. That can be construed to mean that one can possibly be suspended for five years while investigations are ongoing and/or awaiting the committee’s decision. This is not saying that it has ever happened or will ever happen, but if the university wanted to, there’s nothing in there to stop them. This is reminiscent of Moi’s era when a suspect could rot in remand for eight years, awaiting hearing, because of a chicken theft case to which he had pleaded not guilty. It makes no sense for a student to miss lectures because he is suspected of some disciplinary offence. Unless someone can explain clearly in which ways such a student can interfere with the committee’s investigation into his case. What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’? Or is that only a prerogative of legal suspects? The university conveniently had the foresight to give itself more room to prove you guilty, one clause states:
“The committee shall hold an enquiry but shall not be required to adhere to the rules of evidence or procedures as applied in a Court of Law.”
Well, question answered, this clause enables the university, from the word go, to treat you as if you are not innocent. Woe betide anyone who shall be called up against the disciplinary committee, because the truth of the matter is they can send you home if they want to, no matter how innocent you are from any accusations. If you don’t believe it, go get a copy of the rules and regulations from the registrar’s office and see for yourself. You really should not have to, you signed them yourself and, therefore, you should know what they say. Ignorance is bliss, but it is no defense. Nobody will drop charges against you because “you did not know what you did was wrong”. There are even greater benefits of knowing the rules and regulations though. First, you can avoid committing offenses, and carry around a clean conscience. A guilty conscience can be a real burden; men have killed themselves just to forget their guilt. Second, when you know what qualifies to be an offense and what doesn’t, you will be smart enough not to admit to an offense unknowingly, unless of course, you want to be labeled ‘fala mwenye alijiuza’ or you are really homesick and getting yourself suspended is the only way to go home long enough.
The good news is that you are protected, though to a small extent in this case, by the country’s constitution. Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution (2010) guarantees every citizen the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition public authorities, provided that this is done within the limits imposed by the same constitution. Which raises an important question which will be looked at later: why does the university unconstitutionally list picketing as one of the disciplinary offenses? Admittedly, the rules and regulations have grammatical errors and ambiguities arising thereof. Maybe the unconstitutional interpretation of that ambiguous clause is not the intended one. Because if the university meant it that way then they have exposed themselves under Article 22, Enforcement of Bill of Rights in the constitution. The constitution is clear on that one: A right (in Bill of Rights) shall not be limited except by law. It goes even further to give you the right to sue anyone who tries to limit said rights.
But none of the students has the time, willingness or money to try to sue the university. Being a student is difficult enough without having to add complications. Most of students in campus just wish to complete school, get a degree, with or without any honours, and go buy their dream car so they can live life on the fast lane. That’s why no student wants to be suspended for any period of time, four or five years is long enough to be in campus. Who wants to make it any longer? Nobody. It is perhaps too much to hope the university will be lenient to those who will be convicted. Although, according to the rules and regulations, the disciplinary committee takes into consideration the general conduct (past and present) of the student. Hopefully, that means they can let you off with a warning if it is your first and only offense. Some judges do it, especially with cases involving minors, and maybe the university will borrow a leaf from the courts. Besides, suspension of students from school is detrimental to the achievement of the visions and goals of the university and the nation.
There are many ways to skin a cat. Personally, I feel that they are better ways to punish those proven guilty. Those who were suspended at the beginning of the year are now earning minimum wage waiting to complete the term of their suspension. With the exception of a few, most of them could not afford to enroll to a different course instead of wasting that time. You can imagine that the others are somewhere hustling, hoping the days move faster. All this time, the university is paying work-study students to complement the staff shortage in some departments. Enough said, a smart administrator should be able to understand what is being said here. Just because every other institution punishes students by suspending them does not mean Kimathi should follow suit. After all, this is a university of technology, therefore, innovation should be at the core of every of our daily businesses. Anyone who expects this university to rise to prominence in spite of neglecting technology is deluded. It is either Kimathi university fully embraces technology and novel ways of doing things, or it accepts a niche in the ‘Others’ category of Kenyan universities. It is easy to see that neither the administration nor the students want that eventuality. That’s common ground from which the university can work to consolidate the efforts of all stakeholders towards building itself.
A word of advice to everyone, an old adage, commonly known as Murphy’s Law, states that: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” A corollary to this law states that: “Left to themselves, things will go from bad to worse.” Both the students and the administration should keep that in mind. At the end of the day, Kimathi is both the students and the administration so it doesn’t serve either’s purpose to act vindictively against the other. The best thing is to work together to solve issues before they become problems. Finally, the last word to any hapless student who ends up facing the disciplinary committee: know everything you possibly can. If that means cramming the entire rules and regulations booklet, by all means go ahead. Having the right information can mean the difference between hurrying back to class before the CAT starts, and packing your things to leave the university for three academic years. A warning though, this is the voice of inexperience speaking. If you want the voice of experience, of people who have been there and done that, you might want to seek the counsel of the current chairman to DeKUTSO.
PS: Latest reports say that school resumes on 11th Nov., 2013. Confirm with your class representatives to see that they have the same information.

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PART 3 – THE DEATH OF MORRIS: GRIEF AND RIOT

We know what started it. One of us died in a blatant display of recklessness. I was there and saw it all, or at least whatever much one can absorb with a thousand different things happening all at once around you. That was the night before the strike, the night that marked the last sunset Morris’ would ever see. The fact that it happened within the school compound, and was perpetrated by someone everyone was ever complaining about, was enough to incense any student. Some went to Power-house to pray for his soul, and perhaps their own peace of mind after that sudden loss. However, not everyone has got such a good grip on their temper. There were some I met who were visibly shaking with rage. I was torn between the two extremes myself. On one hand, mortality is a sad reality I have learnt to grudgingly accept. Therefore, I know when death comes there is nothing one can do to bring back the dead. But on the other hand, negligence leading to death is not to be condoned, not in law and certainly not in my book. I was righteously furious; I owed it to the memory of the late Morris.
When I arrived at the bus park at around 11 a.m., there was a crowd already formed, and growing by the minute. One could feel the palpitating angry mood of the crowd; you could almost cut the tension with a knife. Despite all that, I could feel that there was not going to be a demonstration, nor a riot, this was mourning – mourning for a comrade gone too soon, deprived of the chance to viva la buena vida (live the good life) of which we dream, which helps us all bear the pains of campus in stride. This was the beginning of a desperate attempt by the comrades to make sense of a senseless death, to try to understand how the place they were meant to be most safe suddenly became a bloodbath. Bloodbath? Yeah, students see things many times worse than they really are; any university administrator worth his pay should know that. Students never even really deny it, they live to give the administration a hard time. It’s a byproduct of all the pressure they are under, they feel much is expected of them and as a result also expect much from their administration.
The rift between the administration and the student body is too large. This will remain so as long as students think like students and the administration keeps deluding itself that it is the boss of them, simply because they are students. The administration needs to realize that there’s a requisite modicum of respect that students expect from the administrative personnel. In class, this expectation is reinforced when lecturers tell the business students, “The customer is king, and the king is always right. Above that, you want the king happy.” In that case, can someone hand me my crown too. The core business in a university is education, which makes students the number one customers, the kings. Somehow, everyone but the students keeps forgetting that, and it maddens us to no end. So until an arbiter is found, to make the different points of view understood across the board, the aims and pursuits of the students will remain irreconcilable with those of the administration. And all workers that are hired, with the exception of a few outliers, will always be having problems with the students. At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll state here that the bottom line is: students need and deserve respect, that’s what it takes to keep them happy.
The events that led to the showdown between the police and students were a result of a worker being too cavalier with the needs of the students. His arrogance ended with someone dead, and himself in custody. Who supervised this man? Did his supervisor ever take any action against earlier complaints? Were there no earlier complaints? Personally, I wouldn’t bet a dime of my HELB loan on that. I believe that before it pours, it rains. This can’t be his first incidence, unless he is absolutely unlucky. In which case, he would not have been lucky enough to land such a descent job, with nice pay, retirement benefits, annual leaves and all the usual perks. He should have realized how lucky he was and acted accordingly to preserve that luck. Unfortunately for Morris, and anyone else who may have suffered in Muiruri’s hands, he didn’t.
I don’t think that either the administration or the police who arrived at the scene understood the core driving force behind the students’ energy. Men express their emotion through aggression, that can mean violence if they know they can get away with it.  There was a variety of emotion on display that day. The students’ anger flew away with the stones, frustration was smashed upon fragile window panes, and pain was shed with the tears brought forth by the tear gas. The rioting was a result of their accelerated grief process. There was no bargaining and no depression, they simply accepted the death, and that provoked anger. Although it is a crude method of mourning, it was, nevertheless, effective. Most of the negative energy arising from the death was dispensed during the strike. Now what remains for the male students is moving on towards healing.
The female students, however, will need more time. Women handle emotions differently than men. They will need to talk amongst themselves as well as with their male friends before they can get over it. Those who were most affected may have to visit the student counsellor to work through their grief. The only thing I am sure of is that we will all heal, even though it may take time and leave scars. After all, a close encounter with death is bound to leave anyone a changed person. In the meantime, we should stand together to give each other strength.

WHY MUIRURI MIGHT GO FREE

Students who live away from school know Muiruri all too well. In most cases, some of his infamous antics usually leave at least one student stranded on their way to school in the morning. It’s no wonder most students, especially those in my area of residence, do not like dealing with him. I have heard on different occasion students wonder out loud why he never gets transferred to some other department where he never has to deal with students. For example, driving the school pickups or being assigned as a personal chauffer to one of the high ranking administrators, you know the ones important enough to warrant being driven in the back seat. One student had humorously suggested that he be given the university tractor, anything to get him away from people. I have to say that in my own opinion, he has the poorest people skills I have seen in anyone all my life. It came as no surprise when his bus caused the most horrible accident to ever happen within Dedan Kimathi University of Technology.
Someone ended up dead, and the students were crying out for more blood, Muiruri’s blood. But he was lucky to get away without a scratch. At least none I could see. That’s all well and good; I am not a proponent of mob justice. That’s not because I do not recognize the urgency with which some justice needs to be dispensed, but because if we all go around bending the law whenever it suits us, this nation will soon degenerate into anarchy. I fully share the sentiments of the students, but it is better this way – let the due process of the law prevail. Hopefully, justice will be found for both sides.
The legal process is an intricate one, and only a lawyer can predict the course of the quest for truth and justice. But we know the truth, that is, the accident involved the bus being driven by Muiruri. But it remains to be proven in a court of law if he was reckless or negligent. In either of these cases, he would be responsible for the death. However, he was acting on behalf of Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, which, I think, makes the institution liable to compensate the parents if a judge rules to the same effect. However, do not be surprised if this matter never gets to a court of law. There are two main reasons why it may not, and they are also the reasons why Muiruri may be back with us soon.
First, Muiruri is well protected. I am not talking about the popular allegation that there are higher powers watching out for him. I mean that the university will do a fine job of defending him. If he is found guilty of any wrongdoing on his part, the university might have to pay up. The amounts involved in a case like this can run up to tens or hundreds of millions. This is because, despite the possibility of punitive damages being negligible, a good lawyer can still prove that the real damages, in terms of future earning potential and so on, are huge. I doubt that the university has any kind of money set aside for litigations or settlements of such magnitude. That’s why they will do their best to avoid a conviction for Muiruri or themselves, should the parents be inclined to sue the university.
Second, we all know the stories about big fishes and small fishes. The outcome of it all will largely depend on the social and financial standing of the parents. Their social position will influence the kind of information they have access to. How exposed are they? Their financial position will influence the quality of help they can get for themselves. Trust me, if this thing goes to trial, they will need help, legal and otherwise. In this world, being the smallest fish in the pond is never good for anyone. Sooner or later, a bigger fish swallows the small fish; it’s nothing personal, he has to eat. In a similar manner, the university will go to great lengths to protect its reputation. The question here is whether the parents will have the resources to go an equal distance in seeking justice for their deceased son. If not, we can perhaps start looking forward to seeing Muiruri pretty soon. Personally, I never want to be driven by him again, that would only trigger sad memories. And I don’t think I am the only one, I know at least one other person who is traumatized by what happened to Morris.
The new traffic rules have a clause somewhere stating something to the effect that causing the death of another person because of recklessness amounts to murder. There have been so many legal and constitutional changes happening in Kenya recently that I am not even sure what the penalty for murder is anymore. It used to be death sentence, but it was changed to life imprisonment. I don’t know what the sentence is when the murder was not premeditated, or there are mitigating circumstances, etc. If Muiruri is found guilty under that act, he may be imprisoned. Otherwise, he might only lose his job and walk away a free man. Or maybe he is the luckiest man alive, in which case he’ll have his job back, or suffer the minor inconvenience of a transfer to another institution. All these are possibilities we should be ready for, because so long as the case is left to the courts, the gavel has the final say. But I am only an engineering student not a lawyer, and these outcomes are only hypothetical. Also, we should wait to hear the results of the postmortem, there might be yet another twist. There are so many variables such that we cannot say for sure what will happen; so let’s just stick together, and, in honoring the memory of our comrade, not let the truth be buried or corrupted by anyone who might have such ill motives.

PART 2 – THE DEATH OF MORRIS: THE PERSON

We have heard it many times before in so many different expressions. Every day we live, we risk dying. Life is short. Today is ours, tomorrow is the Lord’s. Each of the expressions saying the same thing, none of us knows when the Grim Reaper will come calling, and none of us is ever totally ready when he does. We all know that death is inevitable, but we live and act as if it will be later rather than soon. There’s actually nothing wrong with that, after all if we lived expecting to die the very next second, we would be paralyzed into inaction, and unable to enjoy the moments at hand. Morris was like the rest of us in that regard; what he had in mind that evening was managing to get inside the bus that had just arrived at the bus park, and going to his place (kejani) to whatever activities and/or comforts awaited him there. As he went after the bus ready to board, he never thought he was going for his death.
However, people who die are people who have been alive and perhaps even lived (more on this later). So I sought to find out, who was Morris really? What was he like? What were his last words? Of course I could not find out everything, no one can ever know another human being well enough to convey their dreams, aspirations, motivation, fears, hopes and raison d’etre as they were perceived by their owner. But as I talked to people who knew him, the unconscious guy I had held trying to get inside an ambulance, hoping against hope that he would survive the accident, started to gain a personality. The more I got to see this personality, the more I felt he was a person I surely would have liked as a friend. I heard the kind of jokes he made, and they made me laugh. I learnt of his opinion on some matters, and I agreed with him. Those who knew him could only imagine the kind of dreams he had. Did he wish to be employed or to start his own business? Did he want a bungalow or a mansion? How many kids did he dream of one day having?
It hurts to think that someone would fail to realize, at once and intuitively, that Morris was a person with plans like any of us. That is why it was sad, even infuriating, to note that the notice from the VC’s office failed to acknowledge Morris by name, or even offer condolences to his friends, classmates and acquaintances. If he, the VC, had to choose that morning, following Morris’ death, then a “Sorry for your loss” was more apt than “The driver stepped aside… we will investigate”. But he didn’t have to choose, he could as easily have slipped in his condolences as footer. Nowhere in the two different notices put up on the notice board did I even see a “Rest in Peace”. Matter of fact, his name was not mentioned once therein. Where is the humanity of these people? Or did they long put a machine to type Prof. Kioni’s messages and none of us was the wiser? Does he himself not go through them before signing, if only to check if they are appropriate? Surely, a man as educated as he is knows not to treat such a sensitive issue from one angle. Assuaging their anger and forgetting to address their grief is ineffective, any grief counselor can confirm that at one point or the other, the grief will verily reignite the anger.
Personally, I deal with grief by thinking of the good times I may or may not have shared with the deceased. I know his name was Morris Murimi, and that he completed secondary education at Kangaru Boys High School in 2011. I know that somewhere he had a girlfriend, meaning he had the courage and selflessness to fall in love. We all know he was in the 4th semester of his eight-semester undergraduate course (Bachelor of Purchasing and Supplies Management). What we will never know is what if? What if he had lived? What would have been the course of his life? Or is there really no alternative to destiny? Must we live and die as we are fated to?
Morris was the one who led the prayers in the last class fellowship while he was alive. A morose classmate recounted to me, grief evident in her voice. It was easy to see that he was a dear friend, and his passing was all the sadder for it. So even though I don’t know if he was religious or not, I know that he was at least spiritual. And that, being spiritual, is what counts, more than going to church every Sunday, if you look at the big picture. It is said that the good die young to be saved from the miseries of this world, but why, dear Lord, must they die before they’ve seen their dreams fulfilled? I am sure the angels are looking down upon us now saying, “You wouldn’t undlerstand even if it was explained to you.” And we surely can’t. To die so young, so full of life, so eager to see another day – is the will to live really that vain in itself?
According to my sources, Morris was the only son in a family of four kids. I cannot imagine the parents’ pain at losing an only son, or the sisters’ at losing their only brother. It must be a devastating loss for his family. That’s why we should all keep them in our prayers during these difficult times. The parents got to see their son one last time the weekend before the fateful accident. He had had a standing invitation to visit a female friend that weekend, but he chose to go home. He was later to apologize simply with, “You know I’m an only son, I had to go home and see my folks.” Was that premonition, family values or both? But being a gentleman, he knew not to cancel on a lady then fail to make it up to her, so he offered to visit her the following weekend. As it turned out, he had used up his last weekend already. Although, in a strange twist of fate, he, however, managed to leave her a more permanent memory than a weekend visit, he left her his last words. She was one of the very last people he spoke to at the bus park that evening, while they shared snacks and joked with each other.
From what I could gather, Morris was a cheerful guy, with lots of friends. There is a lot I could not find out about him, his birth, childhood and hobbies, for example. Nevertheless, I am sure his family and friends will dearly miss him, and his memory will live on in the minds of all those who knew him. May the Almighty rest his soul in eternal peace.

PART 1 – THE DEATH OF MORRIS: THE FACTS

I can’t say for sure at what exact time the bus arrived at the bus park. It must have been a little past seven because I remember feeling a little worried at having kept the girl I was talking to all that long at the bus park. She had wanted to go home earlier but I had asked her to stay. Most of the time I was facing away from the bus park, towards her, but I’d turn around every time a bus arrived for another trip. I recall turning around this one time to see Muiruri’s bus (KBU ###) headed towards the bus park at what was, to me and many others, a high speed for the bus park, especially seeing as it was rather crowded.
The bus made a questionable turn towards the basketball court still at high speed. It was alarming because there were still students playing at that hour. I remember seeing the back of the bus lift as if the bus had gone over a bump. That raised questions in my mind: how come, yet we have no bump anywhere near the bus park? What did the bus run over? And why would the driver go all that way to park while the usual boarding spots were all empty? Someone cursed beside me, throwing insults at the driver. I did not feel any mercy or empathy for the driver; his behavior did not sit well with me either. Anyway, it took a moment for what just happened to hit me. The girl I was talking to said it first, “Mtu amekanyangwa…” We went to the place the bus had gone over the non-existent bump, and where a crowd was now gathering, and sure enough someone had been run over.
Some of the more proactive students were taking charge, each in the way they could and/or knew how. One was particularly active, telling the crowd to push back, coordinating the lady who was putting him in position and calling out for a vehicle. I remember him partly because of how involved he was throughout the whole response process, and partly because he is the chairman of a club I am a member of, CSOK. The first vehicle to arrive at the scene was a saloon car brought by the VC’s chauffer. But before we could get Morris in (God rest his soul), the ambulance arrived being driven by the same driver who ran over him. No siren, no emergency vehicle lighting, absolutely nothing, just another van with a stretcher. As if that weren’t bad enough, the ambulance came with no trained first aid personnel. Actually, there weren’t any type of personnel onboard, trained or not. We had to get out the stretcher ourselves, and roll it over to where Morris lay, already unconscious, if the limpness of his body at that point is anything to go by. We did not even know how to lower it to the ground, and at least three of us fumbled under it trying to find anything that might be pulled, pressed or pushed to lower the stretcher so we could hoist the victim without causing more damage. Luckily, someone figured it out and the stands of the stretcher buckled, folding on themselves until it was closer to the ground.
We lifted Morris at the count of three, placing him safely on the stretcher, which was then raised to its rolling position and wheeled to the ambulance. The back of the ambulance was all dark, many of us shouted out to the drivers (the VC’s driver had taken over from Muiruri at this point) to switch on the back lights to no avail. I tried switching them on, even going around to the front to switch on the one at the drivers cabin just to make sure the car was really on. Those worked, lighting up the cabin the moment I flipped the switch. Up until the moment the ambulance drove off, the lights at the back of the ambulance were still off; I don’t know if at some point they worked.
What I remember of the events at the back of the ambulance is noting, at the moment when we were pushing the stretcher in, that Morris’ head was too limp, and was wobbling from side to side, dangerously close to falling off one edge of the stretcher. I told the lady who had taken her position inside the ambulance to support it. Everyone was playing their part helping fight for this life at stake.
At that moment I went to the front where a different fight was ongoing. The students were furious, and all their anger was directed at one man, Muiruri. From where he was sitting, in the middle seat at the front, I could see he had been roughed up already because the cabin light was on. One could even see the fear written all over his face. But that was not my immediate concern; I wanted the ambulance out of there fast because I knew the state Morris was in at the back. So I helped the chairman to push back the students who were still advancing trying to get to Muiruri through the driver’s door. We then signaled the VC’s driver to leave for the hospital. He first went to the university’s medical centre, before driving off to Mathari Mission Hospital, as I was to hear later. These are the facts I personally witnessed at the bus park.
The next day I was to learn that Morris had passed away, but no one mentioned the time of his death. Personally, looking back in retrospect, I am not even sure if he was still alive by the time we put him in the ambulance already unconscious. I still wonder for what reasons the university has an unmanned ambulance, while it’s known that it’s actually first aid that saves more lives than the speed at which one gets to a hospital. But I’ll not speculate here, I was merely presenting the facts as I remember them, and while they are still fresh in my mind.
Rest in Peace Morris.