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.

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