On Thursday we learnt that a number of comrades had been called to the disciplinary committee hearings scheduled for next week. The reason given and I quote from one of the letters is: “On 24th October, 2013 you participated in the student unrest which took place within the university, this is in violation of the Rules and Regulations.” At the time of writing on Thursday, I thought the university had prepared its final list of participants in the unrest. But they still had a few surprises up their sleeves. We cannot tell whether they saved a few phone calls for the next day or they decided to add more names to the list. But more people were getting the same kind of calls asking them to go pick their ‘letter’ from the registrar’s office yesterday. How do I know this? I was with one such person yesterday morning when they received their phone call. What a fucked up way to start a weekend!
What’s even more fucked up is that the events of last time are repeating themselves again. As it turns out, some of the comrades who will be facing the disciplinary committee are leaders in DeKUTSO. Rumour has it that at least one of them is in the three top ranking positions. I cannot say I was shocked. After three years in Kimathi, nothing shocks me in this university anymore. Surprised is more like it. Maybe the university was hoping that we wouldn’t notice that a trend is emerging already. Whenever widespread disciplinary hearings are scheduled, members of DeKUTSO leadership have to be included. Thus, the university effectively cripples our first line of defense. These are the people who have the most say in helping us defend ourselves, so they are silenced first. Last time Kabutu, the chair-person, and Kunyiha, the secretary general, were both facing a disciplinary hearing. Therefore, none of them could attend in an official capacity or otherwise the hearing of the other students to help them at least get an equitable chance to defend themselves. The chairperson himself ended up getting a suspension, and I don’t know what happened to the sec. gen. after his case against the university.
I have only seen one copy of that letter and I do not know if the others are all similar. Whatever the case, it seems like victimization to call someone up for a disciplinary hearing for having ‘participated in the student unrest’. How many people were at the bus park that day waiting for and later listening to the VC’s address? How many more arrived late after he was gone to find out what he had said? Are all these people being called for a disciplinary hearing? No. Only a few were handpicked, and I think if you look carefully you will find they have one thing in common. And it is not that they participated in the student unrest. I will not speculate on that, I will leave that to you if you feel like it.
Yesterday, I attended a parent’s AGM in a certain school not so far away. If you have never attended one as a parent, I’ll tell you what usually happens in most of them. The principal, deputy principal, or PTA chairperson usually propose many things to which the parents are either supposed to agree with or simply refuse. All it takes for a proposal to pass is for a couple of parents to shout ‘yes’ while those opposed just mumble unintelligently amongst themselves without shouting a louder ‘no’. At that point the proposer deems the proposal approved. As a consequence, parents get fee increments they cannot afford, new projects which may not be necessary, meaningless fines and, inevitably, give the teachers powers over their child, which metaphorically makes both the parents and poor children slaves to the school. Funnily, those who keep quiet the most complain all the way home and beyond. The whole time going on and on about how such and such an implementation or resolution shouldn’t have been allowed. In places like that, if you do not loudly disagree, then you are silently agreeing. We can draw parallels here by trying to compare what happens in these institutes of primary and secondary education with what happens in DKUT. What are we agreeing to in Kimathi by keeping quiet? If you have no idea, then welcome to Kimathi because you must be a freshman.
People are different and so maybe you actually agree with everything. Or maybe you just have the disposition of that parent who complains on the way home and not when the principal finally gives the parents a chance to speak. Fear and cowardice are things we can all empathize with because we have felt and experienced them at least once in our lives. The difference is that some master their fear and free themselves from the implicit slavery of silent discontentment. Others are neither so strong nor courageous enough; they think that they have more to lose if they speak than if they keep quiet. Although there are times when speaking out harms someone in one way or the other, most of the time it works to our advantage and enables us to get what we want. And even when we do not get it, we can proudly look at ourselves in the mirror and know that we once stood up against something that was not right according to us. Not many people have that luxury, most people just go through life hoping, actually praying, that no one will ask them to defend their principles and beliefs. Ironically, others are so convinced by their principles and beliefs that they are ready to strap on a bomb and blow up themselves to kingdom come. You don’t have to be in either extreme, but you ultimately have to choose which kind of person you want to be in life.
While you are making that choice, I would like you to consider the lives of Jesus, Martin Luther Jr., Malcolm X and Mahatma Gandhi. I am not saying that you should stick your neck out like they did. What I am trying to say is the power of these persons came less from anything they had within themselves, but more from the kind of following they had, the people who supported them. Closer home, I can only use our two best examples who, as fate would have it, turn out to be antagonists (Fahali wawili hawakai zizi moja). These are the former PM and the current president. Raila’s power and influence comes from the loyalty of his supporters, Uhuru’s from the tyranny of their number, to quote Mutahi Ngunyi. What is being said here is that without enough support, neither Martin Luther Jr. nor Malcolm X would have heralded the dawn of civil rights. Gandhi wouldn’t have won independence for the Indians. And Jesus would be just another name in the bible. That’s why, personally, I am ready to sacrifice in the support of some people who might only have been called to the disciplinary committee because of what they know rather than what they did. No heroics, just do what you feel is right. To me that’s empowering DeKUTSO by categorically stating that I am a hundred percent behind them. We should all realize that without our support, DeKUTSO is about just as useful to us as a used toilet paper. And like I love saying: Speak when it is your turn to speak, act when it is your duty to act.