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UoN tudents blame administration for woes

Suspended University of Nairobi (UoN) students claim impending examinations and failure by Vice-Chancellor Prof Peter Mbithi to rein in the notorious gangs that have gained a foothold in the students halls of residence are the main reasons that triggered the two–day strike that led to the closure of the institution last week.

Students who spoke to People Daily on condition of anonymity said while most students didn’t support the re-election of the incumbent chairman, Bob Owino, they used the disputed election as a trigger to cause chaos that may lead to their dismissal. “Most comrades didn’t want Babu because there is a feeling that he had overstayed in the union leadership,” a Third Year Engineering student said.

“The main problem is that the elections came at a time we were preparing for our exams and there were jitters across most departments,” he added. The jitters are understandable especially after departments such as Engineering introduced stringent examination regulations that could henceforth lengthen the stay of students at the university.

In January, the students were informed that the department is considering revising regulations starting this semester that will see those students who fail more than five units in a semester repeat the whole semester instead of re-siting only the failed units.

This did not go down well with most students. “There is no question about it; exams spread fear among students and it was wrong for the university to organise the elections when students were due to sit for their semester exams. The exams were starting next week (this week) and most students were not prepared because they engaged in campaigns,” another students said.

These allegations paint a wrong picture for the university, which has this year rebounded to earn impressive ratings in global university rankings. UoN took position one in Kenya and in East Africa, while it emerged number six in Africa in the 2016 edition of Webometrics University rankings.

Globally, it emerged position 697 out of the more than 24,000 world institutions that were ranked by the Spanish research firm. This was a significant improvement by 226 slots from the previous year’s rankings. In a separate ranking in February, the university was rated among the top 100 universities globally.

The sixth edition of the QS World University Rankings, positioned the institution in the 51-100 slot for the programme of Development Studies. The institution ranked alongside universities such as Johns Hopkins University and Duke University of the US (16th and 29th respectively), in the overall QS World University rankings.

But despite these impressive rankings, most students feel the VC has not stamped his authority in the oldest university in the country. His predecessor, Prof George Magoha allegedly had a firm grip on the university and students union affairs, hence earning himself the title ‘Rhino’.

“Prof Mbithi, despite being an insider, has failed to rein in on rogue university students, especially amongst the union leadership, who he incidentally used in his supremacy battle with the suspended DVC Prof Njoroge,” another student alleged. “Even more worrying, the VC is unable to take any action against gangs, which have taken the university hostage, harassing students, especially those operating shops within the university and even employees,” he added.

The student narrated an incident where a gang led by one of the leaders in the former regime who served as a ‘governor’ in one of the campuses led his drugged gang to destroy shops at the campus.

“We normally pay rent to the union and the campus governor is the one normally in charge. But if you fail to pay on time, his gang descends on your property, stealing parts, pouring water and even urinating on equipment such as photocopiers and computers indiscriminately,” one of the affected students narrated.

“When we reported such cases to the legal department, the officer in charge was ready to take action only to be restrained by the VC. Such kind of actions have fermented a lot of anger amongst students who have only been waiting for a trigger to vent their anger,” he said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the Nacada chairman John Mututho who last week blamed the two-day strike on an intricate drug cartel at the university funded by powerful Kenyans. The students are now waiting for the outcome of the thorough investigations ordered by the VC to unravel the cause of the unrest.

The students’ jittery was understandable especially after departments like the engineering introduced stringent examination regulations that could henceforth lengthen the stay of students at the university.

In January, the students were informed that the department is considering to revise regulations starting this semester that will see those students who fail more than five units in a semester repeat the whole semester instead of re-siting only the failed units. This did not go down well with most students.

“There is no question about it. Exams spread fear among students and it was wrong for the university to organise the elections at the time when students were about to sit for their semester exams. The exams were starting next week (this week) and most students were not prepared because they engaged in campaigns,” another students said.

These allegations would paint a wrong picture for the university, which has this year rebounded to earn impressive ratings in global universities ranking. The university took position one in Kenya and in East Africa, while it emerged number six in Africa in the 2016 edition of Webometrics University rankings. Globally it emerged position 697 out of the more than 24,000 world institutions that were ranked by the Spanish research firm.

This was a significant improvement by 226 slots from the previous year’s rankings. In another rankings in February the university was rated among the top 100 universities globally.The sixth edition of the QS World University Rankings, positioned the institution in the 51-100 slot for the programme of Development Studies.

The institution ranked alongside universities like Johns Hopkins University and Duke University of the United States (16th and 29th respectively), in the overall QS World University rankings. False start But despite these impressive rankings, most students feel the VC hasn’t yet gained an imprint in one of the oldest university in the country like his predecessor Prof. George Magoha who had a firm grip on the university and students union affairs, hence earning himself the title ‘Rhino’.

“Prof. Mbithi despite being an insider, has failed to rein rogue university students, especially amongst the union leadership, who he is incidentally using in his supremacy battle with the suspended DVC Prof. Njoroge,” another student alleged.

“Even more worrying, the VC is unable to take any action against gangs, which have taken the university hostage and are harassing fellow students,especially those operating shops within the university and even employees,” he added. The student narrated an incident where a gang led by one of the leaders in the former regime who served as a governor in one of the campuses led his drugged gang to destroy shops at the campus.

“We normally pay rent to the union and the campus governor is the one normally in charge. But if you fail to pay on time, his gang would descend on your property, stealing parts, pour water and even urinating machines like photocopiers and computers indiscriminately,” one of the affected students narrated.

“When we reported such cases to the legal department, the in charge was ready to take action only to be restrained by the VC. Such kind of actions have fermented a lot of anger amongst students who have only been waiting for a trigger to vent their anger,” he said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the Nacada chairman John Mututho who last week blamed the two-day strike on an intricate drug cartel at the university funded by powerful Kenyans. The students are now waiting for the outcome of the thorough investigations ordered by the VC to unravel the cause of unrest.

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