In a few days, South African university students have forever changed the place of students activism in Africa’s 21st Century democratic space.
It all began with President Jacob Zuma administration’s decision to increase university fees at a time when most students can barely raise the current charges. Definitely, this retrogressive and insensitive move irked the students community sparking off one of the biggest students protests in the history of South Africa.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to notice how organised, politics free and objective these protests were. But more interesting is the manner in which, the students were able to effectively utilize the digital space more so Twitter to advance their agenda. Hashtag #FeesMustFall was a worldwide trend for days.
At the end of it all, the students were not only able to lobby for a negotiations meeting with Zuma but also succeeded to convince the president to withdraw all the intended increments immediately.
This is undoubtedly the most fruitful students protest of our time with numerous lessons to the students fraternity across the continent.
But perhaps, it is the Kenyan university students who ought to learn a lot from these protests. Today, the comradeship spirit of yesteryears is fast disappearing – a negative trend that can be attibuted to rampant commercialisation of Kenyan student politics. Infiltration by external political forces into our institutions of higher learning hasn’t helped much either.
This is why students protests in Kenya today have little if any impact. Even when protesting on genuine grounds, the original idea is usually overtaken by unnecessary hullaballoo, shenanigans and sideshows in a very short while.
Indeed,it is time that our campus students changed tact. As a former student leader who left campus not long ago, I strongly believe that it is the students fraternity which has always been, should be and must always strive to be the conscience of the society. After all,the concentration of intellect per square inch in and around a university can’t be found anywhere else on earth.
Over to my friend Babu Owino and Co.
Alvan Kinyua is a Kenyan communications enthusiast, digital strategist/blogger and political analyst. He comments on topical issues.