Universities and other institutions of higher learning have been dubbed as game changers in the country’s politics as they hold the potential to eliminate the tribal divides during electioneering periods.
Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary (CS) Joe Mucheru said that universities have been referred to as the melting pots of cultures since this is where ideas are hatched, where intellectuals infuse their ideals to the next generation of leaders and where different cultures come together as one in search of enlightenment and this citadel should therefore be the model for peace in the country.
Speaking on Friday at the University of Nairobi (UoN) during the closing ceremony of the first National student’s convention on youth peace and elections, Mucheru said that he is particularly encouraged that the project brings young people from across the tribal and political divide, to not only promote dialogue and peace, but also to develop cohesive and resilient relationships that promote mechanisms to resolve conflict peacefully.
“This is what we need as a country: preaching peace and unity rather than politics of division. I am proud of the work that the Universities and Colleges Students’ Peace Association of Kenya (USCPAK) is doing under the Executive Director Allan Chacha and the fact that they are bringing the youth together and discussing peaceful elections just 11 months to the election,” said Mucheru.
The CS urged the youth to take advantage of their numbers to make a difference for themselves and for this country saying… “I also take this opportunity to challenge you to seek elective office so that you can embark on the journey of making meaningful gains for yourselves and your country. You have the largest stake in this country as you constitute 75.1 per cent of our population. It is your time to take the mantle of leadership.
“I encourage you to read the biography of Tom Mboya, who at 29 was recruited by Martin Luther King Junior and was in John F. Kennedy’s election team. You will see that there is no better time than now to wake up and heed the call for leadership,” said Mucheru.
The Cabinet Secretary said that with Kenya having the best internet connectivity in Africa, having a youthful population and the innovative nature of Kenyans, the country is set to take off and get to the levels of Malaysia and Singapore.
The CS said that the Ajira digital programme right now has over 1.2 million young people working and that number can rise to even 10 million because the demand they are getting from Korea, Singapore, USA and Australia among others is very high.
“We want to create awareness on these job opportunities and that is why we are building Ajira youth empowerment centers across the country so that the youth can go there and be able to have access to machines and internet and work online,” said the CS.
USCPAK Executive Director Allan Chacha said that there is a lot of tension between the police and students and as a way of mending the strained relations, they have planned a series of clean-ups in police stations together with the police so that they can interact and defuse the tension.
“We are tired of being given small money and being incited to harm our fellow youth, the only complaining that we will do is at the ballot box,” said Chacha.
He said that they were championing the Mwanafunzi Investment Trust Fund because the students say that the reason they are used to cause chaos is due to lack of a source of income before and after graduating making them vulnerable to misuse.
“The initiative is aimed at encouraging the youth to save and invest. The proposal we have is that if a student is able to save even Sh100 per month then that in itself can be used as collateral instead of being asked for a title deed while accessing a loan from financial institutions,” said Chacha.
IEBC Acting Director for Voter Education, Partnerships and Communications Amina Sudi said that they would carry out an aggressive voter registration and they have agreed with the universities that the institutions will be used for voter registration.
“We are going to have an open voter registration for our university students where they will register at their universities and be allowed to vote at their respective home areas,” said Sudi.
“As young people, I urged you to go out and say what you want to say using the ballot, you don’t have to shout or go to the streets, you have a weapon to use kindly use it wisely,” she said.
University of Nairobi Dean of Students Johnson Kinyua said that university students in their hundreds of thousands deserved a seat in Parliament which would see their issues articulated in the way they deserve.
Kinyua called on the IEBC, Parliament and the Judiciary to look at ways this could be actualized legally.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a