The fastest-growing institution of higher learning in Kenya. Home to not less than 70,000 students. A source of employment to more than 5000 staff members.
These are some of the descriptions of Mount Kenya University, often referred to by its acronym, (MKU). Founded in 1996, the institution has grown to become arguably Eastern Africa’s largest attractive education hub for students not only in Kenya but also across the globe.
Thanks to the large student’s body, there is a students’ union at Mount Kenya University, referred to as Mount Kenya University Students Association (MKUSA). The powerful association is responsible for collectively agitating for the students’ rights and grievances. All students pursuing an academic program at the University are bonafide members.
The association is governed by a cabinet of nine people with key positions being the President, Secretary-General, and the Finance Minister, all, who are signatories to the association’s kitty of funds.
Martin Owilah is the president of the Mount Kenya University Students Association. He was elected into office not more than two months ago and is currently facing a huge challenge of building bridges following the heavily contested elections that saw the University sharply divided.
He takes us through his efforts of building unity.
“After elections, I decided to meet various leaders; religious leaders and club associations leaders most of whom were aspirants. Meeting them has given us an edge. We have also met class representatives and floor representatives. Because those who didn’t vote for you have their leaders, we are working as the cabinet to meet with the competitors, because anyone who vies has agendas for the best of the campus.”
A common cry in Kenyan Universities is that of students feeling left out of a union that, should, and is, their main solace of hope while on campus.
He explains why “People want to feel excited. The way you tackle issues is another factor. But calling for chaos doesn’t matter. Mount Kenya University is a private institution and has policies on how to tackle problems. Others like UON, KU, and most public universities have different systems.
While the life of a president of a students’ union is always seen as a rosy, bossy and arrogant position, Martin Owilah, however, paints a different picture. “I am active on social media, I look out to see a person with a need and follow through to reach out to him or her through inbox. Last week, there was a case of a lady who had an issue with the television in the hostel showing mchele and I immediately forwarded it to the respective ministers who took action.”
Kenya is at a crossroads. The new constitution promulgated in 2010 introduced a new law on gender rule. The rule stipulates that not more than two-thirds of positions should be held by people of the same gender.
MKUSA in unsurprisingly battling the same.
In the cabinet, there is only one lady who holds the position of Vice President. Purity Kimue. To her, that does not make work any much harder, “Having 8 men in the cabinet is not a challenge. Being the only lady does not make me look inferior. From neck downwards, I am a woman, but in the head, I am a man.”
The executive team has lined up a string of strategies to stamp their mark on the student fraternity. Martin explains,” We will organize forums each month of the semester to look at how far we have gone, what we have done and what needs to be done. We are also empowering them to have the free will to visit students’ offices. We will introduce counter books having a section of complaints and the action taken. Lastly, we will continue to use social media to reach out to all and take actions on the issues raised.”
For now, all eyes are on the crown. Leaving a legacy, the target. Over to you Mr. President and team.