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HomeGENERAL NEWSLooming changes to the university student election system

Looming changes to the university student election system

Members of Parliament backed a change to the Universities Act, which will result in radical changes to university elections.

If this is changed, students will now elect leaders through popular vote, and the delegates system will be abolished.

Nominated MP Wilson Sossion stated during a departmental committee on education and research that the current system undermines democracy.

According to the UDA MP, Universities are incubators for leaders who must pursue democratic ideals. “It was extremely unconstitutional for this amendment to eliminate universal suffrage,” Sossion said.

He also championed for the implementation of universal suffrage, which aims to promote democracy among students.

“The system of universal suffrage should be embraced everywhere, whether in corporations, organizations, or unions, and we’ve seen how cartels take over institutional leadership,” he added.

The petition, which was submitted by Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, sought to restore the ability of all students to elect leaders rather than a subset of them.

Owino credited his current position as SONU chairman at the University of Nairobi.

However, he noted that the amendment may have been intended to discourage him from running again, but it is currently affecting the majority of students.

“As MP, that was my last time contesting as SONU chairman even though I did not put it in public, so some members thought that I was still going to contest, so this punishment was probably meant for me,” Owino said.

Pamela Odhiambo, the Migori Women’s Rep, admitted that when she was in university, they used popular vote elections.

“From primary school and nursery, teachers would look at the way students do things, the way they present themselves. Finally, when I landed at the university, we were allowed to elect our leaders,” Odhiambo said.

In the current delegates voting system, Owino cited denial of democracy and manipulation by the university administration.

His petition also emphasizes the lack of diligence in the performance of student leaders, who are frequently manipulated by management.

“That the election of student leaders through delegates system has had a detrimental effect on the vibrancy of student leadership in universities since the outcome of elections is often influenced by the administration,” the petition reads.

Another petition, filed by Amos Ndungu, requests that section 41(1)(c)(d)(e) of the Universities Act 2012 be amended to change elections through electoral colleges to elections by universal suffrage.

“The students’ association shall constitute itself into electoral colleges based on academic departments, schools, or faculties. The students of each electoral college constituted under subsection (1)(c) shall elect three representatives,” the Act reads.

The bill, introduced by Garissa Township MP Aden Duale, was passed in December 2016, replacing the popular vote with a delegates system.

The Act requires a Students’ Governing Council to govern the student fraternity at both public and private universities.

 

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