The Place of Public Varsities In Kenya During This Trying Time

The recent ethnic clashes in Kenya following announcement of disputed presidential results has left its toll on the economic-social and political fabric of Kenyan society. It effects on the way of life of ordinary citizens is far-reaching and retrogressive. It is highly imperative that these effects be curtailed and reversed. Since every single member of society has been affected in some way or the other it goes without saying that students, lecturers, administrators and other staff of public universities have also been affected. As learning institutions, beacons of knowledge, centers of tolerance and avenues of change public universities can be at the forefront of a new dawn in Kenya’s development. They can help build towers where huts were destroyed, unite communities were they were torn apart, bring love and tolerance where hate and suspicion reigned and try to address or bring to the fore underlying issues that precipitated these tragic events.

The first step is to assess the damage left in the wake of the violence. For example communities around Moi University mostly dependent on agriculture, though a number of trading centers exist showing an inclination towards commerce. It is important to note that these communities draw heavily from their close proximity to Moi University; Students form the bulk of commuters along the Eldoret-Kesses route, they buy goods and services from trading centers at Kesses, Mabatini and at the stage in the main campus. Students also rent premises in these areas. Thus all is not lost in these regions but depends heavily on the purchasing power of the university’s students. This spending power may have been adversely affected by the loss of life and wanton destruction of property witnessed all over the country over the past few weeks.

What has happened in these areas is loss of revenue as a direct result of forfeited production. Milk cannot be delivered to cooling centers, grains cannot be sold to the National Cereals and Produce Board, cows cannot be sold at butcheries, restaurants cannot sell their food and commuters are proving scarce for transportation firms. Though most of these economic activities persist they have been reduced to lower operating capacity and making normal profits. Without any economic reprieve from any concerned quarter these micro-enterprises may have to shut down.

Similar effects of the violence have reverberated throughout the country. It has led to the lack of investor confidence, i.e. loss of capital not yet received due to the country’s volatile stability solely dependent on political goodwill. The opportunity cost of foregone development activities may never be recovered. This capital will instead be channeled towards reconstruction and covering of losses. Families keen on improving their standards of living will have to make due with just maintaining their livelihoods. New farm machineries, further education ambitions, buying more land, building additional housing units or expanding their shops will all have to wait a little while longer.

It has lead to the loss of valuable human capital and labour. As communities were chased from their homes they left with the knowledge of best farm practices, marketing channels and investment options. This will take a very long time to replace if at all that can ever happen. In the meantime what happens is a vacuum in all these sectors. Subsequently leading to low economic output. Even if peace is restored the whole supply and distributive chain is disrupted. The economy is headed for a downturn and possible recession.

The cost of post election violence needs to be quantified, placed in terms of real production and income. This will enable relevant institutions to take appropriate measures to help the afflicted. These institutions include banks, micro-finance institutions, humanitarian organizations, development agencies and government arms such as CDF, LATF, youth fund, women’s fund and the reconstruction fund.

All these can however be averted if Kenyans do what is right for Kenya rather than emotions dictate our actions. Public universities can be a shining example. Let the sociologists, economists, entrepreneurs, business managers, doctors, lawyers, teachers forget political bickering and divisiveness. They can build a new Kenya. Their place is in the reconstruction and reconciliation of a nation and so is everyones.

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