Secondary school student leaders have put Kenya’s top leadership to shame by holding a successful national conference days after a small team of PNU and ODM negotiators failed to hold a crucial meeting on the state of the coalition government.
The 2,000 students held a five-day meeting that appears to have given a lesson to politicians on how to conduct meetings that can build consensus and find solutions to corruption and other ills facing the coalition.
The students who concluded the meeting at Nairobi’s Bomas of Kenya on Friday, spoke against graft and tribalism and sought ways to raise educational standards throughout the country. All provinces were represented at the inaugural meeting organised by the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association.
It stood in stark contrast to the aborted Kilaguni talks last weekend, in which PNU and ODM failed to agree on an agenda, throwing the country into another period of anxiety after the December 2007 presidential election deadlock that led to violence early 2008.
At the well-coordinated student conference there was consensus that the nation’s political leadership needs to put its house in order if crucial sectors such as education and health are to get back on track.
The last student to speak, Carolyne Mutisya of Mulongo girls school, Nyeri, asked MPs, through the chairman of the parliamentary committee on education, David Koech, to stop what she called politics of competition and show leadership.
“Tell your colleagues to learn and share (ideas), but not to compete to outdo and defeat each other,” said the 17-year-old, adding: “We (students) have shown that Kenyans can shun tribalism and tackle national issues”.
The chairman of the National Student Leaders Association, Joseph Muliro, said the conference had set an example which, he noted, should help the coalition partners steer the country out of the current political morass.
“Our participants were from different ethnic backgrounds, and the group was large, yet we have come up with good resolutions which we are determined to follow through to implementation,” he said.
The 2008 crisis
The Nairobi School Form Four student said it is a shame that political leaders have not learnt from the experience of last year’s crisis, “whose effects are still evident through famine and displaced families”. He added: “Many of our students and their families were displaced, and many are still in camps today as our leaders jostle for control of politics.”
Mr Muliro asked the coalition principals, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to return to the negotiating table and seek consensus “in much the same way as we have done”. Reading out the resolutions, Mr Muliro said the conference had agreed to promote and foster peace and patriotism as an agent of change in schools and the country at large.