When you are part of any society and realize after a very long time that the kind of representation or leadership you yearn for has always been missing, you have to step up. You have to lead from the front. You can’t complain forever and remain a victim of poor leadership. This is what Mr. Robinson Asman cites as the motivation that catapulted him into leadership. The zeal to make a change, to leave a significant mark. To make a difference. The 4th year Civil Engineering student ascends to the helm of the Jomo Kenyatta University Students Association (JKUSA), now under a new constitutional dispensation that provides for a Council and a Congress.
Just how exactly does he plan to head the Students Association, and what makes him any different from any other student leaders from regimes past? I had a chat with him, and these are his vows to the students’ body and University community.
What do you want to be your legacy?
You don’t really get to choose what people remember you for, but I hope that years to come, maybe even five to ten, people will still be able to say that there was a student leader called Asman and this is what he did which we had so long waited for.
So what do you plan to do? What tops your priority list as far as serving the students is concerned?
The very first priority is to ensure that proper communication channels are there between the University administration and the students body, as well as between the student leadership and the students. I plan on ensuring a proper and effective communication system is established, and this will be done by providing a bulky SMS service.
That’s quite an expensive initiative to implement and sustain, how do you intend to make it a reality?
The Student Association has a budget allocation, and we shall channel some of this funds towards this initiative. We also intend to reach out to providers of these services and partner with them towards the most affordable arrangement to ensure its sustainability.
Second item on your agenda?
I want to, and I will make sure we light up Jomo Kenyatta University. There are a lot of dark spots within the University, which greatly compromise security both for the students, staff and anyone within its borders especially at night. The other day a student was mugged next to the Assembly Hall. This can be directly associated with the poor or non-existent security lighting. That is simply unacceptable. We can’t simply get used to that. The Student Association under my leadership shall ensure street lights are erected right from the main gate throughout the University.
Other than security and communication, what does your student government have to offer in terms of student welfare?
Student welfare is quite multiplex if you think of it, ranging from social, academic, religious, financial and health. We shall make all these our priority, but I can specifically talk about health, because without good health of the students then everything else ceases to exist. The health system offered by the University Hospital can’t necessarily be hailed as second to none. There’s a lot of room for improvement, and I think this should start by establishing an emergency response service. There should be a hospital hotline accessibly by any student 24/7 to ensure lives are not lost unnecessarily or conditions worsened beyond help.
On matters welfare, what plans do you have students with special needs?
In conjunction with the office of the Vice President, who will be specifically dealing with welfare, we shall create a welfare office tailored towards addressing all the problems faced by these students. It will also address the welfare of other students and any other factions, like the affairs of the female students. We shall not wish away any cases of sexual harassment or even worst case scenario, rape inflicted on any student. It will be a very open office, and will closely work with the relevant University organs to oversee its success.
How do you plan to ensure its sustainability beyond your tenure?
The good thing with the new student constitutional dispensation is that we have a congress. Therefore, we shall set this as a precedence and ensure it’s a legally binding policy so that even the next regimes will have to follow suit.
Academically and socially speaking, what do you intend to pursue on behalf of the students?
The need to improve WIFI connectivity in the University cannot be overstated. Personally since I joined the University, the last time I really enjoyed the connectivity was in 2014. I know the student population is increasing, and the administration may have some understandable constrains, but at the same time we are paying a lot for these services and we need to see value for the money. Socially speaking, I intend to ensure the Students Center is a Student Center. What we have right now is a pathetic excuse of one.
Due to the new delegate system, not many students are familiar with their newly elected leaders. How do you plan to change this?
Definitely. Starting from this semester, we are going to hold at least two open for a to discuss involve the students in our mandate going forward. We shall also work with the University communication platforms to reach the students and constantly update them on any significant developments.
If in your tenure you are not able to accomplish all that you hope for, what is the one thing you’d really wish to see through?
That would be the improvement of security, not just within the University but also its environs. I believe that will improve the general welfare of the students. So if I am not able to accomplish anything else, at least I want the students to be safe.
Financial mismanagement has perennially plagued student unions. How do you plan to handle this?
I have set up a Finance Committee and a clear structure and policy on handling the Student Association finances. This entails a system whereby any money given to a leader for a project shall be in the form of a cheque and not in cash. Additionally, any organization that will be contracted to conduct any event or offer any services will have to be duly registered and KRA compliant. All these will ensure that the whole process is transparent and legally binding. Additionally, we shall make public all financial reports of the Association for scrutiny. Needless to add, any cases of financial embezzlement will be dealt with accordingly within the confines of the law.
You ran on a platform of change, as all aspiring leaders do. Most student leaders however, once elected usually effortlessly slide into the status quo and forget all their pledges. What do you think makes you any different?
Over the years, most of the students who have ascended into leadership get to the helm with blank minds, not knowing what to expect once they get there, especially in terms of the finances they get tasked to manage. When the magnitude of their positions dawn on them, they get overwhelmed and start plundering. This gets worse if they did not ran for leadership with a sincere desire to serve students. So first of all, I am sincere in my need to serve. Secondly, I have been in leadership and involved in Campus politics since first year. I have had direct contact with the undertakings of the student union management. I am ready to hit the road running, and I don’t plan to forget that service to the students is what has put me here.
Change, no matter how noble, is often difficult to effect. How do you plan to do that with minimum conflicts?
Status quo and conflict are unavoidable in any pursuit for positive change, but the greater good should always trump everything else. And needless to add, there is always room for dialogue. I believe any agenda that is beneficial both to the students’ body and the University administration should be pursued no matter what. This University is a hotbed of intellectuals, so I believe we have people who can sit down and reach amicable solutions without necessarily having to resort to extremities.
We are in a politically charged times. Any plans by the Association to sensitize students on political tolerance?
Definitely. We are in the process of organizing for a peace forum in this new semester we are starting, and the general hope for this forum is to ensure every student understands the importance of maintaining peace before and after the general elections. I would like to remind my comrades that elections will come and go. What remains constant is us, so we have to stick together and remain peaceful and patriotic no matter what.
Any final sentiments?
First of all, I’m very grateful to the students who have expressed their confidence in me and given me the mandate to serve them, as well as the support from the University administration since getting elected. My commitment is to serve diligently, and I welcome everyone on board to help with this visionary journey.