This is a story that, save for its strangeness, could be a normal story. It is a story of kindness. It a story of what education and student fraternities can do, and has always done, to break racial and ethnic boundaries and serve a larger community.
Because I have been a student; and a student leader, I often take pride in these simple actions which defy our country’s ethnic amalgamations and put to hope a possibility of a future country with reduced or completely annihilated ethnic jingoism.
The world over, student fraternities have shaped history and ended some of humanity’s heinous inventions – from ethnicity to racism and fascism to to religious sectarianism. In the US, the story of the fight for civil rights is often incomplete without the mention of students.
I was lucky to get a short scholarship to study civic engagement Â in the US. Among other things, I took particular interest in the ‘Freedom Summer Movement’, a students-run civil rights campaign when students of Yale and Stanford and some of the best universities in that country, went to Western College (now Miami University, Ohio) to join the freedom March at Mississipi. Â Brutal and horrid, some never returned alive, but racism was defeated!
On the March on Washington, again, student fraternities provided the fire that kept hope alive. On our own struggles with tyranny and one party dictatorship, students have been part and parcel of the struggles; sometimes getting used as ‘dashboards’ Â for political ends. From Tito Adungosi to Karl Marx (Christopher Owiro), student politics in Kenya has been part of the larger movement for change; journey to the ideal world.
History has proven that societies where young people; high school students, college students, and university students united to fight social vices and injustices; from apartheid in South Africa to poor education opportunities for the girl child in Pakistan, so much progress has often been assured. In Kenya, the cost on students, from summary deaths to suspensions and expulsions, appear to have tempered the generation after the Second Liberation.
Babu Owino and politics of compassion.
In no place, no university in Kenya, is the ethnic mix of Kenyan politics more pronounced than the University of Nairobi. Often, it just baffles. Sometimes, it gets petty, other times, it is dirty and people get abducted (to forgo presentation of nomination papers during elections). There is also money politics; loads of money change hands, so are deals too.
Above all these, there is always that single student who overcomes all these to build a new kind of politics. Politics based on generosity. Politics that unites all comrades. Politics which inspire.
This is where Babu Owino comes in. I met Babu once. It was during joint student leaders meeting at Kenyatta University. No one chaired the whole meeting because there was already a disagreement on who would chair it! In the end, it was Tony Mochama, the guild president at Strathmore, who ‘facilitated’ the session!
As usual, Babu came, I think to hand over; though I don’t recall if he Â ever did that. Soon he was gone! But for the short time he came in the auditorium, other colleagues, especially those from ‘city universities’ rushed to shake hands. Well, let me just say I did not! To date, I’m still waiting for my turn . . .but that is neither here, nor there.
Over the weekend, Babu surprised residents of Thika town when he cleared the hospital bill running into a whooping Ksh 768, 000 to ‘free’ the mother of a fellow student who had been detained at the Thika Level 5 hospital for arrears accruing after a heart operation.
Suffice to say, Babu is a Luo student who came to the rescue of a Kikuyu student! You know what that means? That at the universities, the cancer of ethnicity is being overcome by students daily. Sadly, as students go over these great miles to treat and correct a pathetic social vice that continue to eat the Kenyan society, their seniors, both in government and the corporate sector, remain indifferent to ‘true reconciliation’ of the Kenyan people.
Mine is to praise a good deed by pointing bad deeds! Here is the full story as told by another student:
BABU OWINO PAYS HOSPITAL BILL FOR COMRADE’S MOTHER
By Ndege Sirkal
Former Sonu chairman,Babu owino ongili,yesternight paid a whooping KSH 767,524.50 to settle Elizabeth Wangui Kihara’s bill at THIKA LEVEL 5 Hospital. Elizabeth,mother to Stanley Kihara of BA main campus,was admitted at the hospital on June 29th 2013 where she underwent treatment against Breast Cancer. The treatment was successful but weighed heavily on the financial reserves of the family. she was supposed to leave the hospital on september 15 but the hospital administration decided to detain her in hospital untill her bill was cleared. Numerous Fundraisings were held in their Juja Home raising a total of over KSH.557,000. last week Stanley Kihara inboxed me of the ordeal and i promised to look for ways and means of raising the balance so that his mother could leave hospital as soon as possible. I approached the Dean of students,who pledged 50,000 but hasn’t honored his pledge to date. The DVC(student affairs) gave out Ksh. 75,000 and Dr.Nying’uro,Dr Kivuva and Dr Adams Oloo collectively raised Ksh 100,000 for their political science student. GSO kodhek,Nixon Korir and I raised a total of Ksh.85,000.
Even after raising this amounts, there still remained an enormous balance of over KSH. 750,000. On saturday night i met Babu owino at his Kileleshwa Home and told him of Stanley’s ordeal, which he promised to look into. Yesterday evening Babu called me to meet him in town, and together we left for Thika. We picked stanley at Juja town and went straight to Thika Level 5 Hospital. Luckily,we met the hospital administrator(Mr Ndung’u)in his office. Babu asked for the balance. Two pretty nurses quickly brought the printout of the bill totalling KSH. 767,524.50. Babu went back to his car and came back with a black leather bag,placed it on Mr Ndung’u’s office table and counted ksh 768,000.00 . The administrator immediately signed the discharge form for Mrs Elizabeth Kihara and ordered for her immediate discharge from Hospital.
Later, it was all smiles when Elizabeth entered her home and was wholeheartedly welcomed by her children,relatives and neighbors. After an emotional prayer from Stanley’s uncle,we were served sweet coffee and delicious snacks. The family was so thankful of our visit and thanked God for His blessings.
We left their Juja home at 9pm and reached Nairobi an hour later. This morning i prayed and thanked God for Great friends like Babu owino.True friends who mean what they say and say what they mean.LONG LIVE BABU OWINO.
Now you know!
By Dikembe Disembe