Comradeship, Four Rules of Engagement

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A student leader affirms raising a firm fist during a strike against the proposal to increase fees across Kenyan universities.


Are the repeated chants among the large gathering of students outside the main gate. Strikes are not uncommon across Kenyan campuses. The mother of all strikes occurs at UoN which quickly turns into riots and sends Nairobi residents into a freight excursion, scampering for dear life. Student strikes are the hallmark of comradeship; even in the 80s and 90s, students were responsible for shaping Kenyan politics through strikes. Campus survival is also shaped by the role you play during a strike. However, comrades also have other necessary rules of engagement. For you to survive campus life, you must internalize these unwritten rules.

Degree ni Harambee

After much emphasis on independence, reading and hard work in high school, campus reveals a different side of achieving good grades. The common phrase is ‘Degree ni Harambee.’ Comrades share assignments, project ideas and even answers during examinations. Many have mastered the art of ‘giraffing’ or ‘long neck’ during exams. This is a concept where you elongate your neck to read a fellow student’s answers during an exam. This explains why most people evolve to suddenly acquire longer neck after four years in campus, touché. There are no limits to the sharing information during an exam. A clique of comrades sets up a ‘committee of experts’ whereby each member specializes in a particular topic for the exam. On receiving the question paper and in the absence of the lecturer, papers and answers are exchanged. There is also the ‘Googler’ who is responsible for getting online info on difficult questions. Googlers are also aware of sites that provide easy access for answers, while some already have bookmarked pages.

Assignments are also shared as those undertaking common courses take advantage of the ‘tyranny of numbers’ in common courses to submit similar copies. The art of exam cheating has been mastered by students as some can successfully establish a professional consultancy with an expertise in cheating. Mwakenyas also come in handy; they range from course handouts to written short notes that fit the palm of your hands. They are strategically hidden to avoid the notice of the lecturer. Some are hidden in zones that cannot be publicly mentioned due to their ‘private nature.’ There are no rules for engaging in exam cheating, just don’t get caught. However, some comrades are so skilled that they can cheat despite the fact that the lecturer is standing next to them, dubbed the ‘makmendes’ of cheating. Unlike the degree notion, being caught is not a harambee, you run solo. Comrades who fail to ‘share’ info and assignments are considered ‘wasaliti’ and subjected to seclusion. ‘I can’t fail when I know I have all the ‘necessary mechanisms’ to pass, even though I haven’t read,’ a comrade once told me.

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