SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 02, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Karatina University

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Kenya

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Beginning on December 2, 2020, Karatina University temporarily closed due to a violent protest on campus, which included clashes between students and police, and the destruction of campus property. 

Student protestors gathered to voice a number of complaints against the university, including unacceptable living conditions, being forced to sit for exams they had not been able to study for in full, and being required to pay full tuition for remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis. The students blamed the school’s vice-chancellor, Professor Muchiri Muchai, and, according to one source, threatened to stop attending classes.

According to reports, some student protesters destroyed windows on campus, barricaded local roads, and threw stones at police. Police fired tear gas in response. Some students alleged police shot at them with live ammunition. 

Later that day, university authorities closed the university temporarily, postponing exams that were scheduled to take place.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the destruction of campus property and violence during on-campus protests. While students and other protesters have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. Violence and the destruction of campus property harm the ability of higher education communities to safely and adequately conduct research, teaching, and other academic activities. Likewise, while state authorities have a right to ensure public order, they are obligated to ensure the security of higher education communities and to refrain from violent or disproportionate actions in response to protest activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.