Many years ago I learnt with some shock that prefects are subjected to an election in Ugandan schools. That students who presented themselves for various posts were vetted by the staff and the nominees would be put to the vote, including a week of campaigning around the school.
In Kenya then – I am not sure things have changed since, prefects were appointed by the staff. Prior to the announcement the intending prefects would go around trying to ingratiate themselves with teachers with disgusting displays of obsequiousness that did not stop at carrying ladies hand bags, making unnecessary visits to offices and public shows of obedience that were nauseating to witness.
In theory the Ugandan prefects therefore had it at the back of their minds that they were to represent the interests of the students as well as the best interests of the institution. It took all their intelligence to walk the tight rope between the staff and student body’s demands.
In Kenya of course the prefects were often an extension of the school administration, a less intellectually taxing assignment.
A study to show the relative effectiveness of both systems in maintaining school discipline in the near term and in inculcating a democratic culture in the long term would make for interesting reading.
Which brings us to the by elections in Luwero this week.
By the time of reading this the results must be known and congratulations to whoever was first to the post.
The by election became necessary after the Woman MP Brenda Nabukenya lost a petition against her victory in 2011. In the last several weeks in what was largely a two horse race between DP’s Nabukenya and NRM’s flag bearer Rebecca Nalwanga the ruling party and opposition have thrown everything including the kitchen sink at each other.
(Editor's note, Brenda Nabukenya won the election)
The drama aside it is safe to say that we now expect to vote for our public officials every so often. We saw on TV footage of the election materials being ferried to polling stations and authorities only stopping short of biting their tongues in assuring the public that the process will proceed flawlessly.
One may thumb their nose at the whole process before, during and after the polls have opened but I think it is commendable that we find something amiss if there were no elections.
Elections are only one albeit an important pillar of any democratic process. As a society we need to mature to the point where we go beyond the motions but ensure the rules are followed, elected officials are held accountable and more importantly that people who choose different political affiliations are not ostracised, gagged or mistreated.
In going through the political processes we need to recognise that there will be a day after that we will have to return to our jobs, go to the market and attend church with members of the rival camps, that the elections are not the be-all and end-all of our lives.
We take it for granted but we have come quite some way from 40-, 20- even 10-years ago in appreciating the above facts.
It is delusional to believe that just because we have a constitution that spells out how we should conduct ourselves that we will immediately sublimate from our previous base instincts to more civil behaviour. It is a work in progress.
What we need to focus on is staying the course, riding the setbacks and capitalising on the gains we have made.
Critics may say we are just going through the motions but that too can cement some good behaviour.