All hell broke loose when some of my classmates’ names went missing on the school trip list.

It was just a week before the coastal trip, on a weekday whose exact date eludes me. We were getting ready to go shoot documentaries as was the custom for journalists in training. Travelling to the coast had a thrill to it that we often looked forward to.

Despite the hurdles encountered in the field while hunting for stories, it was always a good time to enjoy the refreshing weather and laid back lifestyle of Mombasa. When the news broke, we were making travelling and shooting arrangements during one of our practical lessons.

It was our final year in campus and this would be our last trip together before dispersing into all corners of Kenya. In our excitement, we happily discussed, gossiped and made plans prior to the trip. The news cut short our chatter and clouded our excitement.

It was reported that the students were missing in the school registration system which meant that they would not be allowed to travel.

The news came after all the planning, which had included everyone, had been made. It was therefore not welcome. In unison, we agreed to do something about it. Led by our faculty representative and a few vocal students, a plan was drafted. We were not only determined to get to the root of the matter, but also ready to overturn that decision. Nothing was going to hold us back from sharing our final moments together.

Energetic and united for the cause, a warrior-like spirit was embraced and revolt songs and slogans filled the air.

“Comrades’ power!”

“Power!”

“Comrades’ power!”

“Power!”

“Comrades Tialala!”

“Tialala!”

We were out to let the whole school know, especially the administration, that comrades had the final say. If comrades had made plans for a trip then nothing would get in their way. And so there we were; marching, shouting, blowing whistles and singing in unison, the name of the man who knew just when to cause a stir.

Agonized students had always camped outside his office. On this day, a school trip was the reason. On other days, it would be sitting for exams, exam results or whatever thing that involved registration of students. He must have been the most mentioned administrator in campus.

Solving the issues diplomatically was an option but there was no patience for it. Furthermore, it was always used as a power game. Demonstrations made students feel powerful. No one wanted stones flying through their windows so issues were solved faster. In our case, we wanted to be heard there and our solutions embraced then. And so the chanting continued.

In all my campus years, I had never taken part in demonstrations. I loathed them because of the chaos and accidents they caused. The first student riot I witnessed happened in my first year, on my birthday. Due to the commotion, I lost my precious red velvet cake and the celebrations were cut short. I hated strikes and always thought there were better ways to deal with issues.

This particular one was no different but something about it drew me in. First, I would do it with my classmates which felt safe. Secondly, it affected people who were dear to me so it felt personal. Lastly, it was my final year in school. When was I going to do this again? Though fearful, I marched along fist in the air, under the scorching sun, to the administration block.

Seeing that the person we were addressing wasn’t moved, we made our way around the school in order to stir up other students. Some joined us, increasing the mass, while others rolled their eyes at our ‘juvenile’ antics. Having thought like them once, I understood them well.

“Waone! The noisiest bunch in school. Who do they think they are?”

Looking at them, I realized that their thoughts wouldn’t get us what we wanted so they were easy to ignore. After hours outside, we broke for lunch to replenish our energy and to give the administration time to sort our issue out.

After a long tiresome day, a ruling had been made in our favor. As I retired to bed that evening, I felt a sense of pride. It was not the demonstration that mattered most but the realization that unity truly is powerful. We could easily have decided to mind our own business but we chose to speak one language and stand together with our fellow classmates. It was worth it in the end.

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