Kenyatta University is slowly emerging as a centre of excellence as far as writing essays in the region is concerned. Two of its students, Nancy Odemu and Michael Asudi, recently returned from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Telecom Africa 2008, in Cairo Egypt, after winning an essay writing competition on the role of ICT in the promotion of development and peace.
The essay writing competition had been organized among university students in 10 African countries. In Kenya, the universities that were invited to participate in the competition included University of Nairobi, Strathmore University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and Kenyatta University.
Last year, another Kenyatta University student, Domnick Ochieng’ K’olale, participated in another intervarsity essay writing competition and his winning essay was published in an international journal titled Africa’s Youth Define leadership.
Each university was required to come up with a nomination process that produced four best students, two men and two women, who after the overall evaluation in Geneva Switzerland would result in the two students to represent the country.
After receiving the letter, asking them to come up with a vetting process, from the ITU headquarters in Geneva, the Kenyatta University Vice-Chancellor, Prof Olive Mugenda, tasked Dr Ezekiel Alembi, with the role of coming up with the best two student essayists from the institution.
Ordinarily, Dr Alembi, who heads the Kenyatta University Radio Services, says the temptation would have been to get the essays from students with essay writing or ICT backgrounds. Had this happened, only students from departments like Literature, History or those taking ICT related courses, would have been considered for participating in the evaluation process.
“We instead chose to give the whole student community a chance to take part in the exercise,” explains Dr Alembi. After a circular was posted on the institution’s notice boards listing what was required, willing participants brought in their essays in readiness for the vetting process. Of the more than two hundred essays submitted only four were judged to be the best.
Among the winning essays were those of Odemu and Asudi, both 22. Odemu takes a Bachelor of Science course in Food Nutrition and Dietetics, while Asudi is a Bachelor of Commerce student. The two acknowledge that while they were quite aware of their limitations as far as essay writing is concerned, their major concern was how well they argued their points in the essay.
When the results were received from Geneva, their initial fears proved to have been unfounded. They had emerged winners and thus were chosen to represent Kenya at the youth forum for ITU Telecom Africa, 2008 in Cairo.
They went to Cairo on May 9 and came back on May 16. It was an all expenses paid for trip.
Odemu says her win came with the added satisfaction of the hard work
she put in writing her essay, “It did not come easy,” she says. Her essay was titled ICT Facilitation and youth empowerment for peace and stability in Kenya and Africa.
On his part Asudi says that his win is only the beginning of a much bigger challenge, that of exploring the world of ICT “to whichever direction it is headed.” His essay was titled Promoting peace through ICT compliant youth.
They had been required to outline what measures they would put in place, as presidents of their respective countries, far as ICT is concerned. They were supposed to discuss how those measures would bring about development as well as fostering peace among the youth
Both essays spoke of the need to make ICT available throughout the country and especially among the youth. They also stressed the need to make them affordable particularly to the out-of-school youth in the rural areas.
Odemu would have actually missed out on the entire exercise altogether, were it not for her never-say-die attitude. “The night I read the notice, other students had seen Dr Alembi, earlier that day for instructions,” she recalls. “As if that was not enough, lights went out as I was reading the notice. I had to resort to the light on my cell phone to read the rest of the notice.”
In spite of the fact that she was already late Odemu nevertheless went to see Dr Alembi the following morning and managed to beat the deadline for submission.
Asudi had just sat his last paper for that semester, and thus was idle enough to scan what was on the notice board. “Students normally overlook what is on the notice boards,” he says matter-of-factly. “This particular notice stood out, and again it touched on a subject I am really keen on.” He is a member of the Kenyatta University Peace Unit.
The real challenge, when it came to writing the essay, was in how to bring out the message in a space of five hundred words. “It is then that I realized how short five hundred words are,” remarks Asudi.
The results of the competition were sent through e-mail, which means they landed into the winners’ inboxes. Although something inside Odemu told her she had performed well, she still could not believe what she was reading out of her inbox. “I actually trembled,” she says with a shy smile. She had to rush to Dr Alembi’s office to confirm the news.
At Dr Alembi’s office, she found an equally anxious Asudi also waiting for similar confirmation. When he read the mail from inbox, Asudi’s first reaction was that it was a prank, many of such sent by his friends. But on closer scrutiny, he noticed that ITU’s website was included there. “My friends could not have been that smart,” he says.