Students Riot Against Required Chapel Attendance at Adventist University in Kenya
by AT News Team
Last week students set fire to two men’s dormitories and battled with police when they were informed that they must attend church at least 70 percent of the time in order to graduate from the Adventist University of Eastern Africa-Baraton, according to reports in The Star. Property damage was valued as at least $25,000 and “several students were injured while eight others were arrested, the Nairobi daily stated.
The newspaper called it a “night long orgy of violence” which required police from three law enforcement units to quell. Rioting students “looted the institution’s supermarket” and six men from the community who attempted to come on campus and join the fracas were arrested for being drunk and disorderly.
The university is operated by the East-Central Africa Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and has an enrollment of nearly 2,000 according to the denomination’s most recent Annual Statistical Report. About half the students are church members. In August, a Kenyan High Court ordered the institution to allow a student to graduate who had been expelled for refusing to attend church.
Last week there was “an abortive meeting with female students in which the dean wanted to enforce church attendance as a graduation criteria.” Then the deputy vice chancellor for academic affairs, Dr. Joel Yoyo, posted a memo announcing a “new rule [which] requires a student to score more than 70 percent church attendance at the university chapel to qualify for graduation.” It is unclear if the Kenyan journalists know the difference between Sabbath church attendance and weekly chapel events.
The Star has stated that student leaders “complained of poor diet, misadministration and general neglect of the university by the administration.” Also that students said there was “bias and selective justice in handling discipline cases, which divided the students between Adventists and non-Adventists,” according to the newspaper.
The day after the riot, some 1,200 students threatened to boycott classes and the university arranged for the release eight students who were arrested. Miriam Mwita, vice chancellor and primary operating officer of the university, met with students and apologized for the “inhumane” way the grievances were handled. She “told the tense meeting that a new chapter of dialogue needs to be opened … stressing that the Christian virtues on which the institution is anchored will be upheld.” She “said the new controversial rule [that] triggered the riots would not be implemented,” The Star reported.
The university is located about 200 miles northwest of Nairobi near the small town of Eldoret. It has a faculty of 204, according to the most recent Annual Statistical Report, of which 159 or 78 percent are Adventist Church members.