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Of Stones and Tear Gas: My First Riot

This should have been out like a week ago. It may be a little late but I feel that our side of the story needs to be told because what was shown on TV was just a bunch of kids rioting and throwing stones (did any one see me? I was the one wearing the…). We looked like kids throwing a tantrum over something silly but it was anything but!

If you watched the news you’d think that we were striking about one of our students who stays off campus who almost died when he was attacked by thieves in his room but that was really the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The strike/riot has been 2 years in the making – if you ask me that is. My school changed the system for allocating rooms from manual to online; you know, because we’re at the bleeding edge of IT and shit, every course is with IT. Unfortunately the system was shit, it seemed untested and shoddily made. So there was a lot of confusion over rooms, I personally had to wait a whole week that time before I was allocated a room apparently because I paid in the wrong school account, the account that is on the school website and all over my entrance papers.
This first fuck-up was attributed to transition pains. The next time, we were promised, would be better. The system would go online a week before we opened. The lines from the last time, at the finance office, at the hostels office, at the system admins office, would be gone. Yeah right.
This year the fuck up was even more colossal. First of all the system came online two days before opening. Yup two. And since there was a rush for all the 2 bed rooms the website crashed a number of times. Did I mention that my password wasn’t working?
Getting to school, the situation was even worse. There were long lines to “confirm” your booking. Due to over-enrollment of freshmen, no one, and I do mean no one, knew which rooms where free. You may have booked and confirmed but when you get to your room you find it occupied.
I wasn’t worried. There were these houses that are usually kept for continuing students. There was no way freshmen would be there. Yeah, I was wrong… so so very wrong. 100 houses and freshmen were in from 1 to about 60. After that it’s what I like to call phase 3 of IDP (what we call the complex). These houses are so they’re in the next county.
Even after all this there wasn’t even enough rooms on campus for all the students. This forced people to seek housing outside campus and landlords raised rent. While a room on campus for 2 goes for 2900 outside it can go for between 10,000 and 16,000.
And the security outside campus has been steadily declining. A girl was raped and then a student cut up in his house in two days. We had had enough. Enough of an administration that didn’t care where its students slept (our VC is known to have said, “My business is education not accommodation!”) and of our neighbours who were taking advantage of our vulnerability. We went on the rampage.
It was just past 3 when I suddenly woke up because of the noise coming out my window. Looking around my room, all 3 of my roomies were looking out of the window. I thought a hostel was on fire. I got out of bed out on some shorts and shoes and rushed outside to find out what was going on. There was no fire, instead what I found were the beginnings of what would later become a riot. I’ve never been so gleeful in my school life.
When I came to school there was a list of things I hoped to do while there. Curiously study and pass never made the list. Here it is:
1.       One night stand
2.       Sex in a kinda public area
3.       Get in a relationship
4.       Climb a tank, or some other banned place
5.       Make a bunch of fun friends
6.       Strike, throw stones at the police and block a road
The list seems short, so I’m now accepting suggestions to add to the list in the comments. In that list I was only left with number 6 and 4 left to do. Now it’s just 4.
When I realized we were striking I went back in the room to get something to keep me warm and hide my face. I had left the room with only a vest and it’s how I was for the rest of the day.
There’s a lot I can tell you about that day but I’ll keep it short and give you highlights. Anyway if you follow me on twitter you already know most of this. We walked/marched around campus for about an hour while various people tried to galvanize the crowd one way or the other. We blocked the road at around 5ish by burning anything we could find. 3 fridges made it in to those fires. Cops appeared just before 6 taking advantage of the dark to confuse us. They let us regroup inside campus(dumb move if you ask me) and we waited for daybreak. At daybreak, we were back at the gate, this time with stones. The police scattered when they saw another group of students coming from the other side of campus – our school is divided into two campuses just about 2 kilometers apart. The police later returned with reinforcements, and teargas. We had running battles with them all morning until the VC finally addressed us; I refused to attend this meeting because I believe he was full of shit.
Let me just pause here and say two things. First, I’ve been calling for some kind of forceful action to make our views known since the beginning of the semester because other channels weren’t working. Second, teargas is a real bitch!!! When watching revolts on TV you always see scenes of people, mostly young ones, picking up the canisters and throwing them back at the police. Yeah, that shit is hard!!! It takes real force of character to even get near that shit, forget picking it up and throwing it back. It makes you tear so much you can’t see, your nose suddenly starts running like you’ve got the worst flu in the world and the coughing, good Lord don’t even get me started on that. You cough so much and so hard you feel like you may puke!!
I remember just before the police rushed in on us I had gone to throw something or the other at the cops. There was a kinda no man’s land just at the school gate that neither cop or student was passing. I went in to this zone just after the cops had fire off a round of canisters at us. My noise and mouth was covered of course. Ever seen a javelin throwing event? Yeah I did that three step thing just before I threw my stone. I was 10 25 feet into no man’s land. Suddenly I couldn’t see and I was coughing like I never done before. I remember thinking ‘Stop coughing or you’ll vomit… and you don’t want to be known as the only person who vomited’ 10 mins later the cops breached no man’s land and we were running.
Late that night there was talk of retaliation by the villager but nothing happened. The next day people went to class like nothing happened. I mean come on!!! Talk about lack of commitment to a cause. If I had known that people would’ve returned to class, I’d’ve tried to do something about it. I went to sleep assuming no one would be dumb enough to go to class. It undermines everything I lost my voice for the day before.
The admin may now look at us the way the mainstream media tried to portray us. As kids on the rampage for no good reason. I’m just hoping they’re not that stupid but then again I also thought no one was stupid enough to return to class the very next day. We broke stuff, threw stones, blocked the road and tolerated teargas for a reason. I’m just hoping that the admin and, more so the students, don’t forget it. Peace!!
  1. Amazing blog. I loved this article. Promote peace though as students.

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