LTTE: education, Kenya and opportunity

Julia Oleksiak

In December of 2013 I traveled to Samburu, Kenya, as part of a SLiCE Alternative Break Trip. During this trip, not only was I immersed in a culture very new and different from my own, but I was also exposed to a variety of social and economic issues. Among these were the obstacles that students had to face and ultimately overcome if they wanted to get an education. In Kenya, the government does not provide students with a free, public high school option. Therefore, a lot of families are not able to afford sending their children to school beyond an elementary level, leaving students, for the most part, only able to dream of a college education.

As a student attending a public land-grant university in the United States, this opened up a lot of dialogue about the power and value of education. This led to the introspective realization that, largely in part because of where I was born, I have had the chance to get an education, whereas these equally deserving students in Kenya were not afforded the same opportunities. Throughout my trip, I made incredible connections with fellow Kenyan students, and we bonded over our passion for education as well as the inherent human qualities that we all share.


Last week when news broke of the massacre of university students in Garissa, Kenya, I was left feeling gut-wrenchingly speechless. Although I did not personally know anyone affected by this attack, I felt a deep sadness knowing that fellow students across the world, who had overcome such hurdles to gain an education, had been ruthlessly killed in a setting that is supposed to be safe, accepting and, most importantly, a place to learn.

In the wake of this devastating event, I have been extremely disappointed in the lack of media coverage and overall knowledge of the happenings at Garissa University. This feeling was heightened knowing that if something like this were to ever happen at a university in the United States, there would be worldwide mobilization. Given the fact that we, for various reasons, are given the opportunity to receive a university education and that CSU has specific ties to Kenya, (through SLiCE trips, academic programs, professors, etc.) we should stand in solidarity with these students and their families that in another world could have been our own classmates.

On Monday at 5 p.m., President Tony Frank will be leading the CSU Remembrance Ceremony, honoring the memory of our students, faculty and staff who have passed away this year. He has also agreed to use this occasion to honor the lives lost at Garissa University. Please join us to remember, honor, and acknowledge the lives lost both here in our CSU community, and in the broader international academic community.

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