I am most delighted to hear that a student union will shortly be
formed in our alma mater. I am thrilled to learn that the formation of
its governing body will be by universal franchise among the students.
Putting a tick or a cross against a candidate's or a team of candidates'
names(s) appears a simple enough act. The thought that should have gone
into it before making the choice is not. The first election of student
representatives in the long history of the school must be treasured. Without
any knowledge of the candidates and their platforms and therefore without
any possibility of bias, I am pleased to offer a few pointers for your
1. The nature of the office into which you vote
your chosen candidate must be clearly understood. It is easy in a euphoric
atmosphere surrounding this historic election to fall into the illusion
that once elected, your representative will have supreme authority, an
open cheque book and a magic wand to give you what you have longed for.
They will not. Nor do most politicians in the world. Al1 elected representatives,
including those to be elected by you in the school, have to work within
a constitutional structure with well-defined briefs and checks and balances.
You may not disagree, for example, with the authority that your representatives
will have. You may want to change the relationship between the students
body and the school management. That is fair enough. That is also for the
long haul. Until constitutions are changed, we should all abide by them
and make the best out of them.
2. It is against this understanding of what the
student union is for and what it should be able to achieve that candidates'
vision, their ability and their promises are gauged. Of course, given the
environment, the same amount of resources and the same constraints, different
candidates will put different emphases on their work. Again, you should
make a considered choice of what you prefer to have around you and judge
this against the possibility of having this delivered by the candidate
of your choice.
3. Whatever your representatives can do for you
in school, your principal and his staff could do better. Except one thing.
This is the actual experience of making a choice among candidates and of
monitoring their work, sharing their sense of achievement and their frustration
in the year to come.
The whole point of having a student union and an election to it is
not to shed some of the school’s chores to the students. It is a learning
process of some form if self-governing and democracy. You will learn not
just the actual machinery of voting, election, constitutional arrangements
but also the realities of "politics".
4. It is therefore absolutely important that you
do not stop your participation after voting. You should carry on monitoring
and comparing. You should monitor the performance of the representatives,
whether or not they were your choices, You should also compare not just
what they promise to do with what they eventually deliver ,or fail to deliver,
but also compare what has been done with what could have been done.
5. There will be mistakes. You may make a wrong
choice. You may have expectations so much higher than what are achievable
in reality that you will fell let down. The student union with your support
may be banging its head against a brick wall. All these are part of the
process and cannot be learnt from text-books. You will in time, looking
back, relish these mistakes as much as your achievements.
6. Do not get too personal in making your choice
or in election arguments. It is hard to avoid a sense of affinity when
the candidate is from your class or your house. But if you allow these
considerations overstake you, elections are no longer elections. They become
feuds. Arch-rivals and their supporters in elections should also remember
that after the results are known, you will have to live and work very much
under the same roof for many more years to come.
I wish all-candidates a good-spirited campaign. I wish all voters
a judicious choice and I wish all those elected a meaningful term of office.
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