In a tightly contested run for the presidency of the Africa University Student Representative Council, Shannel Ziki , a second year Zimbabwean in the College of Health, Agriculture and Natural Sciences studying Agribusiness won the prestigious seat at the head of the student leadership. The 2021 SRC online election is the second in the history of the university.
Shannel spoke to her vision for the coming tenure of the SRC and how her win could serve as an inspiration for other women,
“I am humbled by people’s belief in me to deliver on the promises and commitment that I have made. I am confident that I will perform and exceed expectations . African women have historically been raised and taught to follow the leadership of men . Ironically many prominent leaders who are men have been raised single-handedly by women but women are very rarely given an opportunity to shine outside of the home. I envision a leadership that fairly represents the needs and concerns of students of all nationalities.”
The ongoing COVID 19 Pandemic did not slow the processes and operations of the Student Representative Council in 2020 as it forced the closure of university campuses across the globe. Africa University’s student body rose to the challenge and adapted their electoral systems to online formats, using existing technologies to their advantage and ensuring the welfare, concerns and voice of the institutions’ students continued to be heard.
Candidates from 5 countries namely Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe ran for posts in the Council with an almost equal representation of male and female candidates which was a strong showing of women’s capacity and ambition to take up leadership roles as encouraged by Africa University’s pro- women’s empowerment stance.
Dean of Students Mr. George Miti applauded the resilience and commitment of the candidates who produced engaging campaign manifestos that had the core concerns of the students they are meant to serve at heart and were solution oriented. He went on to explain the significance of the victory of a female president in over 15 years.
“This is on of the most exciting and engaging elections we have had in many years. The candidates were all superb and campaigned extensively online. I have no doubt that the students selected the best leadership. These are our second successful elections with good voter participation where we actually had a runoff for the presidency. This culminated in a female student being elected after many years which is very exciting. This is really a sign of the fruits of Africa University’s drive to empower our female students with leadership skills.”
Vice President-elect Habacuque Lopes Caxinda , a Maters of Religious Studies student in the College of Social Sciences, Theology, Humanities and Education from Angola who vied for the presidency against Ms. Ziki said he welcomes and eagerly looks forward to working alongside a female president and is proud to be a part of making Africa University history.
“I think that it is so important to have a strong representation of both male and female voices. This is a clear message that Africa University is a campus that recognizes and embraces gender equality. I think we need to dismantle harmful stereotypes that are pervasive in many of our countries across the continent and are built on patriarchy that tries to drown out women’s voices and abilities. My campaign promise to the students of Africa University is to make our Ubuntu philosophy a practice that we live by and embrace. Respecting and welcoming all peoples irrespective of gender, creed, race or religion is a first step towards that and this council elect is leading by example.”
Outgoing SRC 2020-21 Vice President Danjuma Barde form Nigeria wished the incoming SRC all the best as they lead and serve. As the first SRC to be elected online and to serve during a pandemic, Danjuma reflected on his and his colleagues’ term.
“This has been an interesting experience. Whereas before students would be on campus, we now were faced with a situation where they we scattered all over Africa in their home countries. We had to be creative and innovative in how we communicated and interacted with our constituency, making use of various online platforms to ensure that we addressed the concerns that were raised. Campus life events even moved online where we recognized that even though we were in different locations, we still needed to continue with those events that served to bring our community together.”
A variety of talent shows, 2020 Freshman’s welcome and online social events were hosted by the SRC throughout the academic year to fill the void that sheltering in place left in the student life experience that at Africa University has traditionally been lively, colorful and inclusive.
Danjuma went on to highlight that the Pandemic presented new challenges in student welfare.
“We found that so many of our students were faced with very difficult situations where one or both of their parents were furloughed from work and access to money for food, data for learning and tuition were beyond reach. We dug deep into our coffers as the SRC to help as many students as we could through these trying times. The Africa University leadership has been incredible in offering us the support and encouragement we needed to fulfil our mandate, challenging us to do more and be more.”
The incoming 2021 SRC has a gender balance of 40 % female and 50% male representation in the positions of Secretary General, Finance, Legal and Academic Affairs, Sports and Entertainment and Social Welfare .