- Written by Super User
Aga Khan Academy Mombasa has held its first democratic Junior School election with a structured election campaign, in a move to cultivate leadership and teach students the importance of an ethical election process.
The Junior School elections- involving six to eleven year olds- also saw the Academy increase the number of positions in the Student Representative Council Executive Committee from four to six female and six male positions, ranging from the President to Action, Citizenship, Academic, Expression reps, as well as a number of House Captains and Class Representatives.
“We want to develop values and ethics while the kids are still younger. It’s better to do it now to make the children slowly aware of things they are supposed to do, and for them to understand the campaign process,” said Kristine Leabres, teacher and Lower School Team Lead at the Junior School in the Academy.
In 2015, the World Economic Forum reported that 86 per cent of its survey respondents agreed there was a leadership crisis in the world today. In Sub Saharan Africa, 65 per cent of respondents agreed this was the case. In Kenya, a 2011 survey done by Gallup Inc before the 2013 Kenyan general elections found that only 27 per cent of Kenyans believed there was honesty in the election process.
Against this backdrop, the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa election process started with a nomination process where Senior School representatives gave advice to the young voters on the meaning of leadership and service, its importance and the significance of choosing the right leaders and not friends. The nominated candidates were then approved by the leadership team, which consisted of class teachers and the Principal of the Junior School.
“By allowing children the chance to choose their own representatives in school they can experience election processes first hand. This builds understanding of the need to make ethical and informed decisions when voting, and how their choices in elections can impact quality of life for themselves and others around them,” said Isla Gordon, Principal of the Junior School at the Academy.
“ I chose who I thought would make a difference for me when I come to school and not my friends or those who had nice things,” said 10-year-old Zara Mohammed.
Next came the campaign process in a special assembly. The candidates made speeches to let the voters know why they were suitable for the position. The leadership team ensured accountability from the candidates by setting rules and regulations that created an even ground for all candidates.
They were only allowed to make posters on A4 sized papers, to ensure that a candidate’s resource was not what gave them an edge over other candidates. The students were also warned against cheating, bribing or making false promises in order to get elected. The Academy achieved this by making the candidates defend their claims and how they were going to make them happen to the voters.
In Kenya’s general elections, a candidate’s socio-economic profile influences voting behavior and voter buying is common practice through ‘electoral incentives’. In 2011, the round five Afrobarometer for Kenya showed that around 33.4 per cent of voters have been offered these incentives.
Teaching young children the discipline of not being influenced by money before they get to voting age is a key platform in achieving a mature, liberal democracy.
After the campaign process ended, the Junior School students then got to cast their ballot and choose their leaders. Each post got two representatives, a male and a female, in order to maintain gender balance among the students. The appointed leaders joined the student council, which serves to represent the student body at the Academy, and is involved in planning for major events.