Sometime back while in second year at the University of Nairobi, there were discussions about raising fees at the Kenya School of Law led by the Dean of the School. The plans indeed succeeded and the figure went up to Kshs. 150,000. At that point, I wasn’t really keen on figures but the discussions around logistical nightmares caught my attention. Majority of the contributors were more concerned about the expensive lifestyle than the fee itself. I remember one student, Jatieko, emphasizing that there are no slums where affordable accommodation could be found cheaply around the school and for that reason; increasing tuition was a scheme by un-named perpetrators to kill the dream of the poor student.
Listening to my seniors, it struck me that the road was longer than I had imagined. Parklands too had its fair share of problems though. Like the notorious resits in the law of Evidence. Whenever it was exam period in Parklands, the exam room for the Law of Evidence was always filled to the corridors. Most of the crowd comprised of mature faces and former students of course who were resitting the exam for God know which number of times. As such, most of the faces in the crowd were unable to join the Kenya School of Law (KSL) because of a failed unit in second year. I thought about the people in the crowd who had probably attained straight As when their form four exams results were released. We probably watched them on TV and read their names in newspapers. They had told the world so eloquently that they were going to study law…
Fast forward and I was in a bus to Karen. I had gone through the tedious application process and every necessary document was here with me. The silence in that compound especially around gate C and the insistence by security to see my National Identity Card did not please me. Previously I had been in Shimo La Tewa Prisons for a Legal Aid Clinic, they were less stringent. There were murmurs, signs of life at Shimo. The identity card reminded me of the oppressive regimes in Primary School history books, especially the Kipande system. This was law school not some colonial office, but then again I was just handing in my application.
Once the learning sessions began, people were receptive and warm. The new lot gave the school a different atmosphere. We were such a unit in a short time despite some lecturers reminding us that there were places called Moi, Parklands, Makerere and KU – Parklands and many more. Many treated that as their past, an entry on their CV but here we were students of the Kenya School of Law.
This story can be long, but let us keep to the basics:
While some people would want to make it sound tedious, discouraging, complicated, scary and difficult, group work can be remarkably exciting. During my time, it counted for 20% of the grading to every unit.
Being resourceful, investing in positive synergy and proper leadership are key. While at it, ensure you get the information on time, work on it first hand and make the sessions as lively as you can. My group liked a place under a tree out in the field because those rooms sometimes looked like court rooms – not so pleasant.
Once in a while, go out together, but keep respectful of your colleagues because going beyond limits may draw imbalance to the unit.
In a group of more than three, there are people who will certainly do more. Do it anyway, it is important for you and the group. Even in instances where one does everything, the others should keep themselves abreast with the details. It gives you an opportunity improve your collective work and to acquaint yourself with the facts therein.
Besides the ‘firm’, presentations in class are equally important. Then, lecturers had discretion to award marks right away. If you get the opportunity, do it well, from the dress to your voice and composure. Work on your strategy around the quality of persons in the firm. Apportion your work amongst yourselves subject to whoever can earn you the highest marks.
Orals and Confidence
The oral examinations counted for another 20% of the total 100% to all the units. In moments closer to it, most students retreated to their swotting zones. There were all sorts of undergraduate pass papers and some short question answer sheets. People were not sure of where the questions would come from. Sometimes it was so intense that students failed to understand this new context of exams.
In my honest view, oral exams test your overall preparedness to the profession. They test your dress code, ethical standards, composure, assertiveness, alertness and substance. We therefore ought to strike a balance on the above. There’s no formula for that unfortunately, however, leaning on substance alone is a sure way to fail.
A not so pleasant story is told of a lady who went to the panel in a mini skirt and high heels. One of the lecturers dropped a pen and asked her to pick. In such circumstances, you may lose it all. Bring out your respectful best, if you cannot own those clothes; possess them, just for the day. As I noted, majority of the lecturers care more about instilling respect in the profession as opposed to falling for the makeups, at least at the orals.
For your preparations, listen to the guide from the lecturer especially concerning the apportionment of grades.
Find confidence over time, and never be too sure. Continue sharpening your confidence. Keep working on it; sometimes alone, or when hanging with your firm. You can even try communicating confidently to strangers to the profession. Practice in front of the mirror by assuming yourself doing a submission in court. Do your best to be articulate and audible. This is where contribution in lectures comes in handy.
While the substance of law may not be the only thing to learn, it is equally important. Work more with your firm as well as yourself. You cover more if you actively and genuinely work in the forum. Whenever you notice gaps, take at least an hour a day alone, not around WhatsApp or Facebook.
For purposes of ensuring effectiveness in group work, embrace social media. A WhatsApp group, Facebook and other convenient platforms are certainly vital when responsibly exploited.
It is important to commit to this process. I liken it to that shaky bridge that you must go across to get home. You certainly got what it takes to do it.
While at it, be careful with the meat from Karen Hardy. Once upon a time, a half a kilo of it consumed one kilo of my charcoal. It was still very tough, I couldn’t chew it, I drove back to the butchery with my sufuria and contents, I was offered better!
BY ZEDDY ADIKA
This article appears in our newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 3, Issue 1 of June 3rd, 2016