1. The first time most of us learnt about the name Brilliant Ruto was at the beginning of this week, during the fight against Enhanced cats. According to the petition started by the Concerned Comrade, more than 1000 comrades were suffering in silence. What made you start that discussion, even though it appeared hopeless?
I thought through how hard it had been for me: coping with the ongoing online classes and the CATs and the struggles of meeting deadlines from home. To add salt to injury came the Enhaced CATs memo. It was too much to handle and looking around, everyone else would complain but end up with a “someeni, nothing can be done” attitude. People were quiet, they played along while they suffered. I feared the school was going to make us clear school fees in a week’s time – which was a real likelihood. It angered me that we’d all chosen silence instead of questioning how effective a system such as our school’s is in equipping us. I stood up, on a personal drive and some others did. These individual voices then became a large force that would change things.
2. Did you know that your discussion would spark off a series of activities that would later lead to the enhanced cats being cancelled by the senate?
I never expected it’d amount to anything. Basing on past experiences such as what we had gone through at the onset of online learning, it was a dead end. Moreover, we were throwing stones at the guys in leadership and blaming them for our predicament. But the worst part was that no one seemed to understand that their contribution would matter. Trying to convince ourselves that we could create change felt like failure already.
3. They will want me to ask you whether you are single and I might but for now, who is Brilliant Ruto?
I like introducing myself name last because normally, I tell you my name and there you are, presuming and predicting what I am, before I do. One-word descriptions are limiting, so are goals. But I’m a third year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Mechatronic Engineering. I also believe that equality needs recurrent action.
4. Tell us about your journey in leadership.
Before, I had always been shy when it came to responsibilities such as guiding and mapping the way forward for a group of people who have the same capability as myself. Being chosen for the “female camper of the year” award in VUMA, a talent and leadership program organized through Nairobi Chapel, taught me that possibilities are endless.
Little as this may sound, being entrusted with a class representation role in my first year turned out to be as important as when I’d later run for the delegate post in the university elections, 2018, and won.
The two roles put me out there. I’ve since participated in debates on social issues and governance, in and out of school. I’ve shared debating platforms with the likes of President John Theuri and Frances Njambi.
I’m currently serving as the CEO of Fusion, a writing art non-governmental organization, on elective terms. I have aspirations, too.
5. What are these aspirations you say you have?
I’ve been a delegate once and do follow up on the school leadership stunts. I don’t shy off from standing up for what I believe in and especially the representation of a people’s interests without fear of intimidation.
I was one of the individuals who started mobilization and action against the imposing nature of Enhanced CATs. Our mobilization saw changes being implemented and student feedback and response playing a role in the university decisions. I believe I can do more for students in that area.
I feel that having comrade’s needs as the core motivation for a leader’s actions is an important qualification, aside from other leadership attributes.
6. Speaking of the fight against Enhanced CATS, where did you find the courage to start the fight? Especially when a good number of comrades believed that no matter how oppressive the CATS will be, it was worthless fighting against them?
It’s unfortunate that our institution has reveled in a culture where student’s voices are muffled in a generation that’s so outright when it comes to what we want. But then I realized we fear intimidation or being put on the spot for mobilizing revolutions against decisions imposed on us by the system. I feared I was alone, true, but I thought, I’m a student, an engineering student and there was no way my virtual learning would help in a real world profession. There came no fulfillment and each day, there would be something new to make it worse. That alone was enough confidence, at least for the career I chose.
Enhanced CATs was just the peak and I personally had had enough.
7. When you said that you don’t shy off from standing up from what you believe in, I was reminded of Angela Merkel. When Time magazine named her the person of the year in 2015, they said, “Leaders are tested only when people don’t want to follow. For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience, and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is Time’s Person of the Year.” Maybe you will be voted in as queen of the year in the upcoming DekuTrends Comrades’ Choice Awards. That said, who do you look up to and why?
“.. and good compromise is where everybody makes the contribution..” I had to allude to that quote from Merkel. She’s phenomenal.
To answer your question on who I look up to, I think Jacinta Arden is a figure to watch. She made her mega debut in 2017 as the world’s youngest head of state, at 37. Her rise is just overwhelming. She has challenged expectations and keeps transforming public assumptions about women in leadership.
And when Oprah said she looked forward to a day when magnificent men and women fight hard to live in times when nobody has to say ‘me too,’ it felt like the sun at dawn, rising up the sky.
8. What is your dream for DeKUT?
I dream of that one day when we’ll be free to stage talks and question decisions without fear of ruining what we’ve worked too hard for… That time when we’ll no longer have to suffer in silence. I dream of the day we’ll have a strong and vocal student’s council that comes down to an average comrade’s needs and bases their representation on just that, without self interests.
I look forward to the day open forums become a norm where not just leaders but common comrades have the freedom to express themselves and pitch issues affecting them. I wish we didn’t have such a wide gap between the administration and the students that we feel we need a meet and greet.
9. You mentioned an organization called Fusion, which staged one of the most successful plays in DeKUT last year. You were the Producer of that event – the overall boss, what was that like?
First, I wish to say I’m proud to have been a part of the stage that changed our perspective of acting and “stage arts” or drama in general. It was a learning experience that involved organizing and working with teams and converging variant ideas into one big bomb event. I had a highly creative and supportive team that saw “Cracks and Crevices” attracting an audience we didn’t expect and who were left asking for more.
It was definitely not without challenges, for example convincing comrades to turn up considering we were new and had an impression to put out there. When the event finally happened, it was a breakthrough and most of us can attest to this: it didn’t disappoint.
10. What is the biggest challenge you have faced in leadership and how did you overcome it?
Being a leader is fulfilling but then it isn’t some ride in the park. The teams we lead have all sorts of people and support isn’t a thing I’m entitled to, not every time. I’ve faced critics and some times I felt I wasn’t making the right decisions. Also, there has been the fear of losing – giving direction is somewhat as scary as accounting for loses. However, consistency saves the day. I believe in myself.
11. You talked about your participation in debates. Tell us about debating in DeKUT.
We have phenomenal debaters, we have had them. I’m citing this from the few debates that we’ve managed. They are always mind blowing but somehow, the club responsible has been a little dormant and most of the times, other platforms end up staging the debates by themselves. I feel there’s need to revamp debating activities. The more they are, the better it gets and the more people become interested. I feel that a lot of issues could be dealt with through debates, aside from communication skills enhancement. President Theuri has been a part of the team and I acknowledge the work he was already doing to revive the club.
12. I have heard that your debating skills are exceptional. What’s your secret?
Haha. Well, I get drawn to discussions that spark in depth thought and that get people questioning their own perspectives and looking for alternatives. It’s more of a habit I have formed from the thrills I get off daily conversations.
I would also say it’s because of my extensive reading, which has helped me get ideas that depict point of views different from mine. Also, some time ago, I successfully took part in a three-month leadership program during which I had a chance to interact with the best from the lunch-time club, Nairobi Toastmasters club. That experience gave me confidence on public speaking and leadership as a whole.
13. What do you miss about being at school?
Whenever I had some free time to spare, if I didn’t lunch at Graceland (the chapatis they make, damn), I would get spotted at Mose’s. I once waited for an hour, the chapatis ran out and I just couldn’t take off without a round of smocha (I ended up missing a lab session) but trust me, the wait was worth it, fulfilling.
14. What’s your most embarrassing public moment in school?
I once worked myself up all night on assignments and insisted on watching “The Shaft” (after nilichachishiwa it was a must watch) I woke up at 8AM for an 8AM class so you can imagine how fast I had to prepare so I’d at least catch a bit of it. I was out by 8.40 and I literally had to run all the way. When I stopped at the gate for the security check, the soldier instead smiled at me and I thought my day would somehow get better except I kept getting unusual stares from other guys. It wasn’t until I stepped into class that everyone burst out laughing. I had my blue afro comb on my hair, halfway combed. The smile and the stares made sense and because I had been in so much hurry, no one had the chance to warn me
I’ve never gotten over it.
15. And finally, for the gang, are you single?
I’m not single. I’m happy.
16. This has been a tremendous pleasure as I’m sure my readers will agree. Thank you very much for the honor of this interview. What’s your parting shot?
It has been a tough time these past few months, still is, for most of us trying to find ourselves and coping with situations kwa mtaa. Let’s look out for one another, at least for the sake of life after all this. We can’t afford to lose anymore. Let’s stick out for our friends.
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