Don’t be deceived, scholars and universities haven’t lost the plot

Friday January 24 2014

After reading Prof Egara Kabaji’s outlook of the current state of academia in Kenya (Saturday Nation, January 18, 2014), I reckoned that many of his statements were too unforgiving and beyond the pale.

Besides, with the brutal candour that was nicely merged with humour, he lambasted Mzee Taban Lo Liyong and his penchant for self-glorification.

Neither did Prof Amutabi escape unscathed. Well, I do not wish to discuss their quandary at the moment. I reserve that for my next coffee meeting with Prof Kabaji, my former lecturer and good friend.

My intention to write this was to express trepidation over his sentiments about the academia in Kenya. Intellectuals have not failed the nation and the academy has not fallen apart. I have a feeling that our good professor is engaging us in smart casuistry.

Rapid Results Initiative

I agree with him on ethnicity and how the ogre has made gaucheness out of our politicians and their ideologies. But does that warrant condemnation of our universities?

He then suggests that the academia should produce a formula to bear ethnicity in Kenya. It seems the professor is unaware of the 100 day Rapid Results Initiative programme that was introduced to some of our higher learning institutions late last year in collaboration with Commission for Implementation of the Constitution.

The objective was to educate staff and students of the need to promote the ideals of our Constitution. The University of Nairobi, for example, conducts such exercises routinely with positive results gradually being achieved.

On the question of whether our institutions are feeding the government with ideas that change lives, my answer is yes.

Did our Kabaji ask himself where the M-Pesa technology came from? We are talking of an idea that is globally acknowledged and has changed dozens of lives, thanks to Safaricom’s student software development projects.

Is he aware of technology innovation hubs that our local universities have? Has he visited universities like Egerton or UoN and noticed that there is heavy presence of partnership with global computer and mobile phone manufacturers?

On agriculture, the present emergence of government formed irrigation projects and our schools’ contribution towards farmers’ effective utility of the projects amuses me.

Prof Kabaji has immense knowledge of literature and creative writing; agricultural experts might exonerate him for being unaware that much of our local agricultural projects and research are successful thanks to former agriculture students from JKUAT, UoN and Egerton.

Plans to held local farmers are underway and will be successful... unless politicians intercede.

Moreover, the professor should not be ashamed. The input of our universities and scholars towards nation building might be blurred by overriding media reports on strikes, insecurity and politics, but let him not be misinformed.

Our universities are still controlling and shaping events in Kenya, Africa and the world. They are citadels of knowledge.

The writer is a senior ICT officer and a MA Communication Studies final year student at the University of Nairobi