FRONT ROW: The terrible tragicomedy in Kenyan universities - Daily Nation
Breaking News

Yikes! This tragicomedy in Kenyan universities is horrible!

Wednesday December 9 2015

Strathmore University Vice-Chancellor John Odhiambo addresses a press conference at the campus, Nairobi, on December 2, 2015, clarifying on the circumstances that led to the botched security drill that left several students injured. It took a whole day before Prof Odhiambo issued a formal apology, even though by then they had lost the narrative and no small amount of credibility. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Strathmore University Vice-Chancellor John Odhiambo addresses a press conference at the campus, Nairobi, on December 2, 2015, clarifying on the circumstances that led to the botched security drill that left several students injured. It took a whole day before Prof Odhiambo issued a formal apology, even though by then they had lost the narrative and no small amount of credibility. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LARRY MADOWO
More by this Author

It took just one week for Kenyan universities to fall from their high horse of sham higher education to where they rightfully should be; the gutter.

The label “institution of higher learning” is the perfect definition of false advertising.

It is the example you would cite in the introduction of your term paper on deceptive promotional techniques if you hadn’t plagiarised all of it. Degree ni harambee, remember?

A degree is obtained after a communal effort in cheating, as anyone who’s even been through a Kenyan university will tell you.

First, someone at Maasai Mara University in Narok figured it would be an excellent idea to pit two communities in the student body — the Maasai and the Luo — against each other in a football match.

Whether it was a cultural showcase or whatever, it is hard to imagine how this outstanding moment of buffoonery and supreme idiocy was allowed to happen.

I tried to imagine scenarios in which this ended nicely by the opposing teams shaking hands, hitting the changing rooms and then going away for some of Narok’s famous nyama choma together.

Instead, whoever fanned the flames of tribal division got the fire of ethnic clashes they were looking for.

“Following the current state of insecurity in the University caused by conflict among the students… the Senate has decided that the University be closed indefinitely,” an internal memo said.

The students were expected to vacate the university premises by 8am on November 30.

It was a dishonest statement because the university’s administration should have foreseen such an eventuality and halted the inter-ethnic game.

On the day the students were expected out of Narok, another Nairobi university hogged national attention with a terror drill gone spectacularly awry and an equally unfortunate statement.

Strathmore University’s poorly handled precaution led to the death of one employee, while several members of staff and students were wounded.

Despite the obvious gaps in communication and planning, “some students and staff panicked and got injured” is how the university initially casually excused the episode.

UNREMORSEFUL

No apology and no remorse from the institution’s communication director, Betty Ngala.

It took a whole day before the vice-chancellor, Prof John Odhiambo, issued a formal apology, even though by then they had lost the narrative and no small amount of credibility.

The police, Interior ministry and even the dean of the Strathmore Law School, Dr Luis Franceschi, threw them under the bus for their careless handling of the aftermath.

“If nobody is ready to say sorry, I’m writing this email to say to all my students and my staff a big SORRY on behalf of anyone who may be coward enough not to face up to the mess he/she created,” his leaked email said.

I would not be surprised if he is one of the employees who offered to resign.

The comedy of the absurd around Kenyan tertiary institutions didn’t end there.

Some 40 students of the University of Nairobi (UoN) reportedly ate at a Nakuru restaurant “in the name of Waiguru”.

The eatery’s owner said he suffered a loss of Sh14,150 when the students chanted “Waiguru Must Pay!” as they walked out.

These aren’t students of some second-rate apology of a learning institution; they are from what should be the venerable University of Nairobi.

Given its profile, historical significance and location, UoN should be a shining example of everything a university should stand for.

Instead, it is anything but; an embarrassment to residents of Nairobi with its often pointless strikes and their accompanying inconveniences to motorists and businesses.

Ironically, more intellectually engaged university students around the world have been involved in great victories around the world this year alone.

Students at the University of Cape Town successfully led the #RhodesMustFall protests that led to the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue from their campus.

EDUCATION COMMERCIALISATION

It was shortly followed by country-wide #FeesMustFall protests in South Africa that delivered exactly what they wanted.

A hunger strike and a student movement against racism at the University of Missouri led to the resignation of its president and other top officials.

In fact, over the last few weeks alone, students at 51 different American colleges, including Yale, are protesting racism.

In Kenya, students such as those at the University of Eldoret are used by politicians to protest against a vice chancellor from the “wrong tribe”.

Peaceful protests as envisioned by the Constitution are anathema to most university students and demos aren’t complete until property is destroyed or people are injured.

But if the students appear to have lost their way, it is probably trickling from the top.

Most universities in Kenya are more preoccupied with real estate and high-rise buildings than with the quality of their academic programmes.

It is therefore not the least bit surprising that the products of multi-year degree programmes are barely-literate violent freeloaders.

*****

Lupita unsatisfactory in Star Wars?

It is just over a week until the year’s most anticipated film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, premieres worldwide.

It is an iconic franchise and an incredible honour for Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o to be in it.

I tried to pry any details from her when she came home a few months ago but she was tight-lipped.

I didn’t expect anything less, given the cult-like secrecy around the movie.

“There was a general sense that something wasn’t working so a lot of her scenes ended up being either re-worked or cut,” reported The Sun last week, quoting an unnamed source.

“Unfortunately she just didn’t end up delivering,” this individual claimed.

Mercifully for the ever flawless Lupita, director JJ Abrams jumped to her rescue.

“In truth, her performance wasn’t satisfactory. It was spectacular. She has brought the character of Maz Kanata to life in the most wonderful, wise, touching, deep and funny way,” he said of the CGI character she plays.

He’s gushing over her in the quote to Page Six, adding: “Lupita never ceased to amaze me…. She elevated all the scenes she is in, I’m forever grateful, and can’t wait for people to see her stunning performance.” The force is strong with this one.

*****

Uhuru, the tourist-in-chief

President Uhuru Kenyatta has made 43 trips abroad since he was elected two and a half years ago, 10 more than Mwai Kibaki made in his 10-year-presidency.

“Kibaki never hosted Obama or the Pope,” someone told me on Twitter when I pointed this out.

You see, once you host the leader of the free world and the leader of the world’s Catholics, you have carte blanche to travel as much as you like, according to this bright spark.

President Kenyatta is said to be a hit on the global stage, a star attraction on the conference circuit because his “mien and polished nature” make him a pleasant guest.

“Thank you for visiting Kenya again” has become a common comment whenever the president takes another overseas trip.

It is not an overstatement anymore, especially when his government pays lip service to austerity while the presidency does the exact opposite. What would Magufuli do?

Advertisement