PERSONALITY OF THE WEEK: Dr. Wandia Njoya - Daily Nation
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If we fix our education policy, we can fix our politics

Thursday October 19 2017

Daystar University Senior Lecturer, Dr. Wandia

Daystar University Senior Lecturer, Dr. Wandia Njoya. PHOTO| FRANCIS NDETRITU 

By DAISY OKOTI
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Besides being passionate about her job, Wandia is also very vocal on social and mainstream media on issues that touch on gender, culture, as well as politics.

You use social media powerfully – shading light on historical issues and boldly pointing out what you see as shams and controversial issues.

How far do you think social media can go in driving political change?

I use social media to push forward conversations about what I see as issues that we need to change; issues that we need to collectively think about and change to make our society a better place. I see social media as a place where we can begin to spread messages and advance theories that can stir change. In short, I see Social Media as a platform to raise awareness and prick consciousness to begin thinking about the issues that we are facing.

There has been an outcry about the mettle of graduates being churned out by universities. As an academic who interacts with students, would you say this is a valid concern? What is the missing link?

The answer to this is multifaceted. In a sense, I can say that it is not a valid concern and rather hypocritical because the very people who are charged with working to improve the systems are not actually doing it and yet expect teachers to take all the blame.

There is also the problem of wrong expectations from education – to pass exams and then get a job; this is a problem of the entire system.

We have encouraged our kids to think of school as just about good grades and a gateway to getting jobs, not necessarily amassing skills. A majority of the students also lack self-drive, and are not keen on learning the practical side of their education; at the end, they say the education did not prepare them well - I know students who can cancel field trips for dates.

Blogging, from certain angles, is viewed as a space where rumours are spread and unverified information shared. In a sea of all these, what advice would you give to a young person thinking of taking up serious blogging as a career?

Firstly, have a skill and a perspective that you want to share with the world. Secondly, be very consistent; if you want to start a cooking blog for example, have a schedule that allows you to regularly churn out recipes. This will hold your audience. Thirdly, read what others are doing, share with them and learn from each other.

If the hate messages on social media and debates on TV and speeches from political rallies are anything to go by, this country is deeply divided along tribal lines. What would you say to young people who feel the need to go an extra mile (in the wrong way) to prove their political affiliation?

We have not taught people how to think – providing evidence, clarifying their thoughts and not taking disagreement personally, that is where our problems begin. We need to take time and learn our history – that will make us understand issues better and learn to evaluate facts.

Generally, I can say what we see in political discussions that go awry, is a reflection of the value that we have placed on our education – many of us do not take thinking seriously.

If you had the unilateral powers to fix Kenyan problems, what would you start with?

Education would be my first bet – I would look at ways to create more thinking, creative and critical Kenyans. Once education is fixed, it can fix our politics because then, we will have a population that is conscious. Healthcare also needs fixing.

Do you think young people are doing enough (within what is available to them) to advance informed conversations about politics?

Yes, they have done the best that they can. But more can be done. For example, students need to take interest in economic policies being passed by the government and ask tough questions about what they mean. It helps to ask these questions when you are still a student; not when desperate for work, making you easily tempted to just take whatever is given.

Young people also need to believe in themselves and engage their leaders on issues and focus more on specific sectors rather than personalities. For example, students in commerce can ask their finance minister the hard questions that touch on their education, the field and the existing policies.

But this cannot happen if they do not read. The role of the Internet must move past that of entertainment. Access papers, access histories and all the information that you need to build your knowledge base.

What did you enjoy doing most during your undergraduate days? How did that shape the person that you are today?

I made dresses, so my favourite period was the culture week at Kenyatta University where I showcased some of my clothes. I was generally very active in all the artsy events, including attending recitals and music concerts. This made me see art in the bigger sense and I started to see the connection in all the art forms: music, literature, film, fine arts and so on.

What was your first job? What was its most memorable aspect?

That would be my first posting under the Teachers Service Commission to Matuga Girls in Kwale County. I was in a totally different culture and that excited me. Then I also attended a colleague’s Digo traditional wedding ceremony and the memory is still lodged in my soul; it was beautiful.

What has been the most profound mistake in your career?

I apologised for not having studied the sciences. And for too long. I should never have doubted the value of the arts.

Has there been a major arc in the vision you had for yourself at your age now from how you envisioned it in your early 20s?

Yes. My studies took longer than I had anticipated. I also thought that by now, I would be traversing continents on book tours. I also idolised Micere Mugo and believed that my career in the academia would also turn out that way.

The university is also not what I thought it would be. But yes, life changes, and a good education is supposed to be able to help people deal with change.

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