Our Institutions of higher Learning Need Serious Overhauls.
Higher institutions of learning in Kenya are facing serious challenges ranging from lack of enough qualified teaching staff, inadequate capacity for quality research, and poor administrative as well as competent management leadership.
The last challenge seems to be very lethal. It arises from the fact that political meddling has taken the center stage in the choosing of vice-chancellors; the key administrative people in charge of running the institutions. It is an issue that has become so thorny until universities in certain areas have become like local high schools and no longer harbor the national or international stature they sought to epitomize.
In the recent past, we have seen instances where qualified people for the position of vice-chancellor get sidelined in certain institutions simply because they don’t come from certain or local tribes in which the institution is established which often form the majority of the students.
Such simple mistakes have made the wrong people occupy offices which has subsequently led to the downward spiral of the institutions. The sad reality is that we seem comfortable with such happenings as though there is nothing that can be done.
The ministry of education has been, over time now, lobbying for what they call delocalization. It is an idea that has often received mixed reactions yet it seems to help somehow in encouraging national integration and as such develops tolerance among the ethnic groups in the country from the educational angle.
Encouraging teachers to teach outside of their localities enables them to interact with other people outside of their tribes and this helps to develop cohesiveness among people with different backgrounds.
The same is being put into practice with secondary school children who are being admitted outside their local areas. It is a move that doesn’t get accepted by other people but when looked at from the big picture can help a lot. Despite all that progress, universities and colleges seem to have been thwarting those efforts.
For instance, a quick look around and you will notice that over 90% of institutions in our various counties have vice-chancellors from the local tribes. And that is the result of politics at play where forces at work do everything to ensure that a local gets the position as a way of ‘giving back’ somehow but one that has proved destructive over time.
Thus, our higher learning institutions have over 80% of teaching and non-teaching staff from one tribe. What more can we expect from intolerances we are seeing around bleeding violence?
We need to seriously think of resurrecting our universities because some of them are on their death beds and unless something drastic is done, they will die into oblivion. We are at the point of either switching off the machines or trying resuscitation.
One of those drastic measures is to ensure that we reward excellence and ability over tribal inclinations irrespective of the political influences at play. Doing this will help us have the right people for the job at hand and hence our institutions will roam to life once again.
We have been doing the opposite of what education ought to do to and for us; that is to liberate our thinking such that we look at things holistically. Unfortunately, it seems our education is becoming void of all that.
It is high time we became bold and did the right things. The truth is that our universities and colleges need a complete overhaul. A move that needs bold men and women who cannot be cowed by intimidation and cowardice.
To begin with, the leadership needs to be sorted and once the top is occupied by the right people, we anticipate that other things will fall into place such as a greater focus on research and technology and developing people with the skills that the market demands. Fixing the leadership, I hope, will fix other things.