VICE CHANCELLORS FIGHT FOR OFFICE

UoN power struggle: Kenyan professors are a disgrace

But why would a professor who was employed to do teach and do research, that would move the world with brilliant ideas, fight for a leadership position?

In Summary

• it appears the dream of an average professor is to be in administration. • This truth makes it hard to draw a line between a university professor and a Kenyan politician.

University of Nairobi
University of Nairobi
Image: FILE

The University of Nairobi deserves an Oscar for producing the theatrical piece of the week.

When the story of this great institution of higher learning will be told to the future generations, they will stop and wonder where the professors were when things were falling apart at the university.

That two professors — Stephen Kiama and Isaac Mbeche —fought for power is not humorous, it is rather shocking to imagine that this combat is not taking place in a university and not the Nairobi County Assembly. In fact, the act exhibited by these two professors, in the world of the Nairobi MCA Mary Njambi, is “criminal.”

This is criminal because when a professor is employed to work at the university, they are given the job, first to teach and do research but occasionally they can be appointed to assist in administration. And that is why, unlike other institutions that disregard you after your tenure is over, a professor is expected to resume teaching and conducting research immediately their tenure in administration is over.

However, in Kenya, it appears the dream of an average professor is to be in administration. This truth makes it hard to draw a line between a university professor and a Kenyan politician. It appears that the Kenyan professor is not guided by wisdom as expected. He is guided by greed like the Kenyan politician.

But why would a professor who was employed to do teach and do research, that would move the world with brilliant ideas, fight for leadership positions? Why would a professor hire needy students, in the name of student leaders, to hold a press conference to give cold threats on matters that are of no concern to them? Why would other professors, not fighting for the position, remain silent when the university is collapsing?

Ideally, a professor is supposed to be guided by reason. One needs to be forgiven for assuming that an average Kenyan professor is an intelligent person. In fact, an entomological study of the word professor would suggest that this is someone who professes to be an expert in some art or science. A professor, therefore, is supposed to profess wisdom. But the Kenyan professor is quite the opposite. Instead of providing solutions to some of the problems that bedevil this otherwise beautiful country, the Kenyan professor contributes more problems.

And as much as there is a lot of focus on the University of Nairobi professors because this is the best university in Kenya, their colleagues in the other tiny universities are doing worse. It’s only that issues in their universities do not get the attention of the country because of how insignificant these universities have been made by the professors.

Nearly all public Kenyan universities are characterised by a struggle for power. Not academic power. But somewhat “political” power. Professors are in a tug of war to control resources. In Moi University and Masinde Muliro University, it was even worse because tribal politics were brought at the fore to bargain for power.

This shows how vice chancellors in these public universities are demigods. They exercise power in a very crude manner. These small gods walk around with a number of bodyguards and a red carpet laid down for them occasionally. Any student in a public university can’t help but observe how a vice chancellor is feared and revered, not by students, but more so by professors. It is ridiculous to imagine that students can gather courage, once in a while, and confront a vice chancellor while professors can’t call him or her out for running down a university.

If they can’t do this, then what is the difference between primary school teachers, who fear headmasters, and university professors? Isn’t freedom of expression and thought a seminal core value in our universities?

But moving forward, the Cabinet Secretary for education should be advised that these shenanigans taking place in public universities will ruin the quality of education in these institutions of higher learning. And when the quality of public universities will be destroyed the only remaining option for Kenyans who want to pursue higher learning will be joining private universities.

Lastly, to the fighting University of Nairobi professors, Kenny Rodgers in his song Cowards of the County, said walk away from trouble if you can because sometimes you don’t have to fight to be a man.

Political Science student, University of Nairobi.

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