RESEARCH FUNDING

Governor Mutua's vitriol on dons over Covid-19 research misplaced

Politicians in leadership positions have denied professors the opportunity to be creative and innovative in Kenya

In Summary

• Politicians in leadership positions have denied professors the opportunity to be creative and innovative in Kenya.

• All they do is name-call and ridicule dons into submission of their wrongdoings.

Machakos Governor Ezekiel Mutua when he appeared before the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee to answer to the audit queries by the Auditor General for the 2014/15 financial year. July 19, 2018
Machakos Governor Ezekiel Mutua when he appeared before the County Public Accounts and Investments Committee to answer to the audit queries by the Auditor General for the 2014/15 financial year. July 19, 2018
Image: JACK OWUOR

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua made an attempt to address an adage issue of the worth of a university don. 

He, however, picked it up before waking up. Time and time again, Kenyan university dons have been effortlessly trying to make this government know the worth of a lecturer in terms of what they can do for this country.

Sorry to remind Mutua that in all his two terms as a governor, he has never addressed any issues concerning lecturers, including the Machakos University, which he has only visited twice. First,  during the gubernatorial debate show and the second time when he launched his Maendeleo Chap Chap party.

 

This despite the institution being in his backyard

Upon the arrival of the coronavirus in the country, universities were ordered closed, like other institutions of learning. They were not involved in that decision, as is always the case.

Not that they would have objected to the idea, but, they would have offered other alternative ideas like what Mutua is talking about — research on Covid-19 vaccine. They would have discussed fundings for such research.

Before Governor Mutua ridicules professors for doing nothing in regards to the coronavirus global pandemic,  he should first start by finding out what goes on in the universities.  Him and his ilk hardly have time for such. Instead, they benchmark abroad to find out how cows in Europe produce more milk, or how boda boda riders in Rwanda operate. 

Politicians in leadership positions have denied professors the opportunity to be creative and innovative in Kenya. All they do is name-call and ridicule dons into submission of their wrongdoings.

What can a professor do when his or her students are not given a chance to construct a local bridge, instead the tender is given to a Chinese firm that is ready to give a kickback? The professor and his students are all frustrated by this bourgeois government. 

We have been waiting for their involvement in our institution. Do they even know what we teach? Most of them only appear in convoys during graduations.

 

It is good that our politicians are now showing up how much they are scared to a point they are realising that medics and academicians can offer solutions to human challenges. It is my hope that in the future, they will know that these professionals also have stomachs and families to take care of. 

Formerly pure dons seem to have stopped thinking in the right direction. They do not even want to be related to those institutions of thinking, because such places might remind them, time and again, that they are behaving badly by going abroad for treatment of a common cold.

Now that they are all locked in here, you hardly, hear of any of them going abroad for treatment. Where are all those diseases that they used to troop with to JKIA, in and out?

The whole country knows how many times we have been trying to address them to recognise whatever little we do at the universities. Anytime we even come up with a simple proposal to fund, they always turn them down because we don't include "20 per cent cut for administrative balances". It is even a struggle for those offices to offer our students attachments because there are no kickbacks.

I heard it from the radio when the good governor said we don't need money to conduct the Covid-19 vaccine research, as was done previously with Penicillin and Malaria medicines. I pity that reasoning.

What it implies is that professors should be working for free, pro bono. They should emulate the late Mother Teresa. University professors should always be selfless in a country with leaders. How much is Governor Mutua's government spending on research or he thinks professors and PhD holders should do that research with their salaries?

It is high time this country rethinks and start questioning the worth of a university don. Biomedical researches are what would drive this debate now, not rhetorics from our leaders.

All these years medics and university dons have been striking and demonstrating all over for a better working environment,  government priorities have always been obscured towards personal gains, rather than national gains.

Prof Wycliffe H Odiwuor is the UASU chairman, Maseno University