Despite the opposition of many Kenyans to BBI, there is a sense that politicians are moving with the project full steam ahead and there is nothing the people can do about it. More perplexing is the fact that with elections in just over a year, the fear of what supporting BBI could do to their political careers does not seem to faze the politicians. What explains this powerful force against democracy?
Proposed amendments to the Universities Act are replacing the public good with bureaucracy as the goal of education
Just around the time that the political class has proposed radical distortions of culture in the BBI report, the Commission of University Education has proposed amendments to the universities act that would allow the president to start a university on his or her own pet projects, known as the "specialized degree awarding institution."
Other amendments in the proposed act hijack the creative innovations of universities by embedding them in law, and extend the reach of the Commission in processes that should ideally be approved by university councils.
These amendments were published on 24th November 2019 in an announcement about the launch of the approval presided by the Education CS, Prof Magoha, that was held two days later. The event was not covered by any of the mainstream media, and even the Commission itself has limited its reporting on the event to a facebook post. It is clear that the government wants to shield education reforms from public debate, with eyewitness accounts saying that at the meeting, Magoha threatened the "stakeholders" present with standard national exams for all universities if the universities opposed the amendments.
It is important to note that these amendments come in addition to several other gestures from the Ministry of Education to limit education, culture and thinking in Kenya, including the recent replacement of the education system in primary and high schools, the crushing of the teachers' union KNUT by their government employer, the Teachers' Service Commission.
Below is my citizen's response which I sent to the Commission, and I invite Kenyans to send their reflections to the Commission of University Education. Kenyans who may not want to get bogged down by technical details may copy paste and send this post, or if write a simple message asking the Commission to subject the amendments to public debate as required by the constitution. The email is email@example.com.
We need to uproot Kenya’s deep story of Kikuyu (white) masculinity, but with BBI, it is fighting back
It is now fairly well accepted in public discourse outside Kikuyu-land that the rates of alcoholism and suicide among Kikuyu men are related to the soul pact which the Kikuyu community have signed since 1969 to keep the Kenyattas in power. It is a phenomenon that brings a lot of bitterness in the rest of the country, especially in the communities that have most recently suffered large scale state violence, such as that was witnessed in Kibra and Kisumu in 2017 as Kenyans protested the rigged election of Muigai Kenyatta.
The extremely slow realization that the Kikuyu are getting isolated from the rest of Kenya has started to produce a literature in which it is explained that the Kikuyu have acknowledged the mistake they made in supporting Muigai in 2017.
On September 23, Kenyans began their week with sad news that six children had lost their lives at Precious Talents, a private school in the low-income neighborhood of Ngando, Nairobi, following the collapse of one of the school’s poorly constructed buildings. Our belligerent CS Prof George Magoha rushed to the scene, and after inspecting reading a written statement, he fielded questions from the press.
In response to the first question about the provision of education for children from poor neighborhoods, the CS hinted that the children had died because the parents had chosen not to take their children to the public schools in the area. He said: “It comes to a matter of choice for parents. I am duly advised that the nearest public primary school from here is only two kilometers away. But then we are a democratic country and the role of the government must be restricted to ensuring that the... public primary schools available are safe enough.”
The regime of Muigai wa Johnstone, popularly known as Uhuru Kenyatta, has withdrawn from performing the functions of government. It is now a bank. Rather than provide social services, it is extracting money from us citizens, and passing it on to private sector to provide education. The government's only role to collect and distribute taxes.
That is the essence of Sessional Paper no. 1 of 2019. In the unnecessarily lengthy policy document, the Ministry of Education proposes to hand over the work of education to private sector, and then become a bloated organ for supervising and regulating educational institutions. This institutional laziness explains why an education student was recently overheard saying that they have no intention to teach when they are through with their studies. The student intends to work in educational "policy," without ever doing the work of teaching.
It’s been eleven years since I first heard that the subjects I teach are useless to the market. The impact of that statement took me down an abusive relationship with the market for a few years, during which I tried very hard to please the market. We got guest lectures, a Creatives Academy workshop that trended on twitter and won a BAKE award, three visiting professors, and fairly good job placements for our students. We were visible on social media. But it was never enough. The market still said we didn’t matter.
I eventually decided that I better find out what arts and humanities departments outside Kenya are doing. I found out that they were fighting the same battles as us, and that they had named the monster they were fighting. It was called neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the idea that the society works best if every social relationship is treated as an economic transaction. Teachers now don’t teach students; they serve clients.
Through the Higher Education Loans Board, the Kenya government has been lending loans to students for their university education fees, and using predatory, private sector practices to recover the money. Within a year of graduation, students have to repay the loan at 5,000 shillings a month, regardless if they have an income or not. Worse, HELB has partnered with the Credit Information Bureau to share information of defaulters.
For graduates, HELB loans are a trail of tears.
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