How far is Kenyan academics evolving?
At the turn of the millennium and in the early years of the twenty-first century, this country experienced two concurrent phenomena: the liberalization of university education and the attendant monetization of university education. How far is Kenyan academics evolving?
The introduction of Module Two students, also known as “parallel students,” into public universities was the main characteristic of this monetization.
This arrangement was necessitated by the Kenyan government’s inability to support all students who met the minimum standards for admission to universities.
As a result, students whose parents or guardians could afford university tuition enrolled. Sometimes, the university degrees they enrolled in were more marketable than those of students who had performed better than them in Form Four.
For a country that requires an educated workforce, the opening of universities to all qualified applicants who could pay it was not a terrible thing. What was undesirable was what transpired as a result.
The difficulty is what came after the expansion of universities, which included the establishment of campuses, university colleges, and new universities.
The university dean of the time was in high demand due to neoliberal expansionism, and they were sometimes needed to teach in multiple universities around the country.
As a result, they had less time to engage in healthy intellectual dialogue as well as to write, publish, and conduct research. We had a university don who was more of a pedestrian than an academic as a result.
I use the term “pedestrian” both literally and symbolically because the newly hired university instructor was always on the go, traveling to campuses, or “moonlight,” as it is known, at various universities and teach.
This change was brought about by the dons’ desire to reconcile the challenging economic climate with the expanding opportunity to enhance their financial condition.
This is easily understandable in the grand scheme of things, as the purpose justifies the means. The paradox is that as such dons’ economic standing improved, their decline from the once-enviable heights of academia began.
Another negative effect of expansionism in Kenyan universities followed the increase in opportunities for managing the growing universities.
Chairmanships of departments, deanships, directorships, registrarships, and other well-known positions were all up for grabs. The Kenyan don of the time acted quickly and successfully, and the positions were indeed seized.
While it is true that sometimes the positions went to deserving and qualified individuals, it is also true that not every Tom, Dick, and Harry who was qualified was able to obtain one of them. Due to the intense competition, individuals who enjoyed the favor of university administrators were able to obtain them with relative ease.
This was frequently accompanied by a great deal of bootlicking and the loss of academic freedom that had previously elevated the former academic. We ended up with yes men and yes ladies who were more interested in striving for positions and other neoliberal capitalism trappings.
The discovered don will retreat to the safety of bars, dimly lighted, and freezing university cubicles, where they will mutter in whispers about some issue.
Participating in civic activities, such as meetings and workshops on education or the country’s electoral management, is not a concern for the millennial don.
This newly discovered don will refuse to attend union meetings where they might jointly agitate for better terms, but will instead conceal to complain about delayed salaries and the like behind the skirts and shirts of other dons.
The cowardly pack will warn you to be wary lest you be targeted if you dare raise your voice to express a dissenting opinion or use your mental faculties to the fullest extent.
They are correct, of course, as this is the victimization that inevitably results from dons shrinking in their courts and blouses, as we have done over the past twenty years.
Therefore, when we complain that dons are no longer regarded and held in the same esteem as they once were, we should be reminded of these things and our part in our own denigration. Being brutally honest with ourselves and asking, “Are we university professors or just university teachers?” is a wonderful place to start.
How far is Kenyan academics evolving?