List of Universities Where Tribe is Key in Employment
Kenya’s “village universities” aimed to embody national representation and introduce students to global perspectives, but they have become mired in ethnic bias.
The institutions have come under scrutiny for hiring almost 80% of their staff from a single community, with 18 universities emerging as the worst offenders, particularly those initiated in counties through lobbying by the local political leadership.
Even universities with a longer history have institutions constrained by ethnicity in their hiring practices, with reports indicating employment rates ranging from 40% to 77% of staff coming from a single community.
At least ten current and former students from various universities have stated that the poor services and the use of regional dialects by staff in the workplace demoralized them. The effects of ethnicity are most felt outside lecture halls, in hostels, and in administrative services.
The vice chancellor of Daystar University, Prof. Laban Ayiro, warns of academic capture in Kenya’s public university education, eliminating merit in appointments and giving room for mediocrity.
He states that doing away with meritocracy invites unqualified individuals to demand positions. Prof. Ayiro notes that there is little learning and research in some public universities because of “mediocrity and ethnicity.”
People from their ethnic communities supervise students to get master’s and doctorate degrees. They can’t win grants or write competitive proposals.
According to the Auditor-General’s list of shame, Moi University, one of Kenya’s oldest institutions of higher learning, has 61% of its staff from a single community.
University management claims they inherited staff from upgraded colleges, but audits have identified that even in recent appointments, many still essentially employ people from the communities where they are located.
In 2019/20, the Auditor-General flagged Kirinyaga University for having 77% of its staff from the dominant ethnic community in the county. This is the worst case reported at any public university.
At Kibabii University, 331 of the 440 workers were from the majority community in the county, according to the Auditor-General.
The Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology (DeKUT) in Kenya was established in 2012 and currently employs 556 staff members. Unfortunately, most of the staff (67%) come from the dominant community in the county.
The university’s situation arises from the inheritance of staff members, primarily from the former Kimathi Institute of Technology. Additionally, the university’s location in Nyeri, which is not perceived as an attractive destination for individuals from other regions, contributes to this scenario.
To address the issue, DeKUT has introduced a graduate assistant program to attract students from other regions and communities. The university hopes that these students will eventually become employees and contribute to increasing staff diversity.
Similarly, the Meru University of Science and Technology Council faces a similar problem with ethnic staff diversity.
Prof. Romanus Odhiambo believes that the inheritance of staff from a former college and the unattractiveness of the university’s location are the main reasons for this imbalance.
According to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) Act of 2008, public establishments in Kenya must ensure that their staff employment reflects the diversity of the people of Kenya.
They are prohibited from having more than one-third of their staff from the same ethnic community. The NCIC commissioner, Danvas Makori, believes that politicians from the regions where universities are located are responsible for perpetuating this problem.
Politicians from the dominant community advocate for the employment of locals when recruiting staff or senior management officials from other regions. This practice empowers institutions to continue with the training and protects them from accountability.
To address the issue, the NCIC is currently conducting an audit and may take some institutions to court if found not to be making remedies.
Prof Peter Kioni, the VC of DeKUT, argues that employing too many staff members from one community helps education as long as they are qualified and competent.
However, Commissioner Makori believes diversity is crucial for universities as it provides a wider pool of talent and exposure, allowing for a broader view of issues.
Moi (61%), Maseno (64%), Masinde Muliro (68%), Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (45%), and Kenyatta University (40.7%) are among the established universities struggling with issues of diversity.
According to Professor Stephen Kiama, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, university administrations need to actively work towards promoting inclusivity.
Newer universities striving to achieve ethnic diversity face a challenge due to pressure from local communities, which advocate for prioritizing employment opportunities for their members. The fact that numerous universities received support from local leaders intensifies the difficulty, as he emphasized.
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List of Universities Where Tribe is Key in Employment