Third Eye

Political disdain towards teachers confounding

Friday, September 10th, 2021 00:00 |
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i. Photo/PD
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.

The disdain Kenyan politicians display towards teachers is simply confounding.

A lawmaker aligned to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) let some of this out while defending his new party boss.

Last week was not good from a political standpoint for the Deputy President (DP) William Ruto.

It started with reports that some of his security details from the General Service Unit had been replaced by Administration Police.

Hell broke loose with his supporters demanding an explanation. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and a coterie of security officers, including Principal Secretary  Karanja Kibicho showed up in a parliamentary committee session to give answers.

But his were not the answers DP’s supporters were expecting. The politicians shifted their strategy into one of personal attack against the CS and his PS, both who happen to have been former dons.

The politician was keen to disparage these former teachers describing them as mere “people of the chalk”.

Although teaching at the university is evolving and universities are getting rid of chalk, but chalk was the predominant assortment for writing on the board when the politician, who graduated from the University of Nairobi about two decades ago, was at that institution.

Since his graduation, the lawmaker has held some important positions in the corporate world.

It would have been impossible for him to hold these positions but for his university qualification. 

Universities- in societies where they are recognised for their worth, are citadels of knowledge from which society draws to inform national policy and the trajectory of their development. 

As the world struggles with mainstreaming cryptocurrency, the United States of America is drawing from its best minds in the academy to help the country formulate policies that will inform the operationalisation of the new phenomenon in their financial market.

It is in universities that men and women are licensed to read, commissioned to explore the frontiers of knowledge to improve society, tasked with wrestling with ideas to find solutions to the world’s problems, and make society a better place.

Being exposed to so much knowledge, as terminal qualifications required for teaching at the university usually does, makes you realise just how little you know in your field.

Consider eight years of primary education, followed by four years in the tertiary academy, before joining the university for an undergraduate degree equals 16 years of learning, but which do not yet qualify you to teach at the university. 

Another six additional years is required to be given the license to stand with chalk before a class at the university.

Still, being a good teacher is not enough to keep you at the university; you have to engage in further research, generate knowledge and demonstrate that you indeed offer service to society before you can stay at the university. 

It is this over two decades of being a student, and then accounting for your time at the university in other ways, that a Kenyan policy maker, who should know better, belittles as watu wa chokaa”.

These “watu wa chokaa” have great influence over their own classrooms now filed with voting age students. Mama mbogas listen to them in the villages from where they hail. 

Is it the measure of the Kenyan politician’s arrogance that the hallowed halls of learning pose no threat to their political career that contributes to their so base a hubris?

It is hard to imagine that the politician would have used the same tone in reference to leaders of the faith community.

Indeed, the politicians that refer to scholars in terms designed to be sordid, seem to bow in awe when referring to mama mboga

At the very least, to demonstrate a modicum of deference to the academic community, the leaders of the Hustler movement should have had the self-awareness to rebuke their foot soldier, or even acknowledged that among the league of scholars, may be, some are hustlers too, and may have a contribution to make to the establishment of the hustler kingdom. —The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

More on Third Eye