Bring down these ethnic pillars in public varsities


Published on 29/01/2009

Mike Owuor

It must have taken a lot of courage for Prof Bethwel Ogot to touch the hot potato of tribalism in institutions of higher learning during Moi University’s graduation ceremony last year. A professor, he said, should profess a discipline, not ethnicity. But such reasoning is usually considered by some as meant to marginalise certain communities. In short, tribalism, not merit, has taken over some universities. It is hard to argue with this assertion.

National cohesion

PointBlank is not surprised that nobody, including Higher Education Minister Sally Kosgey, has had the guts to initiate debate on the good professor’s criticism. Indeed, it was not the first time he was delving into such issues. In 2005, he claimed national universities “have been reduced to theatres of mediocrity”, and a year later he said some promotions in academia were influenced by politicians. This, he argued, compromised standards.

We couldn’t agree more. Unless this “our university for our people” idea, fuelled by politicians, ends, we are unlikely to achieve national cohesion. Perhaps if we had more Prof Ogots, things would be different.

Arise, you slumbering middle class

Without the active participation of the middle class, says Mr Odhiambo T Oketch, Kenya will never be saved from poor political leadership. He reasons that since they do not depend on the political class for handouts, the middle class should have no qualms challenging politicians.

“We set out at Independence with a clear vision to move the country forward, but what do we have almost 46 years down the line? Poverty is rampant, illiteracy is at its peak and shelter in towns is unaffordable,” he says.

And while wananchi die of hunger, adds Oketch, our leaders steal maize and hospitals are not equipped. Besides, basics like water and electricity have become campaign tools. Even Kisumu, on the shores of lake Victoria, has an erratic water supply. This state of affairs is made worse by a middle class that enjoys standing by as things go wrong. This casual attitude, says Oketch, should change.

“We must rise up and engage the country, by mobilising Kenyans against tribalism, a tool that has been perfected to divide us. Let us surprise them by supporting completely new leaders, and consigning those in Government to Siberia,” he says. Easier said than done, don’t you think?

Maltreatment in Malava

There is no point increasing the number of hospitals if existing ones cannot be properly equipped, says Mr Murila Musungu, who is yet to see the benefits of splitting the Ministry of Health into Medical Services and Public Health and Sanitation. Murila describes the state of most hospitals as demoralising.

“Take the Malava District Hospital. Its lack of personnel and equipment is so bad that it could as well be referred to as a dispensary,” he claims.

Murila alleges there is no X-ray machine and very few microscopes are available. He also says patients have a limited choice of medicine, and only those with money to buy prescribed drugs are assured of the right treatment. These, unfortunately, are only a few.

Poor management

“I was surprised one day when I went to the hospital carrying a patient on a bicycle only to be stopped at the gate and asked to pay Sh10 for entering the compund. However, at the end of the day the patient did not even get treatment. The hospital management seems more interested in making money,” he claims.

Murila wants ministers Anyang’ Nyong’o and Beth Mugo to step in.

Minister leaves us in the dark on special school

Nothing disappointed one of our readers in Lurambi on October 16 more than the fact that pupils at the Kakamega School for the Deaf had no electricity. He also claimed they did not have enough lamps for their evening studies yet most homes neighbouring the school had power.

The public boarding school, he said, is located a stone’s throw away from Kakamega town, and he wanted to know if Education Minister Sam Ongeri was aware the pupils were living in darkness. Despite our reminder on November 13 (‘Special school pupils still living in darkness’), we are yet to hear from the minister.

Stop puritan anti-bar battle

Steven, a resident of Nairobi’s South B estate, says he read with dismay the ‘malicious’ claim by Wangeci in yesterday’s PointBlank about bar nuisance in the neighbourhood (‘Cops silence noisy bar’).

“Although she is entitled to her opinion, I do not think we have any bar that either plays ‘absolutely loud’ music or neighbours a school. This is all a figment of her imagination,” he says.

Steven, who claims he was born and brought up in South B, wants Wangeci to stop being mischievous, as there are those who need the services of bars, without being a nuisance to others.

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