Spare us this circus over Sakaja’s team college graduation



The circus surrounding Senator Johnson Sakaja’s graduation in Nairobi or lack thereof is sickening. Is establishing college attendance and graduation such a herculean task?

We know that most African universities, except those in South Africa, are still at the bottom of the pile in global rankings. We know that thefts perpetrated by administrators have brought many to their knees.

We know, especially in Kenya, that it is tribalism, not merit, that determines who gets which academic position. We have seen protests led by a governor and other politicians demanding that a member of the tribe be appointed vice chancellor of a university. We know that many universities in Kenya are tribal enclaves, run and predominantly staffed by tribal men and women. We know that in many universities, female students are forced to sleep with their professors in order to “succeed”. The exposure of ‘sex for grades’ at a Ghanaian university was a national and continental disgrace.

We know of these and other failures of the African university. But surely keeping records of participants and graduates shouldn’t be one of them.

Yet, we were treated to a back and forth between the Commission for University Education, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the University of Uganda team.

Equally annoying is the media’s blow-by-blow narrative of this saga, without attempting, as media in other regions would, to independently verify claims and counter-claims. The failure of all these institutions to establish the facts has inspired Sakaja to make outlandish claims: that President Uhuru Kenyatta is to blame for his graduation woes.


How can the president erase records in a university? Ridiculously, part of the population believes his claims.

In an important article titled In Praise of Alienation, the late Abiola Irele denounced the superficial acquisition of habits, institutions and systems that have come down to us as a result of our encounter with Europe. He argued that we should not only embrace education, but also its spirit.

My understanding of the meaning of Abiola is that learning to read and write is only a means to an end. They are only tools to enable the higher purpose of the pursuit of knowledge.

There are also values ​​and habits of thought that an education should inculcate: critical thinking, tolerance for different ideas, and personal integrity. When a university sends its graduates out into the world, it expects to shine in the light of their brilliance and accomplishments. Graduates cement the university’s reputation as a place of knowledge, excellence and esteem. This university becomes a proud national cultural asset like MIT, Yale, Oxford.

On the other hand, the African university auctions doctorates and diplomas to the highest bidder. Bodies like CUE shamelessly lend legitimacy to these counterfeits. The African university has failed to build its educational edifice on values ​​such as the pursuit of knowledge, critical thinking and personal integrity.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator


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