The University of Nairobi flagged off 8,000 graduants today. That is the total number of votes cast in Turkana East Constituency in the 2013 general election. The UoN has 38 faculties and schools, among those is the Faculty of Arts. In last year’s graduation, the Faculty of Arts alone graduated 1,270 (one thousand, two hundred and seventy) Bachelors students – 24 of which with a First Class Hons – the highest academic achievement at that level of pupilage. Congratulations to all of you.
1,270 is a mindboggling figure, considering that BA students have always been disparaged as those who study a ‘Bachelors in Anything’. 8,000 overall is a crazy outlay.
Knowledge-acquisition is not a cheap venture, try ignorance and compare the results. The thought of 1,270 students sitting in one lecture hall soaking in knowledge from a PhD sprinkler lecturing from the podium 100km radius away, is mind-numbing. Those whose brains are closer to the centre will be sufficiently irrigated, many will never, ever, assume a greeny-leaf position. Drip irrigation, therefore, remains the only assured approach to academic prosperity. Each student to their bottle, at their roots. Each absorbs water at their own pace, depending on the quality of the soil underneath . Each student, eventually, consumes the same amount of water. That is what equality is all about.
But equality can only thrive in an enabling environment. Lecturers are a very disadvantaged lot. They start out in small cubicles, partitioned by rickety bookshelves, for office spaces. The university assigns them an office table produced from a one-year industrial sawdust waste glued together, polished with a sandpaper that has seen better days. The hump of their desktop computers only slightly better than the cathode ray oscilloscope on my late grandfather’s B&W television. Their bookshelves are full of achaelogocial texts that were read during the medieval times. It is not rare to find a medical journal still teaching students how to crack a human skull using Oldowan tools.
They come to class wearing lew dhiang’ neckties, the sole of their shoes slanting at an academic angle. They have a car grant, but of what use is a car if you cannot send it to a clinic every time it begins to cough?
Housing quarters for lecturers are barely admirable. Whenever you visit, prepare to duck wet undergarments dripping second-grade liquid soap, hanging on top of one another, on the line, next to the half-a-century rusty main gate. Still, we call them University dons. Still, we expect them to mark 1,270 exam scripts, each having 15 pages, all in a space of 5 days. The running joke that BA lecturers always throw exam scripts up in the air and assign an A grade to the ones that fall far away from the epicenter, may not be far-fetched. They are, after all, human.
Still, 1,270 is a humongous number. 1,270 is the number that share 35 desktop computers at the hurriedly refurbished, poorly designed, dimly-lit, Hyslop Computer Lab sitting on the ever-diminishing main campus landmass which we have, now, rented to the Chinese. 1,270 is the number that shares 04 copies of ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ by Walter Rodney – a required reading for all students taking a Political Science major. 1,270 is a cursed number.
Prof. George Omore Magoha opened our University to every Oguda, Macharia and Kiluva. Kenya’s elite institute of higher learning has now been reduced to the level of toddling middle-level colleges that have names my grandmother would mistake for a rotting pumpkin. We want our dignity back.