Monday, July 7, 2014

The Travails of Kenyan Education

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The psychological and economic exertions of academic pursuits in Kenya cannot be refuted. Although this is not a preserve of developing countries, it is only fair to argue that it is more challenging to attain higher education in an underdeveloped economy as opposed to a developed one. It is likely that developed countries have put in place contingency measures to facilitate learning and research work because they understand the indisputable position of education in shaping human livelihoods. Developing countries, thus, seem to have reneged on this responsibility or taken it for granted.
In 2007 I missed a golden opportunity to relentless chase a DAAD scholarship opportunity and probably learn from some of the best institutions in the world. Blame this on personal error, a miscalculation on my part or being misled by naive and immature love, but the truth is in a blink of an eye I had lost the intellectual opening which would have economically handled my educational prospects. As a result, I went back to my alma mater as a prodigal son and begged to be taken back. At least I could pursue my costly PhD programme at a manageable pace.
I don’t consider myself a bright student by any measure. What I know is that growing up was decorated by financial upheavals and my parents endlessly reminded me that my economic salvation lay with education. It was a psychological and spiritual battle as my young mind strove to make sense of a world of inequalities. I miraculously survived high school and through the benevolence funds of HELB attained my BA degree from the University of Nairobi. Never mind the fact that I am currently paying the last of the instalments of that loan after almost fifteen years later.
At the time I finished my BA degree at least the University of Nairobi had an educational programme for supporting first class honours students to pursue their MA degrees. It is through this arrangement that I attained by MA in Literature. I was not surprised that when I went back to HELB for more funds to pursue my PhD I was turned down. I had never started servicing my undergraduate degree loan! With a missed DAAD opportunity my last fortress was the bank. I may not be able to enumerate the number of banks I visited but one thing is clear about the credit system in the country. If you are not permanently employed or into a business then there is no bank, worth its name, that would transact business with you.
Somehow I enrolled for my PhD with scrapings from here and there. When I essentially became a permanent employee of Daystar University in 2010, after almost five years of part time teaching, I saw the door to cementing my education. Because Daystar has no dependable financial kitty for higher learning for its staff development programme, I took the riskier path and went to the bank once more. My bitterness with an unforgiving economic environment and a country without proper support mechanisms for education transformed me into an introvert. I never even applied for study leave or reduced workload from my employer. When you are a new employee you generously understand that these are not your preserves.
The fact that I completed my PhD studies under duress cannot be underscored. I empathise with all learners and academic enthusiasts who have to contend with lack of educational structures of whatever kind in their quest for knowledge. It is a herculean task that can’t and will never be single-handedly managed. As a society, do we care about education? Do we support those in need of it? My verdict is maybe we care but no we don’t support those in need of education.

  *This article was earlier printed in Daystar Connect, a Daystar University Publication. To purchase a copy, contact the Corporate Affairs Department at

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