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Political leaders scramble to acquire degrees with MCAs leading the pack

COUNTIES
By Agustine Oduor | August 8th 2016
H.E Hon Dr. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka at the Uganda Technology and Management University. (Photo: Courtesy)

The quest to acquire more academic papers to master management and legal issues has pushed many politicians back to the classroom ahead of next year’s polls.

In particular, the rush has hit many members of county assemblies, as fears mount that some of them could be locked out of the lucrative position should a proposed Bill that requires them to be degree holders become law.

This, together with the low perception the electorate has about politicians without ‘proper’ academic papers, has further contributed to the growing number of ‘honorable students’.

A survey by The Standard revealed that several prominent faces in the political arena have enrolled in bachelors, masters and doctorate courses.

But a Bill in the Senate that seeks to raise the academic qualifications for MCAs has been the subject of massive speculation that has driven politicians, especially MCAs, into near-panic mode.

If passed, the Bill sponsored by Nandi Senator Stephen Sang will see candidates interested in ward representation forced to acquire at least one post-secondary school qualification.

LITERACY LEVELS

Mr Sang argued that MCAs were incapable of performing their oversight and legislative functions due to their limited level of education.

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Senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Joy Gwendo (nominated) and some MPs supported this argument.

A June report by the defunct Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) indicated that the low academic qualifications of MCAs had affected the quality of laws they pass.

The report, which assessed 32 counties, found that low literacy levels among MCAs were limiting debate on Bills, resulting in sub-standard laws.

Section 193 1(b) of the Constitution states that among other qualifications, MCAs are eligible for election if they satisfy any educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by the Constitution or an Act of Parliament.

However, the law does not set minimum academic qualifications for the MCAs.

Nairobi, for instance, has 85 elected and 42 nominated MCAs, most of whom do not have post-secondary education qualifications.

Pricked by the proposals in the Bill, many MCAs from all over the country have enrolled for diploma and certificate courses in various universities and colleges. The favourite institutions, The Standard established, are Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology(JKUAT), KCA University and Kenya Methodist University (Kemu). Kemu has about 40 MCAs pursuing various diploma and degree programmes.

Mount Kenya University and University of Nairobi (UoN) are the preferred institutions among MPs and senators.

JKUAT and KCA started offering a certificate course in county government management in 2012 and about 45 former councillors of the defunct Nairobi City Council attended. The course enabled them to vie for MCA and MP positions in Nairobi.

Now, other MCAs across the country are following suit.

Jaffer Kassam, the Nairobi Parklands/Highridge ward representative, who was among the early students in 2011, said the qualifications boosted his management skills.

“There is a marked difference between those who have not pursued any programme and myself. And this is clear even during debates,” Mr Kassam said.

Kakamega’s Leader of Majority Robert Makhanu supports the idea of raising the education qualifications for MCAs, noting that the responsibilities in the counties were different from those of the defunct councils.

“These responsibilities require leaders with high academic qualifications,” Mr Makhanu said.

TOWN CAMPUSES

In Nyanza, Maseno University and KCA are attracting many MCAs who mainly prefer the Kisumu town campuses. Migosi MCA Paul Achayo is currently doing a degree course in county governance, management and leadership at KCA.

“I am looking forward to graduating this year,” he said.

Mr Achayo is also studying for a degree course in public relations and urges his colleagues to consider going back to school.

“The defunct councils where I served and the county assembly are different and, therefore, I need more skills and education on how to go about legislation,” said Achayo.

He encouraged his colleagues to use their free time to attend classes, noting that more education would help them discharge their duties knowledgeably.

James Were, the Nyalenda MCA, said he is doing a degree in public administration. He said ward representatives should have at least a diploma.

Kisumu North MCA Caroline Owen is also pursuing a degree at Maseno University while Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga is doing a PhD in human resource management at UoN.

Wiper Democratic Movement party leader Kalonzo Musyoka is studying for a master’s degree in law. Mithika Linturi (MP for Igembo South) is also in class doing law.

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