Maasai Mara University confers honorary degree to Prof Ogot at his rural home

Prof Bethwel Allan Ogot (left) receives a honorary degree at his home in Gem, Siaya County. (Photo: Collins Oduor/Standard)

They say if the mountain will not go to Moses, then Moses must go to the mountain.

But in a small village in Yala, Siaya, the opposite still held true last weekend: ‘Moses’ would not go to the mountain, so the entire mountain went to Moses.

A university temporarily moved its entire graduation square to the rural home of one of its founders in a spectacle never seen before in Kenya’s history of higher education.

The villagers at Gem Yala in Siaya County were first alerted by a convoy of sleek vehicles snaking their way into the rural home of Kenya’s renowned history scholar and educationist, Prof Bethwel Allan Ogot early in the morning on Saturday.

Then came the big surprise.

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More than 20 university professors — all dressed in flowing academic gowns, descended on Prof Ogot’s home, to witness Maasai Mara University in Narok County award him a honorary degree.

The university senate resolved to move the ceremony to Prof Ogot’s home because the legendary don had a knee problem and could not travel to Narok.

It was also a fitting honour for Prof Ogot from a university he helped establish during his tenure as the Chancellor of Moi University.

Maasai Mara University administration led by the chairman of its council, Prof John Okumu and Vice Chancellor Mary Walingo, presided over the ceremony witnessed by senior university officials and friends of the history scholar.

Cloaked in full ceremonial gowns and strictly following a keenly scripted programme, the leaders conferred upon Prof Ogot a honorary degree for his immense contribution towards the establishment of the now fully fledged university and his works in improving the socio-political space in Kenya.

An upbeat Ogot was fitted into his own robe by Prof Okumu and Walingo before a certificate was handed over to him by the council chairman to thunderous applause.

Prof Okumu described Ogot as a great academician whose contributions to the transformation of higher education in Kenya will be appreciated for many generations.

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Ogot’s works, he said, were to be emulated by every academician looking to transform higher learning.

The ceremony was witnessed by former University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor, Prof George Magoha, who described Ogot as an unparalleled academician. Also in attendance was Maseno University Vice Chancellor Julius Nyabundi. Egerton and Moi University Vice Chancellors sent representatives.

Maasai Mara University Vice Chancellor, Prof Walingo said the decision to take the certificate to Ogot at his doorstep was arrived at by the council to honour the professor for fighting hard to set up the former constituent college of Moi university.

In his short address, Prof Ogot warned that mediocrity was creeping into Kenyan universities and could affect the quality of higher education.

“In March 2005, I warned that high level of mediocrity was creeping into public universities. I stated that Kenya’s education needed to move from uniformity to diversity, from rigidity to flexibility, from conformity to resilience and from moulding to empowering. Today, I hold these sentiments even more strongly,” he said.

The dropping standards, Ogot said, was due to under-funding of universities. This challenge, he said, could be addressed if professors steered research to attract funding, which they can in turn use to train more students in research fields and fund PhDs.

Ogot said he championed the establishment of constituent colleges to offer higher education to more Kenyan students.

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Besides holding various positions in Kenyan universities, Prof Ogot is also an accomplished author with 39 book titles to his name.  He is working on his 40th title, The History of Nairobi. Now retired, Ogot spends most of his time reading and writing at his vast library or watching soccer.

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