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Policymaking, oversight and legislation need people with academic background, say education experts

By Judah Ben Hur | April 27th 2021


County Assembly Forum (CAF) Chairman Ndegwa Wahome has termed Section 22 of the Election Act unconstitutional. [File, Standard]

For the longest time, leaders were thought to be born, an idea that propagated the existence of monarchs for centuries.

However, research has shown that leaders are made through self-development, experiences and training.

The Elections Act 2012 will require aspirants eyeing positions of MP and MCA to be degree holders.

Although the law was enacted before the 2017 General Election, MPs pushed its implementation to 2022, stalling the process for them to acquire degrees.

For many leaders without the required academic papers, the law is seen as a means to “subvert the will of the people”.

However, education experts believe that positions of policy making, oversight and law-making should be held by someone with an academic background.

“In the legislative houses, people must go to school because the effect of the law they are going to pass goes beyond them as individuals and their immediate community,” said Jonathan Wesaya, an education and strategy consultant.

“Politics requires guts. It must be someone with principles and ideals and someone who can say this is what I stand for. Education enhances that. Someone without education will go with the wind,” explains Prof Patrick Digolo of the University of Nairobi.

Mr Wesaya cites a case where a Speaker of a county assembly in western Kenya resorted to using the local dialect.

“Education becomes important because it gives them a leeway to interrogate issues, Bills and Motions in a more informed way instead of using conjecture,” explained Wesaya.

In contrast, Ndegwa Wahome, chairman of the County Assemblies Forum (CAF), a blanket body for the 47 counties, says Section 22 of the Election Act is a direct attack to Article one of the constitution that states, “All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution.”

“The sovereignty of the people is supreme and there should be no other interventions to decide who is to be taken to the people for election,” said Mr Wahome.

But experts believe the new law will open a window for young people to vie for political positions as a majority of them are degree holders.

“If we are encouraging our children to go to school, they need to see the direct benefit, the social, economic and political capital of education,” said Wesaya.

“It is time for the young people to prove themselves because this law will offer them a doorway that did not exist before,” stated Peace and Security researcher Dominic Pkalya.

Even though the new requirement will lock out many, Wesaya argues that it is better to have a leader with some level of education as opposed to one who doesn’t. He argues that this will lead to better decision-making and negotiation in the House.

Digolo blamed the raw deals the country has gotten when dealing with developed countries such as China on the low levels of education that the leadership have. He cited the Standard Gauge Railway, which cost taxpayers Sh390.6 billion making it the most expensive infrastructural project since independence.

“Who negotiated deals like this railway from Mombasa to Nairobi? The Chinese did us in. The deals are never in the interest of Kenyans. There is a lot of manipulation at the international level. The lack of understanding of such negotiations might cost the country billions,” he said.

The don said leaders with academic qualifications will be better placed to seal international deals that will serve the people.

There have been calls to amend the law to ensure it does not lock out individuals who might have the confidence of the people but do not have a degree.

“Years of experience and the value proposition somebody is putting on the table is what needs to count for leadership,” said Wesaya.

Even though such an amendment has not been suggested in the National Assembly but only exists in the BBI, CAF promised to challenge the Elections Act in court terming it “unconstitutional and against the will and sovereignty of the people”.

“It is also unconstitutional because there was no public participation. The people of Kenya are not aware that their powers were taken away from them,” said Wahome.

Other arguments against the new law is the role of politicians vis-à-vis that of academicians. Digolo views education as a tool that tames a person and might knock out the brazen, feisty spirit of passionately arguing issues in Parliament and settle for meek, technocratic debates.

Experts have also raised concern over the rise in lawyers as representatives in both Houses. Digolo prefers the election of individuals who will be fully committed to the job given by the people, and not be distracted by their previous professions.

“Lawyers are not very committed people in the course of politics. They are in Parliament, but they are running their businesses,” he said. 

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