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Treat our professors with dignity, it takes 40 years to produce one

University education is an essential and immediate driver of economic and social development. [iStock]

One of the more seductive intellectual pleasures is to be caught up in an active debate involving analysis of self in order to have a broader understanding and share with readers and other scholars. In such cases then, scholarship seems less lonely.

Concrete ideas, concept and analyses thus get refined and many issues emerge in a collegial debate. For that reason, I discuss fundamental issues that affect professors in Kenyan universities.

By the way, it takes 40 years to produce one professor in Kenya. Despite these many years of intellectual indulgence, our professors are a neglected lot. Most of them die prematurely and retire miserably. They are a product of a society that does not value education. Most of them are ‘disqualified’ from ascending to State jobs by a social paradigm in Kenya which long threw meritocracy out the window and rewards mediocrity. If you scan through top appointments in this country, you will realise that only one out of 10 professors feature prominently.

There is certainly a deep-seated problem where the laugh industry thrives and comedians make millions and become richer than anyone in the society. Kenyan university professors are becoming more vulnerable each day. In the 1990s, most of them ran to foreign universities that accorded them value and respect as dons. These African intellectuals looked to anchor nationalism and spread ideals of African brotherhood all over the world. These were exciting times in the full flush of political independence. But today, Covid-19 complications have cut transnational exchange of scholars so much that hybridisation of knowledge across the globe is impossible.

The miseries of professors were clearly manifested during the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions. With salary cuts and lack of cushion, the coronavirus pandemic relentlessly tore on the professoriate. They were overworked, stressed, and thoroughly exhausted. Since the advent of Covid-19, for instance, Egerton university alone has lost more than six professors, most of them dying from academic related illness and deprivation. It became quite challenging to the faculty members who had to do pivoting, adjusting, and working harder and faster than ever before to keep up with the ever-changing challenges.  

Most university professors feel like giving up, leaving university and look for money elsewhere. In fact, a professor in Meru is contesting for the MCA position. What many don’t know is that an MCA earns three times the amount a university professor earns and gets more monthly allowances than a professor can get in a lifetime. 

University education is an essential and immediate driver of economic and social development. Accomplished human capital and a powerful research base are not only key elements of a country’s economic growth, but they also define its capacity to achieve sustainable development goals.

The government should appoint highly qualified members of society, recognise and reward our professors and give them incentives to stay and mold our young people. 

-Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University