Fake certificates shame our nation


When Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome, then Nairobi County Commander displayed some of the fake certificates and documents including title deeds, university degrees and certificates that were found in a building in Mfangano Street Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Writing in one of the local dailies a week ago, Makau wa Mutua was right on fake academic papers. He pointed out that only the president can decisively deal with this national shame.

The issue had been taken up by the deputy president who suggested, I guess with some pun, that some fellows from River Road have approached him because he has only one degree. Have the fellows been arrested? Why are they so bold?

Why have other government officials lower down the ladder not taken up this issue with the same gusto? How can 2000 civil servants be holding fake certificates?

Let us ask first why the fake papers are haunting our no longer young nation. The simple answer is that fake papers are allowed, tolerated and protected. There is no way one can apply for a job, go for an interview, get hired, go through probation and get confirmed with no one questioning their certificate. Most fake certificate holders have ‘godfathers’.

Two is that we have scant information on degree programmes and universities despite internet on our phones. I had thought that with anyone on the net, information and hopefully knowledge would compete with air in abundance. I may have been mistaken. I am not that old, but other dons can confirm that students were more informed before internet.

A good and comical example: a few years ago a speaker in one of the county assemblies called me over a potential job hire who had a first class in both masters and PhD. Someone could have been mesmerised by such degrees but degrees are not classified at that level! Talk of fake faking.

Fakers use far-away universities that invoke awe. Another example; what’s the difference between the University of Washington and the University of Washington DC? Do both exist? Check online. We are fascinated by Western institutions in addition to their names. Do we fake degrees from Eastern countries such as China and Japan?

Can fellows from River Road give data on the most faked certificates? They could also honour us with a list of buyers. Let’s add that advancements in photocopying and online universities have aided faking.

Competition has created a fertile market for fake certificates. By giving higher qualifications for lucrative jobs and not experience, we have created a market for fakes. If all that stands between me and a job or leadership position is a certificate, why not get one by any means; pay for it. I could even start a university to award me a degree.

The fake certificates have found a receptive market. Lots of goods sold in the local market are fake, such as vehicle spare parts. The owners of such certificates are part of a thriving ecosystem. Remember fake doctors? Fake policemen? What have we not faked?

Some fake institutions find legitimacy by landing in Africa. Some have religious or quasi-religious affiliation. They court the big people through honorary degrees. Why don’t holders of such degree indicate it’s honorary? Should our children aspire to hold honorary degrees or real degrees supported by research and love for knowledge?

Kudos to some leaders who have not used honorary degrees and still stand out: think of Raila Odinga or Mwai Kibaki.

Pick pockets thrive in crowds. Could ‘massification’ of higher education be aiding fake certificates? Would we have fewer fake certificates if we had fewer universities?  I have noted with much curiosity that many Kenyans leave out their high school qualifications in their CVs. Why?

Fake certificates are a sign of national immaturity. How does one feel parading fake credentials? Or shame is now extinct, the end justifies the means?

Fake money leads to inflation. Fake certificates make our education lose value. That makes our graduates uncompetitive globally. Yet, we are trying to export surplus labour.

Fake certificates also raise the value of foreign certificates. We have more Kenyans sending their children abroad, draining foreign currency and brains. The universities that guard their certificate raise their profile and fees. The tragedy is that it takes years to build institutions and their reputations, you can destroy them overnight.

Prof Mutua also claimed that beyond fake certificates, our universities have become brothels where marks are traded for sex. He should have provided evidence as a lawyer, not quote from social media. We have very hard working and honest professors and lecturers, he condemned them too.

I was personally offended. There are girls who have earned top marks and honours honestly. Generalisation should be based on evidence not emotions. A bad reputation for our institutions hurts the next generation; most will never leave this country.

The fake certificate holders should be listed and so should sex for marks traders. Court cases provide insight into these vices, but not enough. That’s why Mutua asked for a commission of inquiry. What did the presidential working group on education say about the two issues?