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Institutions of higher learning are National Entities, not tribal cocoons

By Sitati Munoko | September 22nd 2016
<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><xml> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE </xml><xml> </xml> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} </style> There’ a common saying that you can take a person from the village but you may not take ‘villageism’ out of him. It is perturbing that in this age and era we still have leaders who believe that institutions of higher learning should be localized and led by a person from that community. We have come a long way from that notion and it seems as time goes by we get more cocooned into our tribes than espousing diversity.

The location of Moi University in the heart of the Kalenjin community was not that it had been surrendered to the community but that the locals should use it to their advantage to pursue higher education. This is a national institution and by extends an international entity that cannot to be demeaned by blinkered leaders.

It was wrong for the north Rift political leaders to rally the locals to storm the university because the person appointed in the acting capacity of the Vice Chancellor, Prof.  Laban Ayiro is not their “own”. What a shame! A University is a state entity and should not at any point be villagized and ethicized.

Last year, the Uasin Gishu senator led a group of locals and students to demonstrate against the Vice Chancellor Prof. Akenga for being a “foreigner” who had not employed the locals. This time round the demonstrations are led by governor Mandago. Mandago since his inception has been accused of tribalism and favoritism in his government and wants to extend the boundaries to Moi University. And he had the guts to invoke the name of the Deputy President that Prof. Ayiro was appointed by the Education Cabinet Secretary because the DP is out of the country. This is an established scholar beyond reproach.
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This growing tendency by North Rift leaders to use their political mileage to fight academic scholars is degrading and vexing for an institution that wants to compete with other international universities. In 2008, there was a similar discomfort at the then Chepkoilel Campus now Eldoret University. A Luhya had been appointed the principal but some local people wanted their own.  The Chancellor, Prof. Bethuel Ogot, was exasperated by that issue and he said “if an institution of higher learning should be led by a local because it is in their land, then I’ll rather go to Nyanza and be the Chancellor of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University”

The tribal inclinations were factors in university politics and led to students’ unrest. This led to the banning of tribal associations in universities. If the leaders ganged up against a scholar, what will preclude them from inciting the local staffs to sabotage his leadership?

This is coming at a time when we are headed to the elections and such tribal schism jeopardizes our tranquility and given that this region was heavily affected by the 2007/08 post-election violence. Let the executive and especially the Deputy President assure us that scholars and “outsiders” in this region will not be intimidated on tribal lines as elections draw nigh.  These myopic tribal leaders want to use this scheme to win the locals for votes. We should reject this.

The Ministry of Education should come up with guidelines to ensure that no local professor leads a University in his or her community. The two governors and several MPs who led the locals in demonstration should know that institutions of higher learning were never devolved and cannot be owned like a cow.

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