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Our love for education should surpass our thirst for certificates

By Fanon Kihu | August 12th 2019

The 118 PhDs awarded by JKUAT, risk being invalidated. This is after the Commission for University Education discovered that aspects of the University Standards and Guidelines 2014 were not adhered to when awarding them. Among the issues raised by the CUE include the human resource capacity to award the PhDs at one instance.

Prof Victoria Ngumi, the Vice-Chancellor of JKUAT, came out strongly to defend the award of the PhDs after CUE tabled its claims. While speaking to the media, she said that the university ensures that all students follow the due process before being awarded any degrees.

 I was disappointed because I was expecting to hear from Ph.D. students as well. I expected at least one of the students awarded with a Ph.D. to passionately and confidently talk about the thesis he/she wrote about. This is not for the purpose of proving to the world that his/her Ph.D. is valid but because he/she believes that the ideas in his/her thesis could be instrumental in solving some of the challenges being faced by our country and the world at large.

It is important to note that there are many reasons why people seek education. We have those who pursue degrees to get skills for employment. Others do degrees to be promoted at their workplace.

However, some philosophers speak of seeking knowledge for its own sake, which means that education doesn’t have to be sought in order to change the society or for any purpose like using it to seek employment. You can read because you love ideas and for intellectual fulfillment. You can seek more knowledge merely to build on what you already know.

However, I am for the idea of not only seeking knowledge for its own sake but also to solve the problems surrounding us. Once, we embrace this, then even cases of exam cheating in our secondary schools will be a thing of the past. This is because students will be more enthusiastic to acquire knowledge than to cheat their way into possessing academic certificates with great grades painted on them.

In our universities, energy will be shifted towards solution-oriented research. It will no longer be a matter of the number of degrees awarded but a matter of how many practical solutions have been provided.

The battle is not lost. One of the ways we can establish a genuine love for education is by developing a reading culture. This is where people read for leisure and not necessary to prepare for any examination. This would mean encouraging the writing of both fictional and non-fictional books. We need to encourage our local writers; we cannot leave expatriates to tell the story of our cultures, history, etc.

One of the main challenges writers have been facing is getting publishers for their works. There is over-concentration by publishers in curriculum books because they are the most profitable. A paradigm shift is necessary.

Interestingly, critical thinking and problem-solving are among the competencies of the Competency-Based Curriculum. This is according to the Basic Curriculum Framework 2017. Creativity and imagination are also listed among these competencies. This means that if local writers get more willing publishers for their works, it will impact not only the current generation of scholars but also the future generation, which is undertaking the new curriculum.

Therefore, let us aim at acquiring education because we genuinely love ideas and in order to get better solutions for local and global problems. Developing a reading culture must come in handy. This will be enhanced if publishers become more willing to publish non-curriculum books by our local writers. This is the way to ensuring that our love for education surpasses our thirst for certificates.

Mr. Kihu is an economist and founder of The Bizconomist Journal. [email protected] 

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