Monday, November 08, 2010

Scandal of Kenyan Universities Without a Single Professor

by Benjamin Muindi
Daily Nation
November 6, 2010

Some Kenyan university students are completing their courses without having interacted with a professor, a new survey has found.

The study of staff establishment in the universities shows there is an acute shortage of professors at a time when the higher education sub-sector is experiencing exponential growth.

It has also emerged that a number of master’s and doctoral students in some of the universities are being supervised by their peers, putting into question the quality of higher education in the country.

This contravenes international standards that require academic staff to hold qualifications one level above those they teach.

New data from the Commission of Higher for Education (CHE) show that some universities offering degree and master’s programmes have no academic staff who have attained professorship.

Professors’ role

The worst affected are the private universities, some of which have no professors, or when they have them, their number does not exceed 10. And even at that level, the role of the professors is administrative rather than academic or research-based.

The increase in university colleges has heightened the crisis, and at least four universities do not have a single professor.

There are only 352 professors in the country’s 30 universities serving a student population of 200,000.

The University of Nairobi has the highest number of professors at 110, followed by Moi University (49), Kenyatta (29) and Maseno (17). Jomo Kenyatta, Egerton and Masinde Muliro universities have 11 professors each.

Read the rest of the article here.

Comment: My day started with a visit to the University of Nairobi.  My plan was to meet a few of the development specialists working in relevant departments like Political Science, Sociology, and African Studies.

On my way into the Political Science department I bumped into a friendly graduate student from Burundi.  He was excited to hear I was from South Africa because he had completed an undergraduate degree in Pretoria.

"You South African academics get around the continent just like the ones from the US and the UK.  That's OK because South Africa is more like the developed West anyway," he commented with a wry smile while mumbling something about South Africa and a new kind of African colonialism.

"I read about the situation with professors at Kenyan universities," I said making reference to the article above.

"Yes it is a big problem.  We have no senior faculty and it can take up to five years to get a MA and very very much longer to get a doctorate," he replied.

I walked around campus for a while and looked in on the campus bookstore because it is a good place to gauge what is being taught and how just by looking at the prescribed readings.

I was dismayed.  The books were old and dusty and yet very expensive.  In the journals and magazines section they had many Oprah magazines and car magazines but nothing else.

My next stop was the main library.  I had to negotiate to get in.  The security guy was nice enough though added a little caution about not letting just anyone in off the streets.

Once inside my dismay deepened.  There are no computers visible anywhere in the library.  They are still using index cards to catalog books.

That is not necessarily a bad thing.  But a walk around the shelves left me in utter shock.  This is Kenya's most prestigious university and the books on the shelves are archaic and in very poor condition.

On my way out I stopped in front of a shelf labeled "New Acquisitions" that was full of university catalogs from the US and very old encyclopedias of the Britannica type.

"Are you leaving already," the security guard asked as I picked up my backpack at his counter.

I nodded and smiled thanking him.  "You are welcome here," he said cheerfully.

The one academic I managed to track down remarked that the library is doing much better now than before.  I wondered how that could be true.

"We now have more than 800 electronic journals available for full searches and downloads," he said.

"All we have to do now is acquire enough computers onto campus so students can access them," he added.

"Absolutely," I said remembering that the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Wangari Maathai, is among the University's distinctive alumni.


1 comment:

Kweli said...

No wonder we export students to the USA and UK by the airplane-load!