By Dikembe Disembe
In Kenya, no university student association organized to protest the high fees for high school students. No sit in. No rally.
In South Africa, university students protested the country’s continued support for Israel even as it (Israel) battles Palestine’s quest to statehood and admission to the Rome Statute, which will effectively allow Palestine to refer Israel to ICC for crimes against humanity committed in Gaza and West Bank areas.
There is a reason for this. In Kenya, the universities are no longer higher education institutions. This country has high tolerance for pettiness.
Picture this. A group of UoN Law students organizes a symposium at the Law school on devolution, invites top political leaders including former prime minister Raila Odinga and former constitutional affairs minister Martha Karua.
The university cancels the event, claiming President Uhuru is set to visit the institution. The students end up being harassed and threatened with ‘dire consequences’. Never mind the students event would have happened a week before the President’s visit.
And why was the President visiting? To launch the President’s Digital Programme. Every time the president launches a ‘digital programme’, it reminds me of something I read about Syria, President Assad, a thoroughly modern and ‘digitized’ man, went deep into a forgotten province and launched an ATM Machine. Ravaged by war, no one had the money to withdraw from Assad’s digital money thing. . .but I digress.
Don’t hunt me down because of what appears in the immediate paragraph above. The university remains the most lucrative podium for any president engaged in western politics.
But, I believe its time the universities question Kenya’s insistent on ‘digital hype’. I believe it is wasteful to spend millions in iPads to county assemblies. Even the US congress, home to iPads, still do the paperwork!
What exactly is Presidential Digital Talent Programme? Just another launch of the many ‘presidential’ programmes. Never forget even CCTv was launched.
So what difference was this Law School symposium going to make? It was dubbed, “Is the university playing its rightful role in the democratization and economic development in Kenya?”
First, the university is where people discuss abstract ideas. ‘Democracy’, ‘economic development’, ‘Kenya’, etc. All abstractions. When an abstraction is reified, it becomes today’s ideas which turn into tomorrow’s products.
From science to politics to the arts, the university should be the most deviant and unorthodox institution of all.
In Kenya, it appears Kenyatta II is returning universities to ‘Harambee’ and ‘Nyayo’ factories of social engineering. And it is true, a dangerous but subtle re-engineering is going on. Some people want a country of yo-yo men and women. Wadi still in jail.
History shows Kenyan universities have been regime ‘maximum prisons’ where petty ideologies and moronic attitudes get instilled in soulless masses, for how do we explain the absence of professors and students alike in the ongoing conversation about the nature of our republic?
Those of us in the left agree that today’s student leader is a capitalist baby octopus. He aspires to be rich; to be some overlord, by all means necessary.
Inequality, social poverty, lawlessness, urban crime, gentrification, national prosperity, national happiness, debt, global positioning, etc, these are issues which still need real work in symposiums and lecture halls.
Now that the President is through with launching his ‘digital talent’, one only hopes the other necessary voices in our country will also be allowed to access the young minds of the nation’s best and brightest.
Originally posted on Facebook.