â€œThe University of Virginia,â€ said Thomas Jefferson, would be â€œbased on the illimitable freedom of the human mindâ€. Then he continued: â€œFor here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat itâ€.
But this was 1819 America. Fast forward to 2013 Kenya and put your thoughts centrally to todayâ€™s launch of Uwezo fund; an ignoble pledge of money that was to further the ends of democracy but now will litter the country in many forms-alcohol, weed and milk included.
Uwezo fund, a sh 6 billion support to the jubilee youths, pledged way before the ballot and delivered now; a precision that dwarfs and humbles.
But Uwezo fund was unveiled in a university and thatâ€™s where I come in. Unlike Jefferson, I went to Moi to learn my words; to wallow in the timelessness of knowledge; to predict trends and to develop the â€˜worst sense of political humourâ€™. I went to Moi critique, to test, to form my own perspectives and forcefully relay them and when they meet â€œreasonâ€ and are found to be wrong and wanting; to abandon them.
We were many, we lined up to register in a sweltering cold august; we were so young and lacked any ideas of our own. Then the training began.
Does every youth deserve a loan? Put more succinctly, were the presidentâ€™s â€œyouth audienceâ€ deserving of the prodding to â€œform groups of 3-15 and applyâ€ for the loans? I dare say no but tarry a little.
Uwezo Fund, as President Uhuru did put it, was â€œanother opportunity to continue a conversationâ€ that the Jubilee Coalition has been having with the young people in this country. First, I wish to dispute this reckless assertion by the president. Thing is: there has been NO conversation at all!
I do not wish to talk about the â€œyouthâ€ outside the university or technical colleges. I am not an ambassador of boda boda youths or touts or those who sell mitumba at Soko Mjinga in Migori or Gikomba here in Nairobi. Mine is reminisce about the university and college youth and the state of higher education in Kenya.
This government that unveils a sh 6 billion Uwezo fund for the youths has refused to disburse students loans. This government has ensured that academic timelines is so compressed that students do not think anything else except for assignments, projects, cats and examinations. This government has massified education that today, a single lecturer is handling a class of 200, or 300 all year long. This government brings students in colleges and universities and leaves them on their own devices. When it graduates them, this government thins down investments opportunities that those trained architecture or journalism, medicine or education see no further than to collect themselves in groups of 10-15 and apply for Uwezo fund.
Mr President, university students do not need â€œuwezo fundsâ€ to â€œcontinue a never ending conversationâ€ on poverty and tribalism and politics of the wealthy by the wealthy and for the wealthy. University students, sir, only needs you to tell that Professor Kaimenyi you put in charge of education that the â€˜differentiated unit costâ€™ which your government plans to roll out in a few months time will put thousands of bright students out of the degree programmes they qualified for and replace true doctors and nurses with quacks such as we saw in Bungoma, or engineers with characters who will only design buildings that collapse, or law scholars who blur the lines between the rule of law and official fiat or lecturers or politicians who fan ethnic violence to win elections or journalists who just â€˜whatsupâ€™, tweet and facebook and experiences neither the shame of it nor the urgency of their calling. Journalists who feed the society with the next crazy dishwater from high society unabashed.
Uwezo fund does not belong anywhere near the university and those who enter the university do not need Uwezo funds. That someone chose the university as podium to launch this piece of economic rubbish beats me and my friend Mwamburi Mwangâ€™ombe Mwambeo. The university must only give podium to debate robustly on important questions of humanity.
We who went through the university have no need to form merry-go-round and apply for ksh 50,000 (really, 50k?) The university is not meant to produce mass beggars. University students, if well armed with skills and knowledge, function so as to create more wealth. This we do when the process and systems are put that ensure a poor manâ€™s child, regardless of the letters of his surnames, or political persuasion, is able to compete â€˜competentlyâ€™ and as another leader put it get â€œa fair shot at lifeâ€.
Does the university youth need Uwezo funds? For what? I have read a few profiles of my village-mates who are excited marshalling other village-mates to apply for an eggs business back home and I almost puked on their updates. How shitty can people get? A medicine student thinking of opening a sh 12,000 eggs business in a village where less than sh 6000 flow weekly?
Boda boda youths need this fund. Touts need this fund. Anyone who dropped in std 8 or form 4 and has since detoured to indigence needs this funds but those who took four years studying in â€higher levelsâ€ need to only think and be rich.
Mark me wrong not. I am not saying Uwezo fund is a bad idea per se. What am saying is that taking me outside the confines of the written word to try my feeble hand on bee-keeping business in Okota village deep in south Nyanza is like telling Dr Evans Kidero, a successful Luo man, to smile because Shebesh has touched his balls. . .no okuyu no…it doesnâ€™t work like that. Câ€™mon!
Uwezo fund, if reason leads me right, ought to have been used in such a manner that the results will be there for all to see. The history of financial handouts to the youth of this country is littered with ugly anecdotes of institutional pilferage and wastages that a government that claims is good at â€˜conversingâ€™ with the youth would have rejected in toto. If, and am here being hypothetical, the president wanted to make a lasting impact on a new generation of skills-based youths, would that money not have been sunk into a depleted HELB fund and used to shield students from the high cost of living and education in Kenya? Paul refuses to sponsor students to gain education for the long term but paul gives sh6 billion to the same students for businesses that will never be listed in the Nairobi stock exchangeâ€¦.agrrr hata kama ni manifesto…THOOOH!!!
In the final analysis, especially to the â€œdaft hatersâ€ and those who think am some â€˜creepy Luo crackerâ€™ who has refused to accept (all these shit) and move on, letâ€™s remember the first comments of the president: Uwezo fund is a conversation.
As president Kenyatta aptly put it in the same forum, â€˜In the end leaders get what they are after, while the youth return to their old situation.â€™
Dikembe Disembe comments on higher education, ethnicity and politics in Kenya.