By Wandia Njoya
What do I do to make students read? I’m so puzzled. I’ve bribed them with background historical knowledge, providing related cultural expressions like music, connecting the issues to current events, inviting speakers, even bringing the cultural food and inviting them to my house. But the next time we meet, I can tell that they havent read.
Some lecturers give reading tests for every book, but literature is about the story, not isolated technical details of the book. And I don’t know how to teach by forcing people to read.
One of the issues I know to be the problem, is that students are not exposed to a variety of well-informed discussion and debates on a regular basis. So they can’t see what being well read looks like. Dr. Wandia appears to them as a mad woman, and they are told that many times outside the class whenever they mention my name. So they are able to isolate what I say as “that’s how she is.”
The students have to see a culture of reading and informed discussion outside the class. That’s kinda hard when you have a drunkard for president, a buffoon for governor, and a politician’s kid showing people the finger after her father has stolen money. Do you know that many students don’t know my stand on education? I stopped sending the links on my media appearances when I realized they don’t watch them. Because that’s like homework.
University education in Kenya means living in a bubble.
I want to be cynical and not care, give multiple choice questions and use some rubric from the Commission to say to the external examiner “I did my job. What’s your problem?” But I know that after the students graduate, everyone will blame me, the teacher, for scanty knowledge.
Maybe I should ask Dr. Matiang’i. He studied literature up to PhD but fought against the arts and humanities when he was at Jogoo house. He might tell me what these contradictions are about. Because from where I sit, what I see is that we’re being dishonest and refusing to take responsibility for our position on education. It’s the dishonesty that annoys me the most. I have to perform teaching, rather than actually teach.
That’s what the Commission of University Education wants. They tell us that all the time. They want “performance.” So I’ll have to twist my soul and provide the performance, while pretending to be authentic.