THE DEGREE QUESTION: TO HAVE…TO HAVE NOT


BY: JUMA HEMEDI

22/06/2021

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, last week announced that the electoral body would be implementing the law passed in 2012 that require aspirants for elective posts to possess a University degree. The electoral body chairman also said that those without a degree will not be allowed to participate in the 2022 general elections. 

As expected the issue brought varied opinions from different quarters of political class as well as citizens. Some say that the law is discriminatory while others say that its implementation is long overdue.

There are about 48 universities in Kenya 22 of which are public and 26 are private. Since 1963 Kenya has made great strides in the education sector and gained its place and respect in the society of countries, when in 2003 the Mwai Kibaki administration rolled out the free primary education for All program and also did the same in 2008 for Secondary Education. 

As a result nearly 3 Million more students were enrolled in primary schools in 2012 than in 2003 and the number of schools has grown by 7,000, according to the world education news review.

Between 2003 and 2012 the gross secondary school enrollment ratio increased from 43 percent to 67 percent. More recently the impact of the free education has been felt at the university level where enrollment numbers have skyrocketed and more than doubled between 2012 and 2014. According to UNESCO there were 13,573 Kenyan students studying abroad in 2012. 

The growth of University education in Kenya came through as a result of upgrading the existing College and constituency college of public institutions and the education reforms that allowed the growth of private universities.

It is estimated that in 2019, over 50,000 students graduated with various degrees from Kenyan universities. According to Baily, Cloete and Pillay (2013) the origins of university education in Kenya can be traced back to 1947 when the colonial government came up with a plan to establish a technical and commercial institute in Nairobi with an aim of providing higher education. 

It was not until 1951 that this concept received a royal charter under the name Royal Technical College of East Africa to prepare students for university degrees in engineering and commercial courses not available in Makerere, Uganda. The College opened its doors in April 1956.

During the collection of public views on the 2010 constitution, among the things Kenyans asserted was the minimum education qualification for their representatives, Kenyans were assertive that moving into the 21st century among the many things that their representatives must possess was a university degree. From the president, to the ward representatives. That is why the elections Act of 2012 was passed and the education qualification included as well as the implementation of Chapter six.

But the application of the requirement of a degree was suspended to give the serving councilors and MPs a chance to participate in the 2013 elections. The implementation of the education requirement was to begin in 2017, but that too was suspended by the amendment of section 22 of the elections Act 2017, to give the serving legislators time to have gone back to University and acquire the necessary university education. 

It takes four academic years for one to finish a university degree and the law now has been suspended for Ten years. Those in favor of the implementation of the University degree requirement in the 2022 elections argue that its implementation will improve the quality of representation, debate, legislation and oversight. 

Granted since 2013 so many laws that were passed by County assemblies were challenged in courts for violating the constitution. Several legislation by Parliament including the Security laws found themselves in the court corridors too.

This has raised questions as to whether members of county assemblies as well as parliament have the necessary education background to be able to understand and interpret what their role of legislation, oversight and representation entails in line with the constitutional requirements. 

Those against the implementation of the Degree requirement have argued that being educated has no correlations with the ability to lead; this argument has been advanced by individuals who are in leadership today and who possess PHDs, Degrees and Masters Degrees. 

These individuals also continue to educate their children in high end schools and ensure that they are accorded the best quality education money can buy. When they graduate they are placed in well paying government agencies and departments locally or abroad. And the cycle continues. In the meantime Kenyans will continue to complain that their children with degrees are not getting opportunities.

In the opinion section of the Sunday Nation of June 20th 2021, Tom Mshindi opined that; “Leadership places one in a position of great responsibility as it situates one at the centre of making laws, interpreting laws, arguing against or supporting  a wide range of proposals that directly impact everything central to the voters lives. It can be as basic as Municipality decision to name a road after some random guy to life changing decisions on environment, Education, Health, Security or War.” 

Tom further states that; “elected leaders represent the people. They carry and exercise delegated authority from Kenyans to inter alia, make laws at all levels, Vet the actions and decisions of the executive; approve and play oversight role on the use of taxpayers’ money and have power to impeach governors and the president.”

We must therefore ask ourselves what quality of leadership we want as a country to undertake and entrust with such responsibilities. 

Juma Hemedi

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