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Daily Nation : February 8th 2014
30 | Weekend Readers corner Literary Discourse Stop these fights and offer solutions BY ANTONEY MUNAMBO LUVINZU Name calling has characterised the riveting dis- course on the intellectual vibrancy in our universities. We have, unfortunately, been treated to a litany of deeply flawed arguments peppered with up close and personal insults. My teacher, mentor, and good friend Prof Egara Kabaji dropped the seismic bombshell by asserting, rather strongly, that our universities have degenerated into rusty shells of their former selves. (Saturday Nation, January 18, 2014). The abrasive Dr Tom Odhiambo then penned a scathing rejoinder, (Saturday Nation, January 25, 2014), roping in revered critic, Professor Chris Wanjala. Odhiambo insolently termed their claims as misplaced nostalgia. Prof Wanjala, came out guns blazing, ruthlessly lambasting Dr Odhiambo for being envious of professors (Saturday Nation, February 1, 2014). Make no mistake: I have nothing but deep respect for these accomplished scholars. However, I have had enough of the theatrics. Prof Kabaji’s argument needs to be dissected. Is it true that the intellectual vibrancy in our universities has gone to the dogs? And if this be the case, what measures can we employ to salvage the situation? I am strongly persuaded that such is the direc- tion this conversation ought to take. For instance Prof Kabaji highlighted what he believes ails our universities. He attributes the dip to the lethargy and complacency of students and lecturers alike and the obsession for quick money by lecturers. This argument is not idle. However, he quickly veers off the rails and takes a swipe at Prof Maurice Atumbi and Taban lo Liyong. The plank of his argument is that we have lost direction, but he does not offer an alternative route! Being an authority in matters education, Kabaji should offer practical solutions. The writer is a teacher of literature Teach Kiswahili, not mother tongue BY WAINAINA WA NGATIA Some policies originating from some people in government leave one wondering whether the government has the interest of children at heart. Take for instance the recent announcement that the government intends to introduce the teaching of vernacular languages in all primary schools. While the intention is noble and has research evidence to back it, I hasten to add that in our Kenyan context, it is not prudent to do so. This is because introducing vernacular languages will only entrench tribalism as our children become conscious at a tender age that they belong to different ethnic groups. At a time when our society is riven by ethnic hatred, it would be prudent to formulate policies that would help make Kenyans more homogenous. Language policy, if well thought out, could go a long way in making Kenyans more homogenous. For our case, Kiswahili would be the language of choice. This is because besides being spoken by everyone across the country, it is also already a regional lingua franca. As is the case in Tanzania, Kiswahili, if enforced to be spoken in public places, can be the missing link in the puzzle of eliminating tribalism and nation making since with time, it will turn out to be everybody’s first language of expression. Although this might attract the ire of cultural activ- ists, I submit the next policy the government should think about is on how to do away with tribal names such that we erase the vestiges of our ethnicities completely. We are tired of names that re-awaken the ghosts of tribal hate and profiling. The writer lives in Ndaragwa Writer should be more tolerant over the views of other scholars BY VIVERE NANDIEMO in the 1960s and 70s’, Saturday Nation, January 25, 2014) brings out the scholar as boisterous and intellectually intolerant. Much as he argued intelligently on the various literary issues he raised, the tone of his article was utterly condescending towards the other scholars he mentioned. It is quite unfortunate that he T projects himself as the paragon of literary knowledge. It is outright intellectual braggadocio for Dr Odhiambo to refer to the mind boggling debates initiated by renown scholars on these pages as ‘noise.’ The questions that kept tormenting my mind as I reflected upon his article are: What makes him think that what he writes is the best? Why judge others so harshly? Isn’t it important for him to be reminded that no one has a monopoly of knowledge? He refers to David Maillu’s let- ter to Ngugi Wa Thiongo and the subsequent intellectual discourse revolving around the role of writers in a nation as ‘noise.’ As if that is not enough, he also dismisses Prof Egara Kabaji’s swipe at the Kenyan academy. He admonishes those scholars who decry the dearth of literary debates that characterised the 1960s and 1970s. He accuses them of misplaced nostalgia and challenges them to give tangible evidence of how these om Odhiambo’s article (‘Where is the evidence of big literary debates is Odhiambo runs away from the fact that the past literary discussions played a very important role in promoting literary scholarship in this country. He also runs away from the fact that nowadays our universities churn out half-baked graduates who can hardly apply their knowledge in practical life. It is my belief that one of the reasons Odhiambo does so much running away from these salient yet worrying facts is simply because he is also partly to blame. I wonder why he is distancing himself from the other dons, who should be blamed for lack of mentorship in our universities, as he puts it. Intellectual honesty demands Kabaji challenges young minds in our universities to engage in creative thinking. debates helped in solving Kenyan problems. This question clearly strikes at the heart of the role the literary artist and scholar in the society. Was it the role of the scholars to come up with the solutions to our problems? My answer to this question is no. These debates simply served as eye openers for Kenyans to see the bad things that were happening at the time and do something. And that is why we witnessed the second liberation struggle ignited by the likes of Ngugi, Micere Mugo, and Prof Anyang Nyongo, among other academics of the time. that Odhiambo should accept that he is among those who should be blamed for the sorry state of our academy. Kabaji is bold enough to admit that the country is suffering from academic indolence. Instead of accusing Kabaji, Odhiambo should convince us on what he has done to promote literary consciousness. It is unfortunate that he attempts to condemn Kabaji into silence just because he is exposing the soft underbellies of our academy. He must know that the likes of Kabaji are not selling their selfinduced despair in this forum, as he disparagingly puts it, rather they are playing a noble role of challenging the young minds to engage in creative activities. The writer teaches English and Literature at Sakuri Girls Secondary School in Kuria East Teacher training colleges should start awarding diplomas not certificates BY KIMANI WA NJUGUNA It was great to hear that teacher training colleges countrywide will be upgraded to offer diploma courses. According to Education Principal Secretary Dr Belio Kipsang, these colleges will be tailored to offer diploma courses instead of certificate programmes which they have been offering over the years. This move is timely because Kenyans are making fun of their teachers. A recent Unesco report revealed that some Kenyan teachers are weaker than their pupils in class. In the report released in January, the UN agency says millions of Kenyan children are failing to learn the basics despite much improved access to primary education, citing a 2010 survey of primary schools which showed that class six teachers scored an average of only 61 per cent in a mathematics test designed for their pupils. The survey observed that none of the teachers had complete mastery of the subject. Despite the fact that the country has made great strides in numbers reaching the end of primary schools, the report noted that Kenya ranks among 14 countries in the world known to have more than one million children out of school. In addition, 30 per cent of Ken- yan learners who complete four years of schooling are unable to read. Among the causes for this is the poor quality of teaching and increasing class sizes. However, teacher education institutions took the lion’s share of blame. This is because they fail to upgrade weak subject knowledge partly due to the fact that trainees are overloaded with learning demands. Trainees are required to take up 10 subjects and participate in teaching practice and peer teachings. This leaves little time to fill gaps in subject knowledge. Moreover, the educators ex- pected to impart skills to trainees have themselves received no instruction in training teachers for basic education. However, as the government tries all these to uplift standards, Kenyans hope that teachers will play their part. According to that UN report, in a typical Kenyan primary school, 13 per cent of teachers were absent during school visits. It is for this reason that if teachers want to be respected and taken seriously, they must take their work seriously. They should strive to be good role models worth emulating especially when it comes to work ethics. Teachers should wake up to the reality that they are the greatest resource this country can invest in for the sake of posterity. The writer teaches in Gatundu SATURDAY NATION February 8, 2014 Quality in education should be a priority BY JOSEPH G. MUTHAMA Since the introduction of free primary and subsidised free secondary education programmes in 2003 and 2008 respectively, the learners’ population has ballooned from 5.9 million to 9.4 million in primary schools and 1.1 million to 1.85 million in secondary schools, as per 2012 statistics. This is quite encouraging. However, if the recently re- leased KCPE exams is anything to go by, there is still room for improvement. Over the years, public schools have continued to perform dismally in comparison to private schools. The Kenya Schools Head Teachers Association has cited some reasons for this. A case in point is lack of resources. As a matter of fact, since 2003, the allocation to each pupil annually has remained at Sh1,020 while at secondary schools is Sh10,265 since 2008. Other issues include inadequate teaching staff, lack of infrastructure, poor supervision of curriculum, teachers strikes, bloated enrolment, skewed teacherpupil ratio among others. It is time we give priority to quality instead of quantity. The writer lives in Thika Embrace theatre in schools BY KIMTAI CHERONGIS Lupita Nyong’o is now a household name in Kenya. The media has captured her flamboyance, making Kenyans proud. Theatre arts can earn one a decent livelihood, and our institutions of higher learning must not take it for granted. However, most schools often brush aside theatre talent among their learners. They put more effort on other extra curricular activities like football, which rarely take our young ones far. Yes, I do not refute that foot- ball is equally good, but balance should be made. The government should encourage the nurturing of theatre arts and set aside a kitty to finance the same since excellence is not only found in books. The writer teaches English and literature at St Paul’s Kitum High School To contribute to this page, please send your comments to email@example.com a.com or write to The Editor, Saturday Nation, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100.
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