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Daily Nation : February 22nd 2014
SATURDAY NATION February 22, 2014 Readers corner Literary Discourse Critics are just as important as creative writers BY DAVE BOWEN Mr Richard Mwaniki’s article entitled ‘No, Dr Walunywa, literary critics can never be equal to writers’ (Saturday Nation, February 15) should not pass unchallenged. He insists that writers are more equal than literary critics. He calls literary critics mere “leeches who depend on writers for their professional survival” and equates them to uninvited “proverbial camels” who invade creative writing work. Nothing is further from the truth. Mwaniki needs to be reminded that critics, like writers, are equally important and the two play complementary roles. Furthermore, any serious writer has to delve into books on literary theory so that when he writes, he is guided by a certain theory. I do agree with his assertion that “without writing, there would be no literature”, but hasten to add that without literary critics, there would be no quality literary works. Mwaniki needs to appreciate that writers cannot write and critique their own works. After writing their pieces, writers leave it to critics to do what they know best: dissect the work and simplify its complex content for others to appreciate and understand. Also, Kimani should informed that the world over, universities have many critics who are also successful writers. Therefore, we cannot wish away professional critics as lesser beings in society. They are also creative and gifted. Progressive and prolific writers have always depended and listened to what critics say about their literary works and used their suggestions to improve on their subsequent works. Modern writers who studied literature must have done theories of literature, criticism and creative writing. Theories of literature and criticism are actually the foundation of creative writing. Lastly, Kimani should accept the reality as put forward by Dr Walunywa of Egerton university that the three branches of literature (Creative writing, Theory and Criticism) are equal and important in the development of literature in our society. Diminishing any branch borders on ignorance and naivety. The writer is a Kiswahili PhD student at Moi Univesity Include foreign works in Literary Discourse BY EVANS KOSGEI TOROITICH There was a time when reading the Saturday Nation was not worth my while. I found it heavily inclined towards the needs of the female reader. However, this soon changed when Literary Discourse was introduced. I was excited and delved once more into the newspaper. Nonetheless, this excitement did not last long. It occurred to me that these pages are dedicated towards glorification of Kenyan literature. However, I do not read Kenyan Literature. The chief reason is, I read to travel. I read to understand other cultures. I read the unfamiliar to draw comparison with the familiar. This is why I am attracted to classics from other countries especially, those outside Africa. In order to understand the English, I read Dickens. To know how Russians think, I read Dostoyevsky. To know what makes the French tick, I turn to Hugo. Harper Lee sheds light on the American way of life. In this era, understanding each other is critical. This understanding or misunderstanding thereof, can either make or break a business. It can lead to intolerance and xenophobia. Judging by the contributions to the Literary Dis- course pages, it is evident we Kenyans are full of ourselves. It is crucial that this state is tempered with exposure to the arts and cultures beyond our borders. To create the next Kiriamiti, prisoners should be allowed to access libraries BY LAWRENCE AGUNGA As I read John Kariamiti’s words (Saturday Nation, February 8), some questions came to mind that need to be discussed. What is the literary diet in our penitentiaries and other reformatory facilities in our country? Are we doing anything to aid in the complete refashioning of convicts’ intellectual lifestyles? Leisure and recreation are a vital part of any man’s life, yet, as philosopher Seneca aptly put it, “leisure without books is death, and burial of a man alive.” This begs the question; how are our ‘intellectuals’ working to awaken our country’s dwindling intellectual life both in academia and in our rehabilitation centres? I want to agree with Chinua Achebe, who said: “To me, being an intellectual doesn’t mean knowing about intellectual issues; it means taking pleasure in them.” Are our self-styled intel- lectuals real enough to take pleasure in matters intellectual? Books awaken minds, books are silent reformers of individuals, books are silent weapons with which the wars of life and morality can be won. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, alias Malcolm X, was one of the most intellectual ex-convicts. Anti-racism struggle Having engaged in a life out- side the law, the law finally caught up with him and he was thrown into jail. Interestingly, he came out of jail to become a major beacon in the anti-racism struggle in America alongside Martin Luther King Jr. “I don’t think anybody ever got more out of going to prison than I did. In fact, prison enabled me to study more intensively... where else but in prison could I have attacked my ignorance by being able to study intensely sometimes as much as 15 hours a day?” he wrote in his memoirs. I found it awkward that Kai- riamiti and other inmates were barred from accessing books. Whatever the reason, it was despicable. May we find ways of building a literary system in our prisons, a system that will produce fully transformed persons and more of Kariamiti’s cadre. We must turn our attention more assiduously to the moral worth and intellectual improvement in our jails. This is the best intellectuals can offer to our nation’s intellectual and moral growth. Above all, let our elite remem- ber Achebe’s words: “While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” The only way to awaken any man’s intellectual system is to give him a relevant book to read. The writer is a Kenyan studying English and Literature at Bugema University, Uganda. State is rewarding mediocrity by locking out private school pupils BY ASHFORD GIKUNDA policy amid confirmed reports that some 58,000 pupils have moved from private to public schools. Even worse is the fact that the pupils were in classes 7 and 8. Pupils are forced to forgo qual- I ity education so that they can be assured of a Form One place. The natural laws of demand and supply are not applying here. Instead, one of the players, the government, has created a policy that favours mediocrity over merit. Due to the biased policy, more pupils will move from private to public schools, straining the already over-stretched facilities and the performance of public schools will keep falling. Models of excellence The quality of education in our country will be compromised as the government bends the rules to favour public school pupils. I have argued before that if Westlands, Kathigiri Boarding and Nairobi primary schools can produce students in the top 100 in KCPE examinations, then Nairobi County primary schools can be models of excellence. Instead of the government addressing the cause of dismal performances in its sponsored schools, it goes for shortcuts. If you are in a game that you are not winning, do you change the rules of the game? No, you don’t. Education officers during the launch of Form One selection at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development on January 14. You change tack. Not too long ago, I read with a heavy heart in the local dailies that a candidate who scored 425 marks out of a possible 500 marks missed a place in a national school because she was a private school candidate. This is nonsense. Is going to a private school a yardstick of the measure of one’s riches? The parent of the affected girl could not face her daughter to explain what was wrong with her 425 marks. If such a high pass cannot assure a hard-working candidate of a slot in any of our national schools, what will inspire pupils in private schools to study hard? feel inclined to weigh in on the emotive debate of the skewed Form One selection I have been teaching in private schools for over 10 years now. I intend to continue doing the same until I retire at 40. I have, in my teaching duty, witnessed parents struggle to keep their children in private schools. They do this because they want to bequeath their children a future that every serious parent wants for their children. This comes at a cost. They go without basic comforts in order for their children to learn in schools with sufficient facilities. The least they would expect of the government is fairness in Form One admissions. Apathy and lethargy Teachers in private schools feel their genuine effort in building the nation is not being appreciated, yet they work three times as hard as their colleagues in the public schools. I know, for a fact, that teach- ing in public schools, just like is the case with the public service, is characterised by a lacklustre and complacent attitude. Only teachers who are naturally selfdriven take their jobs seriously. The rest, as was confirmed through a recent study, are busy doing personal business during the time they are supposed to be classrooms. Most of the time, they report to school to just sit and chat. Apathy and lethargy are synonymous with public schools, yet the government rewards them with slots in national schools at the expense of genuinely deserving pupils in private schools. Weekend 21 Guide books not good for teaching BY FRANKLIN MUKEMBU Some teachers of English and Kiswahili have given in to the so called guide books and Miongozo in Kiswahili literature. This has compromised the quality of stuff they give to students. Some teachers totally rely on these guides such that some do not even read the actual text. Guide books are only meant to guide teachers and learners but not to be wholly depended on. The most frustrating thing is that many of these guides are written for remuneration. The fact that teachers lead by example means that students will emulate them. A good teacher of literature should be inspired by reading the text and deducing his own themes and stylistic devices. Literature is a liberal subject and one should never be contented with another person’s view. Teachers should stop putting the cart before the horse. The writer teaches Kiswahili and Geography at Munithu Day Secondary in Meru County Varsities must fight plagiarism BY KENNEDY LUBENGU I had not given much thought to the adverse effects of plagiarism until Dr Robert Kibugi, the environmental law don at the University of Nairobi, took us through the university rules on plagiarism. Plagiarism is copying some- one’s work and presenting it as your own. In academia, it is intellectual robbery. The reason our universities produce halfbaked graduates is that most of them do not know how to counter plagiarism. A student will walk into a cyber café and copy-paste an assignment. All he does is change the cover page. The best some universities do, in the unlikely event that they discover the vice, is to cancel it and ask the culprits to repeat the work. Seldom are the culprits asked to be criminally liable. This is a disease that will negatively affect the nature and value of graduates released to society by universities. The writer is a teacher of literature and a law student at the University of Nairobi. 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.
February 21st 2014
February 23rd 2014