When Professor’s Fall..

My mother is an academic professional.

Professor

She’s one of those people with so many academic distinctions that you begin to wonder what you’re doing with your life. Especially people, like me, who are very anti-school.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying education is pointless. I’m just against the current structure of the institutions through which education is disbursed. And I have been since I was old enough to pull an Encyclopedia off a shelf by myself.

This attitude only got worse once Encarta 95 found its way into the library and the 98 edition landed in our house. By the time I was toggling between Altavista and Google, I was barely listening to teachers.

They had this syllabus that was engineered to evenly distribute a set amount of specific information to a large group of students. Booooring. Every chance I would get, I was plucking books off shelves that had nothing to do with what I was being taught. I was reading my older brother’s literature novels and – and this is not a joke – even reading dictionaries cover to cover. I actually once started writing one.

Just because class was boring.

At least at the time I thought it was. At that age, I thought fairly little of teachers. But somehow regarded professors highly because of my mother. You see, she’s the one that kept feeding me books and unleashing me into libraries. She’s the one that bought Encarta when we really couldn’t afford it. She’s the one that encouraged my random reading and let me lose in her labyrinth of books – a bookcase in the house.

Which is where I saw Mazrui’s name for the first time.

Prof Ali Mazrui

There are 2 reasons I remember his name. First, it is because it was repeated on the spines of so many books that I began to pull them out to verify whether or not I was looking at multiple copies of the same book. I was not.

The second reason is because it was the first time a book made me feel stupid. I sat down and tried to read the first book and failed. It was entirely too much to comprehend for a prepubescent iCon. So I left it alone and that was that.

Until a decade later, when I had the great fortune to head out to New York for some seminar on Islam and Terrorism. The melodic Swahili accent was strong, and the calm and steady pace with which he was addressing us grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go until it was eased to a place of greater understanding. That man summed up in a few words what the rest of the panelists would yap about for the next 2 hours.

And I can’t recall what those few words were. But I can’t forget buying two of his books, looking at my bookshelf thereafter and remembering my mother’s.

That was when I got a deep interest in Kenyan intellectuals; especially those in the US. Every other university I visited (and I traveled A LOT) I would find a professor named Odhiambo here, a lecturer named Kamau there; a Head of Department from Kisumu, and sometimes, occasionally, on the walls of fame, I’d see a name on a plaque of distinction that was distinctly Kenyan with a place of birth that made me homesick.

So many names and faces that I can barely remember, that will never be acknowledged locally.

My mother still keeps a massive collection of books, a lot of those are still fellow Kenyans. Mazrui’s tomes still stand out by their numbers and if I’m honest, like many Kenyans, I don’t think I acknowledged the man’s greatness enough.

But one thing I do acknowledge now that I didn’t when I was younger is the invaluable contribution of the scholars we neglect. I understand now why teachers wanted us to understand the basics and why professors insist on us creating original regurgitations of already existing facts. The pursuit of knowledge is not a simple journey, nor is it for the faint-hearted. It is a selfless endeavour to better your society through yourself.

Prof ali Mazrui

Which is why I was sad when the good Professor Ali Mazrui passed away. I could list his laurels and awards, accomplishments and regals in a shallow attempt to justify why you should mourn him too. I could copy paste all the amazing things that Prof. Mazrui has done and contributed to the worlds of academia, the understanding of Africa in a globalising world, or to demystify Islam in a world driven by terrorism.

But I’d rather not.

I’d rather challenge you to do two things. The first is to watch one of his interviews, read one of his articles, discover one of his books, learn more about one of his passions. The second is to share that knowledge earned with someone else.

Professors are the vessels through which so many of us attain the knowledge behind the power we aim to change the world with. When they fall, it is our duty to pass that knowledge forward and keep their legacies and sacrifices alive.

May you rest in eternal peace, Mwalimu. May your legacy live long and your family stand proud.
نَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ‎

Teacher, Teacher: A Simple Lesson For Us All

teacher1

I wrote about the Teachers’ Striking before. I suggested that yes, they were right to demand higher pays but they were going about it wrong. A few months later, Nittzsah pointed out that these teachers tend to be quite disappointing in letting their greed come before their cause. Continue reading

A Disappointing Breed of Kenyan Teachers

Among the things I’m passionate about is teaching. Having had a short stint in the profession as a college lecturer, I’m certain that, given a chance, as a “retirement” option, I will share some knowledge with a few students, and they will in turn educate me as well. It’s a two-way process. And a very fulfilling one.

Now, a close of friend of mine recently told me that he intends to find his son a place in a different high school. The boy is currently a Form 2 student in an X Secondary School in Machakos. I inquired from my friend what was wrong with the school? Were the facilities wanting? Was the food bad? Was the performance poor? He said all these things were in order. What he had a problem with were the teachers.

See,  when my friend accompanied his son to school after a student’s strike. He was shocked to discover that the teachers were “way too young” and if not for the fact that they didn’t wear school uniform, he would have mistaken them for students. He recalls one who, despite it being a weekday was clad in sagging jeans, a t-shirt and sandals, going to class to teach.

Neither in his (nor my) days as a student, was this acceptable. Perhaps my friend and I are old-fashioned for demanding that teachers assume some sense of decorum. I remember when I began teaching, I had to adjust my wardrobe from something other than what I wore to class in Uni. Also, there was no way I was going to wear six-inch heels and a mini-skirt (with or without tights). But then I see some of you going to your fancy jobs dressed in that. It’s one thing to hide your thighs under an office desk from 9 to 5 and another to stand in front of young, vulnerable minds with your thighs exposed. How this is not common sense, I don’t know.

Perhaps that’s why, the students of Rwathia Secondary School got their way and had their parents and teachers give in to their demand  for short, tight skirts. Did anyone bother to ask the girls  exactly what purpose the new skirts would fulfill in their quest for an education and good grades? Also, why exactly did the teachers give in to this request? Would they be surprised if come next year the girls demand that the school dispensary start stocking oral contraceptive and that each student be given their ration every month?

Back to Machakos and we meet another breed of teachers who wanted to treat themselves to a  trip to Mombasa. Only problem is, they didn’t have the money. So they demanded that each parent fork out Kes.2,500 to meet their expenses of this luxurious trip. All this time, the parents thought the teachers were joking. But when they didn’t pay up, their children were sent home. Now, here’s what makes me think TSC should fire these teachers if not line them up and execute them:-

1. Do these teachers realize that some of these parents cannot even afford a trip to Mombasa, and have never been to Mombasa in the first place?

2. The teachers say that the trip is “a way of motivating them to work harder and post better results.”  Wait a minute? Who’s supposed to post results, is it the students of the teachers?

3. Are there more pressing needs in this school (perhaps facilities that require an upgrade) that this money would instead help meet.

4. Is this even legal? If not, can the students and their parents sue the school board?

5. What kind of example have these teachers set for their students? What will they become as employed adults? Will they go on strike when their employers fail to finance their company retreats?

I don’t know whether we are just a frustrated lot of Kenyans who cannot think clearly anymore. It’s like we’ve all lost it. And who can turn things around? Is it the students who clad in miniskirts seem to be training for a career on Koinange Street? Is it the parents who don’t mind if their daughters attract the wrong attention? Is it the teachers who would fleece their way to Mombasa? Remember the teachers are parents as well.., of some equally crazy children. Is it KNUT and KUPPET who are busy trying to get their wages sorted, and who will then claim that their members cannot afford a trip to Mombasa? Is that what they’ll strike over come 2017?

We’ve failed our children people. And they will in turn fail us, if they haven’t done so already.

Dear Teachers, Go Back To School

There’s a picture that’s been circulating of the teacher’s strike that’s nothing short of amusing.

This man can neither spell nor add yet wants to be paid to teach our children to be similarly inept. Would you believe that this is not the dumbest thing about this whole strike? Not nearly. The dumbest thing is the entire notion of the strike.

To be clear, I don’t think what’s happening is right. Uhuru Kenyatta should really not have given teachers money to the army. It’s downright foul.

That said, for teachers to think they can get it back is somewhat stupid. Continue reading

#KiberaRoadTrip: Be Part of The Solution

It all started with Trey Songz’ tweeting one fateful morning.

The backlash was ridiculous. People immediately assumed the worst,took this as an attack on Kenya and retaliated accordingly. There’s no need to point out how fallacious that logic is. That horse is long dead and has been beaten to no end.

As our brother from another blogger, Archer, was on radio that afternoon, he said that maybe people needed to actually stop screaming at Trey and start redirecting their efforts towards bettering their community. He explained that he himself hadn’t been to Kibera, at which point I suggested that I’d gladly take him there and show him some of the things we can effortlessly do to help. The idea caught on and, with the help of @AKenyanGirl and @VisionAfrica we were able to plan out the first of what will hopefully be many trips to Kibera to come.

The name may be a misleading misnomer; the aim is not to tour the slums. What we want to do is to help people direct their efforts exactly where they are needed, to pair each person with a suitable cause so that we can all make a contribution towards bettering life in Kibera. Continue reading

Daily Dozen 09/12

#fail

Dear Obama, you’re too good for American politics. It’s not so much racism as it is anti-intellectualism [HuffPost]
“Wheels Slowly Coming off The Hague Express” [Kumekucha]
China: Richer, stronger, and now officially smarter than the rest of the world [TIME]
Political impasse or constitutional crisis: Law Society of Kenya’s Options [KenyanJurist]
Wikileaks reveals interesting stuff on Kenyan-Somali relations [KenOpalo]
Woman supposedly ‘raped’ by Assange has CIA ties. Kinky [RawStory]
“An End to Slums” [AfricaOnTheBlog]
“Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery” [Wamathai]
“By The Powers vested In Me” [ActurialOutlook]
“TPF4 Trivialities” [Sylkwan]
Even in crime-plagued South Africa, this stood out as a tragedy [BBC]
“Taveta Weddings” [Sheeremix]

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