The smell of Putrefaction

One of the worst challenges to our intellectual development in this country is the inexplicable deference to titles (rather than intellectual fibre) and the consequent failure to criticize universities (particularly those we attended). I remember one invertebrate once telling me that I shouldn’t criticize the nonsense going on at the university where I got my undergraduate degree unless I am willing to discard the said piece of paper. I was invited by Kenyatta University to a webinar discussing the quality and merits of two new course offerings that they were very excited about- MSc and PhD in conservation biology. At this point, let me be clear- I am a graduate of KU (MSc and PhD), but I was shocked and saddened by the hollowness I saw. Now the department chair is someone whom I consider my academic senior, having defended his PhD before the same panel on the same day I defended my MSc. At around the turn of the Century (yes we are old scholars!) and has wide experience in the conservation civil society, so I thought this might be worth my time. As the Department Chair made his remarks, I picked up all the bullshit lines ‘market oriented’, Millenium Goals, serving Kenya conservation agenda, leaders in the industry, climate change, innovation (someone with a PhD thought innovation was use of drones, but I will keep that story for my grandchildren). They proudly presented all the ridiculous units they were going to teach, including proposal writing, how to do consultancy and grant management and project management (Nyasaye nyakalaga!!). There was no comment from any of the NGO stakeholders present, who knew very well that grants and consultancies in conservation are given based on skin colour, beauty, handsomeness, ethnicity, kickbacks, blood relations, friendships, and other considerations that aren’t obtained in universities. Time for comments! I raised my hand FIRST and made my points clearly. Kenya has NO conservation agenda, Conservation is NOT biology, lastly that they need to design a course in conservation philosophy and policy in order to SET Kenya’s conservation agenda. This is a challenge that I think any university should be excited to take up. There were over 15 senior academics in the meeting. NOBODY understood any of my points or responded in any way. The best thing about working from home is that you can attend to other things, and I noticed that there were some interesting birds in the garden. Kenyans will be familiar with the adjective “…quietly like you’re going to the toilet..” That’s how I left the meeting. Later as I was happily watching birds, the convener (a former MSc classmate) sent a message asking why I left, and whether I would be willing to give talks to the students. My answer was a firm ‘NO’. Like most ridiculous things in Kenya, this course is likely to happen, and I think it will produce wonderful slaves for the conservation plantation. Some will even be capable of raising funds to drive the white conservation agenda. However, KU will have a hard time competing in producing slaves for the conservation plantation. ALU in Rwanda is already miles ahead, even offering an MBA in conservation, the most bizarre course I’ve ever heard of. Intellectual death of Africans is a deliberate western neoliberal agenda, and its now being pursued through our educational institutions. Resist it, fight, and feel free to make enemies because of it. Our intellect is our most powerful weapon today. Aluta continua!