A look at the degree debate in Kenya

The fact that Kenyans are being roped in the ongoing debate of fake degrees in this 21st century is a sign that we are still far from this circus. Every corner I turn in Nairobi and even online I find myself being part of this conversation. How did we as a country get here? I thought education was our key cornerstone on which to empower us as a nation but hey I might be wrong. But also to ask is the ongoing debate about investigating and bringing to book culprits who fake academic certificates or is a prowl to play politics and lock out some candidates in participating in the electoral process?

Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja’s degree has been the hot topic recently, both educated and uneducated persons trying to throw their two cents in this debate. The senator has been put on the spot to prove whether his degree is valid and the matter even presented to the IEBC disputes tribunal as the 2022 August 9th general election nears.

On Saturday 18th June 2022 Inspector general of police Hillary Mutyambai ordered the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to launch investigations with regards to the academic papers of embattled Nairobi senator who is also vying for the Nairobi gubernatorial seat.

“The National police service has taken cognizance of the ongoing debate in the public domain on allegations touching on the genuineness of university academic certificates and supporting documentation presented to IEBC for clearance by some aspirants for political seats in the forthcoming general election,” a statement from the National Police service read.

Mutyambai also directed the DCI boss George Kinoti to institute speedy investigations into Machakos gubernatorial candidate Wavinya Ndeti’s degree certificate she presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for clearance.

“……the NPS has commenced criminal investigation into the genuineness of the certificates presented for clearance to the IEBC by two political aspirants namely honorable Johnson Sakaja and Wavinya Ndeti, both gubernatorial aspirants for Nairobi and Machakos counties respectively,” the statement continued.

But Sakaja who has not taken the whole issue lightly lambasted the DCI for playing politics. He told off the authorities saying they included Wavinya in the fiasco to sanitize the attack against him.

“No need to drag Wavinya into the political fight against me …..The DCI already spoke prejudicially on Thursday and your offices at CUE yesterday afternoon drafting the presser. Leave Wavinya out of it,” he said while reacting to the statement by the police service announcing the launch of investigations into genuineness of Sakaja and Wavinya’s degree certificates.

On Friday the Commission for University Education CUE maintained that the certificate presented by Sakaja remains revoked until Sakaja presents evidence that he graduated from Teams University the commission summoned Sakaja to appear before it on Monday 20th June 2022 armed with evidence of graduation. But Sakaja termed the whole process a witch hunt to deny him a chance to run for the Nairobi gubernatorial seat.

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“….. Are you guilty then proven innocent or are you innocent until you are proven guilty? You cannot revoke and then investigate you investigate and then if you need to you revoke ……can the CUE as well ask each and every other candidate who has gotten certification to provide the same. There are no set of law for Sakaja and another set of law for the rest of Kenyans,” he said

The Director of Public prosecutions DPP while commenting on the Inspector General of police directive also called for the police to expand the scope of investigations by looking into other complaints touching on the credentials of all other candidates who are vying for seats in the upcoming general elections and present a report before 1st of July.

“….further to the statement by the inspector general commencing investigations into the matter, the DPP has also directed the IG to broaden the scope of the investigations to include other aspirants.in addition the DPP has directed the IG to investigate the role of the government agencies and commissions to determine whether they helped and or assisted in commission or omission of any offences with the issuance of clearing certificate to section 22 of elections act ……,” ODPP statement read.

The demand for academic papers for anyone seeking any job opportunity or even for status purposes in the society is so rooted in the country. Every other person wants to go get a degree so as to be respected in society and get that high paying job somewhere. This demand has contributed to the many fake degrees that we currently see popping up. This much interest in academic papers and more so in elective seats for Governor and President Seat has made Kenyan politicians rushing against time to acquire proof of their academic papers to play as status symbol and also to meet legal requirements. the country has also for a long time treated the education system as  a paper system as long as one finishes his form four, certificate, diploma, degree or masters  course at the university how one acquired the academic papers is not usually important.

The appetite for a degree requirement in this country was also witnessed recently with the passage of the controversial ICT bill. The bill generated opposition online especially from ICT practitioners who called on the President not to sign into the bill owing to its stringent requirements touching them.

The bill which was first introduced in 2016 by formerly Majority leader Aden Duale and supported by MP Godfrey Osotsi intended to lock out ICT practitioners who lacked a degree from a reputable university.

The opponents of the bill say that the IT industry has for a long time attracted any person who had an interest in the field hence the degree requirement would lock out many young people wishing to join the profession but do not meet the threshold set by the body. They also argued that many renowned IT specialists did not study IT at the university some being school drop outs. The ongoing degree debate makes me wonder, in this ever changing world in which we live in will the future of work still be about degrees or it will be about skills.