In Summary
  • What is worse however is that so disappointing has been the performance and behaviour of academics in politics and the policy world that disappointment has been normalised.
  • Every society, someone quipped, is made up of the unthinking majority and the thinking minority.
  • The difference between reform and transformation is the subject of a brilliant paper by Prof Tade Akin Aina titled ‘Beyond Reforms: The Politics of Higher Education Transformation in Africa,’ published in African Studies Review in April 2010.

Academics in Kenya don’t enjoy sufficient credibility among citizens.

Some of the reasons for this include a sincere citizen disappointment with academics. In other instances, it is simply the consequence of misunderstanding what academic undertaking is all about. Whatever the reasons, academics, especially those like myself who teach in universities, must change this negative image.

One of the main explanations for this negative image is the behaviour most academics exhibit when they decamp to join politics. Need I mention some recent examples?

I get the sense that most Kenyans tend to judge us using this unrepresentative sample. Yet, I cannot dismiss offhand the judgement Kenyans make of us because perceptions matter and if the behaviour and performance of the majority of former academics is way below average, Kenyans too have a right to over-simply the worth of an academic.

What is worse however is that so disappointing has been the performance and behaviour of academics in politics and the policy world that disappointment has been normalised.

In fact, we always expect them to disappoint that we are surprised when they do not. The expectations are so low yet academics ought to be the best trained, the most sophisticated and reliable thinkers for society.

UNTHINKING MAJORITY

Every society, someone quipped, is made up of the unthinking majority and the thinking minority. What happens when the unthinking majority have limited expectations of the thinking minority?

To deal with this, we need a mission to rescue and restore our image in the eyes of Kenyans. Those of us who sit in the university are ill-equipped to perform this rescue; what with a limited reach and audience. But those in politics or within bureaucracies must carry this onerous task.

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