The scrapping of the Communication Skills common course by the University of Nairobi only goes to confirm how dimly communication is perceived among public institutions, the private sector and at the individual level.
Yet communication is key to human interaction. It is what makes relationships.
And the reverse is true; breakdown of communication is known to kill the best social, business, war and political relationships the world over. Unfortunately, it sounds so simple and obvious that it’s never taken that seriously.
It’s out of the realisation of its cardinal role in shaping the future lives and careers of learners that the course has been taught at UoN for decades as a compulsory unit to all First Year students, irrespective of the courses they would later take.
Actually, to many students who went on to study other courses, probably besides humanities, that course is the only knowledge about communication they ever got and which they still have fond memories of and often refer to.
Even the top-notch engineers, doctors, lawyers, architects, surveyors and other professionals need not only their technical expertise but, more importantly, the skills to communicate them to their clients and stakeholders, be it orally or written, for their expertise to be of value.
The course’s curriculum should be modernised from the traditional parameters to tackle the relevant branches and their application, including organisational communication used by public institutions, corporate communication used by private entities, development communication used by non-state actors, political communication used by political organisations, and social communication.
The basic course should train the future drivers of the republic how to handle new means of communication like online media and e-government and their application to their respective fields like medicine, agriculture, trade, war, politics and economy.
Indeed, many public and private organisations do a lot of work but it’s never known beyond their institutions for lack of, poor or wrong method of communication to stakeholders.
Thriving organisations can be seen from how best their CEOs understand and implement best communication practices.
Public institutions should thrive on effective organisational communication, where policies from the Cabinet, for example cascade to the grassroots in ways and means that are easily understandable.
Prominence it deserves
Placement of information officers in every ministry ensures communication is collated into one forum, where it is passed on to the public harmoniously.
Political communication similarly ensures information on the progress and fulfilment of promises is relayed to the people on time.
Breakdown of communication between the leaders and voters ends in rejection of aspirants or parties at the ballot.
Kenya’s communication industry employs thousands of citizens in its media and journalism, public relations, branding, advertising and marketing.
Hundreds of directors and communication officers work with the national and county governments.
It’s imperative that communication is understood and given the prominence it deserves. Universities exist to invent, reform, nurture and grow knowledge; they should not be where careers and industries are relagated, killed and buried.
Mr Mbae (PhD), a leadership and governance consultant, is an alumnus of the University of Nairobi’s School of Journalism.