Fake degrees not the only ill in our collapsed education system

chairman of Commission for Higher Education Prof Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha

The chairman of Commission for Higher Education Prof Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha speaks during a recent press conference. CUE has woken up from a deep slumber to chase fake degrees that they long let fester

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

Our education system needs a reset much more than all the other broken systems. Every other system is on its knees despite huge budgets being spent.

Healthcare alone has been funded both by the government and the donor communities but is still being incapacitated by corruption. Judiciary is not far behind, as those with alleged fake degrees and integrity issues are still able to pull ‘fake’ orders to stop their prosecution for wrongdoing and still feel entitled to vying for political seats on the back of destroyed credibility.

The Commission for Higher Education (CUE) has woken up from a deep slumber to chase fake degrees that they long let fester. We should not be talking of fake degrees if CUE, for example, did its job meticulously and with integrity in the first place. We wouldn’t be faced with the nightmare of fake degrees in the hands of, particularly, the country’s leadership and the civil and public sector. CUE is now left chasing their own tail—although they believe they are pursuing suspects who are, by now, deeply entrenched in the system and protected with iron clads by the system.

The issue of fake academic credentials is nothing new. There have been whispers for years. There are places, such as River Road, known to be behind the production of forged official documents. I came across the problem more than 20 years ago, when I was asked to visit a college to investigate a certificate of an otherwise dunce job candidate with a certificate full of distinctions. It turned out to be fake of course.

Festering for decades

I can only imagine now this was a problem that may have been festering for decades, way before my short-lived life of a fake degree sleuth. The question begging to be asked is, where has the intelligence department been? And where have oversight bodies such as CUE been or doing? This is a matter that really should have heads rolling and rolled back to when the problem started decades ago. When did the rain start to beat us on fakery?

A piece of paper won’t make an idiot any cleverer if s/he never actually attended lectures or bothered to read for coursework in the first place. Fake degrees raise serious concerns for key sectors such as medicine. Who is operating on us or nursing us? Can we trust the pilots? Are houses collapsing due to fake civil engineers? These are questions that Kenyans need to start asking.

Society seems to be more driven by ego than the need to learn and be useful to humanity by acquiring beneficial knowledge that can be passed on to future generations with a clear conscience. Fake PhD holders in Africa (some of them at least) fall short of asking for a bow when you meet them. For me, that’s like bowing to a look-alike king or queen.

Litany of woes

Fake degrees is just one problem in the litany of woes the education sector faces. Top on the list is political will. There can never be political will to improve the public education sector by politicians whose children attend private schools, courtesy of the taxpayer. The second is determining who holds the purse when it comes to bursaries. It was decreed that it be elected local politicians. But bursaries can never be safe in the hands of corrupt politicians. If bursaries were utilised properly, we won’t have families of young bright students turning to the public and media begging to be assisted.

Bursaries in the hands of politicians become a political campaign tool and it should never be. Bursaries in the hands of corrupt politicians will hardly ever reach the intended recipients. It’s easy picking for them. Let means-tested bursary go into an education fund for every child—from preschool to secondary school.

The requirement for degrees for leaders has led to further impunity and more corruption. There is no other way, however, than demanding educated people with bona fide degrees to lead. It is the only way to instil integrity in our society and inculcate the culture of hard work. Fake degrees make a mockery of intelligent and hardworking students who rely on their brilliance, and not money, to obtain degrees. You can never buy intelligence. You either have it or don’t.

The third problem is corruption in schools. If teachers and principals have turned to bribe, it means they prioritise money over academic standards. Our problems with fake degrees thus begins at primary school with corruption and end at university with graft and fake degrees.

There is a need for root and branch reforms in the education sector. A collapsed education system will and is already leading to a collapsed country where opportunities are lost at home for genuine graduates and now even abroad as our degrees come under ever more scrutiny—thanks to our leaders with fake degrees!

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo


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