Prof, go back to your ways and have mercy on the poor

Prof Stephen Kiama

University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama during the interview at his office in Nairobi on October 1, 2020.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Today, University of Nairobi students are asking for your forgiveness.
  • We wouldn’t have been begging you for mercy had we been born of controversial businessmen who wash money for a living.

Dear Prof Kiama,

We would have greeted you in the name of the Lord, but recent circumstances make us question your belief in the existence of a higher power other than the electricity that lights up your office.

Belated congratulations on being trusted with shepherding the University of Nairobi from dry pasture to the fountain of knowledge. We would have sent you a success card had your appointment not have been protracted, but are encouraged the University of Nairobi finally found a fighter who isn’t afraid to go to court for what he believes is rightfully his; even when that decision makes him look like a carbon copy of our politicians.

When we celebrated the appointment of a fighter to lead the UoN, we didn’t know the first thing he would do would be to fight the right of Kenyan children to access university education. It isn’t your fault; we should have used the university library to research well, but as they always say, if you want to hide something from an African, put it between the pages of a book.

Today, University of Nairobi students are asking for your forgiveness. The decision you made this week – justifying why UoN students must cough up money in duplicate or they shall see the gates of your university only on television adverts – might look appetising to you, but it has removed the taste for higher education from our mouths and we can’t blame Covid-19 because it’s innocent.

We have always thought you were a cool guy and should have listened to the sun when it told us it can’t compete with you.

Before you assumed the post of Vice Chancellor, you used to brush shoulders with faculty and ‘paint’ stories with students by the university lawns. Your spoken English never came through your nose like someone with sophisticated flu; and this gave us the impression that you were one of us, only to discover you had two faces and three degrees.

Unfairly punished

We understand you inherited an academic jalopy that needed new parts and sleeker wheels, but your mechanic should have advised you that the engine of any university is the student body, who must be carried along during the panel-beating, or else the new fuel injection risks arguing with the old engine and the vehicle might not get out of the garage without cough. We have arrived at that junction where you must loan us your ear since we can’t afford to go to the bank and buy another one.

You live in this country and know very well the suffering parents go through to take their children to school. We don’t have other avenues to raise fees other than to sell agricultural products, which have been on strike for years now, after we couldn’t afford to feed them with expensive fertilisers and groom them with mechanised combs.

We wouldn’t have been begging you for mercy had we been born of controversial businessmen who wash money for a living; but we are children of nobodies and when our parents die we fundraise to buy water to wash their bodies, and our villages only appear in the newspapers whenever we bite village dogs who gatecrash funeral proceedings and escape with oily bones.

We haven’t wronged anyone. Even the United Nations knows we are a peaceful people. We have even applied to the National Registration Bureau to revise our identity cards and include poverty as our middle name. If you can’t assure us of protecting our right to education, at least build a bridge between the children of rich Kenyans and those whose parents pray for food and drink water while waiting for an answer.

We feel unfairly punished for the sins our ancestors never committed. None of us bankrupted the University of Nairobi. We never sat in the Board that approved the expansion, neither did we eat from plates that came out of their welding labs.

If there’s anyone to be overcharged for putting the UoN into the current financial mess, the university has no shortage of research fellows to trace the children of these people and ask them to clear with the administration, as everyone should carry their own cross as instructed in the Holy Book.

The writer comments on topical issues; [email protected]


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