What you need to know:
- Students blame absentee lecturers who would rather dish out hand-outs than stand in front of class to teach. On their part, lecturers accuse the present generation of students for showing little, if any, intellectual hunger
Each morning as Ms Elizabeth Siameto prepares for work, she aspires to mould her students into successful graduates.
Unfortunately, she says, that has not always been the case in the years she has done the job.
Ms Siameto is a lecturer of botany at Narok University. Her sentiments echo the regret expressed by the the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), which has in recent years complained about the growing number of university graduates who score exemplary grades but are wanting in the applicable skills needed to perform at work.
What should be a thin line between the training offered by institutions of higher learning and the demands of employers must be growing thicker by the day, given these concerns.
What went wrong, and who is to blame? Is it that the ovens at the universities have rusted, thereby baking students only halfway? Is it the fault of the lecturers or the students?
Simon Ikua, an aspiring lawyer, apportions blame, accusing the lecturers, students, and university administrations of placing emphasis on the wrong things.
“In higher education, the key players are busy with nonsensical issues, leaving the stem/bone of the matter unattended,” he says.
Mr Ikua recently completed his law course at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, and is scheduled to graduate later this year. He expounds on his statement: “A lecturer is busy attending to his or her personal agenda. The student is running up and down, chasing things that don’t add value to his or her degree. The universities’ major priority is infrastructure development, and the guardian or parent only brags in the village about his or her university children without the slightest knowledge about their progress there.”
Although it may not be possible for a lecturer to always attend all the stipulated hours of teaching in a semester, Michael Maina, a Second Year entrepreneurship student at Moi University, complains that some have formed the habit of skipping too many lessons.
“It is understandable when a lecturer misses two or three lectures, but when this stretches to three-quarters of the required number, it is downright negligence,” he says.
He further complains about a popular habit among some lecturers to give their students hand-outs as a substitute for teaching. Some lecturers attended less than half the allocated lessons, instead preferring to issue hand-outs, then set exams at the end of the semester.
He says this is a show of laziness and lack of interest that defeats the purpose of education.
A former university student who did not wish to be named blames such negligence for his present woes. It is three years since he completed his studies, yet he is yet to graduate because the marks of eight units he studied cannot be traced.
Some of his results never came out and his attempts to follow up on the matter were not taken up by the frequently absent lecturers. He agrees that anyone would be justified to refer to him as a half-baked graduate.
Although some universities have put in place systems to enable students to rate their lecturers, the students are generally dismissive of the initiative, terming it an exercise in futility.
They consider it to be just a formality because no action is usually taken against the poorly rated lecturers. Maina says that he does not fill the rating forms anymore.
However, a lecturer who prefers not to be named argues that hand-outs are supplementary, not the main, notes. He contends that it is globally acknowledged that a teacher gives about 30 per cent of the knowledge and the student hassles to acquire the rest.
On her part, Ms Siameto blames the students. She says that while she does not dispute the assertion that some lecturers fail to attend some classes, the students of this generation are different.
“I don’t know whether it is us the lecturers or the parents who don’t motivate them, but it is clear that their minds are not fully focused on learning.”
According to her, most students are not eager to learn. There is no passion for creativity, she argues, and the students’ priorities are skewed.
“There is no intellectual hunger in the modern-age students, like what I experienced during my time,” she says. “If you visit the room of an undergraduate, the first thing you will see will not be books, but a music equipment with larger-than-life music coming out of it.”
Concerning hand-outs, Ms Siameto explains that there are different types of students, making it necessary for lecturers to dish out notes.
There are those who will understand the lesson when the lecturer is teaching, and there are those who need to read the hand-outs and notes to better understand the concept.