Creation stories

We have lately been short of news. And we don’t want to make you read any uninteresting stuff. There was a thought to ask what you good people think about marriage; should the state be involved? Is it a scam/ plot by men to subjugate women? Should we change the marriage to kind of contract, so the vows instead of being till death do us part it should read till we get bored with each other or something reasonable.

We will not dwell there but you can weigh in below what you all think.

I want however to tell you the different creation myths as told by Africans to add to that other one you know.

The Lozi narrate that god was still on earth when he created man after creating all the other things. He went on to make different peoples, each with its own custom, language and manners.

The Lugbara say that god in his transcendent aspect created the first men, husband and wife, long long ago.

The Mende say god first made all other things and then created men, both husband and wife.

The Abaluhya believe god created man so that the sun would have someone for whom to shine. Then created animals and plants to provide food for man.

For the Shilluk, god used clay of different colours in making men, which explains the difference in complexion.

For the Bambuti pygmies, god kneaded the first man out of clay, covered it with skin and poured blood into the lifeless body.

For the Akamba, the first man and woman were extruded from a rock.

There are many more such stories.

And then there is the Dogon theory of the beginning


Africa Writes 2016: Nawal el Saadawi

I don’t listen to podcasts usually but I enjoyed this one too much. It is great. Saadawi is awesomeness personified.

I like her comments on middle east, on identity politics, on academia, on post modernism, on being a doctor and an author. In short, I am, for lack of a better word, in love. I am going to look for her work.

This podcast comes highly recommended.

in this day and age when there is so much information

I find a comment such as

The terrifying truth is that all living writing systems in the world come from TWO inventions, one in Mesopotamia and one in China. Of course people have customized and extended and fiddled with these systems to produce Japanese, Arabic, Ge’ez, and many others but the truth is that to develop writing from scratch is an incredibly rare event — and even then it doesn’t always stick.

the question itself has racist undertones.

why the Medu-Netchher- Hieroglyphics have never been deciphered

I am no student of ancient writings or symbols of Egypt.

Walter Williams makes the above claim and gives the following as his reasons

  • in order for the Medu-Netcher or hieroglyphs to have been deciphered, one would have had to ask the ancient Egyptians who drew the symbols what he/she meant for them to be
  • no one can put a phonetic alphabetical value to symbols
  • you cannot apply a language or languages to symbols that one does not know the meaning of
  • it is impossible to reduce the 400 or more symbols of the hieroglyphs to 26 letters of the alphabetical system

HE argues further that pioneers in Egyptology (sic) as Barthelemy, Count Silvestre de Sacy and Champillion arbitrarily assigned letters to symbols and these were then accepted by Western academia.

Quoting Carol Andrews writing for the British Museum on the Rosetta Stone who wrote

it is not possible, strictly speaking, to compile an alphabet of hieroglyphic signs. For practical purposes, however, certain unilateral hieroglyphics have been selected to form a kind of alphabet which is universally used for the organization of dictionaries, word lists, index and for general reference purposes,

he makes the point that one can not use the Rosetta Stone to decipher the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Historians and linguists, what say you?

Who are the people?

In his defence following the first attempt to overthrow the government in Cuba, Fidel Castro, while talking about the people limits his definition to those who, for lack of a better word, are oppressed, the lowly paid and in a way those who believe they have nothing to lose but everything to gain if the regime should be changed.

Michelet and other French historians while talking of the revolution, refer only to the revolutionaries. They exclude the rich classes.

The same thing is seen in the case of Kenya. When the people are talked about, a certain group are excluded.

My question then is, who are the people?

The mission of university and a reconceptualization of my scholarship

This will be the last summary of the reflections of Dr. Bethwell A. Ogot. It is my hope that you did find the first installments here, here, here, and  here and that they were worth your time.

The origin of and idea of the modern university is, Ogot, informs us a product of the European Middle ages. He notes, however, that these universities could have borrowed from schools of antiquity such as Plato’s Academy or the mosque at al-Azhar where Islamic and Arabic studies were taught.

The universities that began in Europe were established as theology and philosophy schools. Oxford was established to train for church and state, Harvard’s oldest chair was that of Divinity.

The key feature of the idea of the university was a scientific interest, that is, a thirst for knowledge. It was conceived as a creative intellectual community of scholars and students, whose main task was seeking the truth. A definite line of study was marked out by authority and a definite period of years assigned to a student’s course , examinations administered at the end and a title of honour awarded at the end. Our universities, therefore, Ogot notes, are a direct inheritance from the Middle Ages.

The universities were mainly autonomous, elected its chief representative, deans, had the right of examination and graduation. Free movement of scholars from one university to another allowed knowledge to expand. This autonomy was undermined, from the 14th Century by the establishment of State or Church universities. From this moment on, the university was subjected to political and ideological aims. This can be seen, for example, in the words of Francis 1 of Austria to the professors of Ljubljana

we do not need scholars, but good citizens. Educate the youth accordingly. Who takes his pay from me, must teach what I order him to do. Who cannot do so, or will come up with new ideas can go, or I will have him removed.

Several minds were influential in the transformation of the medieval university into the modern university. Among them we have Wilhelm von Humbdolt in Germany, J, Henry Newman in Britain and the French model conceived by Napoleon. The British model had the most influence.

In Africa, the universities started as importations of our colonizers.

On his reflections on the socio-economic environments that universities operate in, he argues, they must appear to have a sure and well defined contribution to return to the societies which support them. This contribution will be determined by a combination of factors; who they educate, and at what cost, the structures of the institutions themselves and their relationship with the government, ease of access for potential students, level of fees charged, nature of research undertaken among others.

It is in this context that we must consider the neo-liberal proposal that the university should become market driven. The question to ask is

what would a market-driven university be like?

To the neo-liberal, the students should be the primary funders of university teaching. The role of the government should be as a lender to the students and a supporter of ‘useful’ research. Ogot fears that were this to be the case, the freedom of the professors to determine the content of their teaching and direction of research, the expansion of knowledge, provision of disinterested analysis of phenomena and evens will be some of the unhappy implications.

In reconceptualization of scholarship, he says we must expand the usage of the word from the narrow daily usage of research and publication to four independent components; the scholarship of discovery, of application, teaching and integration.

On university reforms, his focus is directed mainly to the state of university education in Kenya. He mentions the several reports, beginning with the Ominde Report coming after independence and focusing on education for manpower needs, the second report, the Gacathi Report concentrated on equity and relevance, the Makay Report focused on the need for a second university, with the 8-4-4 system of education as its by-product and the Kamunge Report whose basic thrust was the provision of quality education and training in a context of tight fiscal constraints.

From 1991, Ogot writes, the government resolved that undergraduate admission to public universities shouldn’t exceed 10,000 and a subsequent annual increase of 3%. It was also agreed that there should be a gradual move towards a 50:50 Arts: Science enrollment. Commission for Higher Education, established in 1985, though envisaged in paper to be a powerful body, was indeed useless, that is, staffing inadequacies, parallel functions with those in the legal instruments that established universities among others.

On staff management, he writes our universities employed unnecessarily large numbers of non-teaching staff. He says in some cases, they even out numbered the students. In an environment of rapid pauperization of the academic staff, working conditions have deteriorated, real salaries have declined in value, dignity and influence has also been conceded by the academics.

On quality assessment of higher education, he says we are ill prepared for this function. CHE cannot do this for public universities. He says Vice chancellors, who only have power to appoint visitation panels, only do this when there is a crisis and at the time of publication, he says this had only happened once in the University of Nairobi following a closure of about 14 months. He concludes that it is essential to develop a higher education monitoring and evaluation system.

On his reflections on the enterprise university, he says there has been a departure from university as a public good to a commercial enterprise. He says there is need to redefine the idea of the university. We have education companies, some calling themselves universities, sells skills and training awarding degrees or certificates to customers students. One of this companies is the Apollo Group (University of Phoenix) out of the US and is listed on the NYSE whose features include reduction in lecture and contact time, small classes, group work and target state of the art business practices. To be a teacher, you have to be willing to accept the new model and receive two weeks of training in content and methods.

Over reliance on part-time faculty, having self sponsored students, as happens in our universities, is part of the commercialization of education necessitated by failure of government to adequately fund higher education. To meet financing challenges, universities instituted commercial enterprises like bakeries, printing press, and for my alma mater, UNES.

I have omitted in my summaries, reflections on the internationalization of universities where he looks at the case of Australia and Britain with both their international students and branches/ franchise of their universities around the world.



asking for a favour

Actually two.

But some background first.

You may or may not know the distinction between global south and north. It has nothing to do with the cardinal points of the compass not has it to do with the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. In development circles, and I am not going to be asked to define development, the north refers to the developed and industrialized nations of North America and western Europe while the south refers to the rest.

Cities in the south face many management challenges. These include social problems like poverty and infrastructure problems like traffic, poor water quality and quantity, solid waste management to name just a few.

Many of you know I have been in school. I have come to that point in my semester where I am to come up with a research topic. Here is where you come in. I have several topics, which I will briefly mention. I would like to hear your thoughts on each and the one that I finally agree on, I will dedicate it to those who felt it was a good topic and send you, as pdf, the final document.

Before I list the topics, you can, if you are feeling philanthropic go out of your way to sponsor the research. You know this is good for humanity 🙂

  • social housing as a poverty alleviation strategy- looking at incomes and household expenditure in housing, among the urban poor and whether social housing would help in lifting them out of poverty
  • solid waste management as a sustainable source of energy
  • infrastructure as a means of poverty alleviation: – water provision
  • water quality study- the case for Nairobi- here, the study will look at water as an urban management issue, what can be done to the water quality, is it polluted in the same way

Your comments should include what you think are the possible research questions under each heading and finally, you can suggest a topic of your own for my consideration.

Don’t fear to comment because you don’t have a post graduate degree or didn’t go to school at all. All contributions are welcome.

Fire away