July 3, 2012 Mad Hatter

Of Politics and Degrees

The hat

Skimming through the roles, I do not think that as a country we are discriminating when we require a certain level of academic proficiency for one to seek an elective post. While politics is largely about social influence, the role of parliament goes beyond politics and may require some level of varied expertise if we have to realize a certain level of policy maturity.”



On June 29th, the country was treated to a ruling that contradicted itself from Justice Mumbi Ngugi. The matters before her for determination were whether the president violated the constitution when appointing the county commissioners. Equally, she was supposed to determine the constitutionality of Articles Article 22 of The Elections Act Kenya that required: (1) A post secondary qualification for one to contest as a member of parliament and (2) A requirement for an undergraduate degree from a recognized university for one to contest as a governor, deputy president and President.

In finding that article 1 contravened the constitution, Justice Ngugi stated that article 22 (1) discriminates on the basis of status and social origin. She found that the article contravened article 27 of the constitution which recognized all persons as being equal before the law. Interestingly though, the learned judge upheld a requirement for an undergraduate degree from a recognized university for one to contest as a governor, deputy president and President

When following up the case, I indeed thought that that was how she would find. There are times when a judge reaches out to extrajudicial consideration to reach a judgment. In some instances, it would be an excusable non-application of the law as a matter of popular prudence. However, populist approaches when discerning matters may not be entirely a great concept, and for posterity, it is sometimes necessary to remain strict to our aspirations and commitments.

I would not delve into the merits or lack thereof in the judge’s argument, I do not even intend to base my assertion on the law, and I just prefer to question our sincerity as a country when fronting various stands in matters of politics and education, or degrees should I say.

When reacting to the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) that had been enacted by parliament, the Prime Minister Raila Odinga termed the requirement for a degree as discriminatory. Quoting statistics, he said only about 2 million Kenyans can have degrees out of a population of near 39 million people. It is the same ratio decidendi that the judge based her decision on. Such is the falsity in our generalized arguments.

The premier’s argument disregards some basic truism; that of the 4o million people, 13.6 million young Kenyans in active education between Pre-school and University. The statistics excludes those in tertiary institutions as they were not captured. All these Kenyans, though they may not attain the degree, they have a hope of doing so.

Parliament is established under article 93 of the Constitution of Kenya and it bicameral with both the senate and the National Assembly. The roles of the National Assembly are enumerated in article 94 and the role is largely legislation. The senate appears to be a guardian angel of devolutionary interests.

Skimming through the roles, I do not think that as a country we are discriminating when we require a certain level of academic proficiency for one to seek an elective post. While politics is largely about social influence, the role of parliament goes beyond politics and may require some level of varied expertise if we have to realize a certain level of policy maturity.

When the Election Act 2011 was passed, several civil society organizations pointed out to the ambiguity in the fact of requiring “post secondary” qualifications. Some of the Mps who came out to vehemently oppose the degree requirement said the requirement ought to have been postponed for five years. Essentially, this means, we allow them five years probably of acquiring a degree.

Such, would be a contravention of the constitution. This is since; the current around 80 Mps without degrees would have a direct pecuniary interest in the matter. Such an amendment, even if it were to be accepted, it would have to wait till the next parliament to take effect if article 116 (3) An Act of Parliament that confers a direct pecuniary interest on members of Parliament shall not come into force until after the next general election of members of Parliament.


The other great question that we need to ask ourselves is what magic we will be doing to ensure everyone has access to higher Education in the next five years. Will we confer degrees on infants so that the whole population has a degree and we are not discriminating on whatsoever bases? Or do we intend to say that beyond today, we will not reconsider our stands?


Ambition is tasking. While we should restrict aspects like money which does not assure competence, it is baseless to say that since our country has social gaps, requiring degree holders only to seek election to parliament is unfairly condemning those who lacked school fees.

In fact, the other falsity in our assumptions is the imagination that only the well to do have accessed education. There are many people in Kenya who have accessed Education yet they come from abject poverty. Many of the highly educated come from really challenging backgrounds.


While we have to be true to the reality that some of these ambitious Kenyans may have been barred from accessing Education by items beyond their means, what have they done since amassing wealth to prove that if they had monies they could have pursued their education? It would make a truly persuasive argument is Sonko had instead of engaging in gimmickry chosen to pursue a Diploma in the after work hour evenings.


Equally, where is the extraordinary leadership that any Mp without a degree has offered to excuse them on the basis that leaders need not education? In fact, they have been as bad or worse. There are members of parliament who rarely utter a word in parliament. When the judge waives the requirement for a post secondary education she should be reminded of Clement Waibara saga, a man who spend near all his life in parliament without giving a maiden address. His performance in the constituency is just as worse.


The judge should visit Malindi constituency to know how the very fact that their MP is not educated makes scores of young men spend their life on beaches hoping to make it using other means.


When we make such a declaration, we are communicating to the coming generations about the value of education. We tie ourselves perpetually to our deficiencies; we are excusing our lack of committed struggle on the basis of poverty; excusing indolence on premises of social backgrounds.


I’d rather; we hand our children a posterity that screams that even in utter poverty, shove yourself through education rather than saying you can scream an excuse in the latter parts of your life to justify non schooling.


When Dr. Eseli is fronting fallacies in parliament, that Bill Gates did not have a degree, that Steve Jobs did not have a degree, he fails to understand that they did not contest to make policy in the USA; that they relied on their alternative gifting to cut a niche for themselves. He forgets that our parliament has not given us a Gates, that none of these Mps has fronted an idea that caused any positive shift whatsoever.


We have to be true to ourselves and accept that as a nation we are integrating ourselves into the globe. We need legislation that will mediate conflicts that arise as a result of this integration, we need within the parliament people trained in policy management, people capable of identifying policy loopholes, who can give due guidance when parliament is discussing intricate issues.


One cost of having non experts in the parliament is that we prolong legislative procedures. This is since you may need to outsource expertise when drafting bills. Worse still, you fail to get proper proposals in the parliament. I believe a trained doctor in parliament will understand the need for better medical equipment, if not for anything, but for the pride of his profession.

Raising our expectations of the MPS is telling ourselves that the higher you scale your ambition, the more effort you have place in your effort, moralities and caution in your actions.


We have had parliaments that have been largely inefficient. They had highly educated persons and less educated persons. In the new dispensation, I’d rather gamble my vote with a professional teacher, not an ambitious person who made it despite education. Am I unfair, I believe I am, but my unfairness is rooted in the hope that one day, poverty notwithstanding, people will strive to get education?


I know of John, an IT student at JKUAT who retook his KCSE exams four times to be admitted to JKUAT. I admire John. John was orphaned at 2. And he joined campus at 26. He is a man who knows the cost of an ambition. What if all Kenyans strained to beat the odds? Why, for God’s sake should I listen to Gideon Sonko crying about a degree and yet I know John. Why would I sympathize with Kalembe when I know that there are thousands who work on tea farms to pay their fees?


Are we as a nation supposed to incline our ear to these exemplary stories of resolve or indolence in the guise of poverty? No one chooses to be born poor, but we chose to stay in those circumstances. A degree may never guarantee as leadership, but neither does its lack.


I would love to see someone appeal against this ruling; I would love to see the courts clear the ambiguity in drafting and upholding that the post secondary qualification should be construed as a degree.


If there is a Kenyan with such a high ambition of being a member of parliament, they ought to step back to college. We will mentor them into academic excellence. Then when their natural gift of inborn leadership has been nourished by adequate training, they can join those who will be there to drive the country beyond vision 2030.


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