Campus: Why Kenyan graduates propagate tribalism


The recent report by the Kaparo-led NCIC indicating that graduates of public universities are intolerant of persons not of their tribe comes as no surprise.

The average Kenyan student entering a public university comes from a local school (County and Sub-County) where the principal, the deputy and over 90% of teaching and non-teaching staff are from the surrounding tribe.

 Conversation in the staffroom is in the local dialect, Monday and Friday’s parades are conducted in 70% local dialect, 15% broken English and 15% local version of Kiswahili. In such schools, a typical lesson is conducted by teachers who mingle their lessons with heavy spells of long held sarcastic tirades against the ‘other’ tribe.

 And whenever an outsider is mentioned it is usually with stereotypical condescension. The media is no better. The local school is usually in an area where one or the other local FM radio station hosts programs whose content is 10% news and 90% hate-loaded comedies making constant negative comments about ‘others’.

 A visit by the local MP, Governor, Senator or MCA is an opportunity to make tribal minced meat of the ‘opposition’ who are, inevitably, from to the ‘wrong’ tribe.

On entering public university the first person to meaningfully interact with a student is the chairperson of the campus chapter of the corresponding tribal organization. These organizations promote tribal and not national cohesion.

 A recent directive by the government that tribal names be expunged from these organizations elicited farcical reactions.

For example (I will use Tanzania to avoid arrest by NCIC!) an organization that was previously named Sukuma Students Organization (Chama Cha Wanafunzi Wasukuma) has now been changed to Mara Province Students Organization (Chama Cha Wanafunzi wa Mkoa wa Mara) as though the word Mara Province will change the fact that 100% of the students are of the Sukuma tribe!


The second entity of persona the student will interact with lecturers who most of them carry tribal tags, inclinations, and biases that always show through even at the best of times.

Public university top brass have the least influence on the students because of their complete opacity as they have traditionally made themselves invisible to the student body. The only time students see the vice-chancellor is at freshers’ orientation week when the VC and the entire administration walk into the assembly hall with pomposity garbed out in academic regalia that hides their physical and emotional demeanour and countenance.

 The only university officials that interact with students are the hapless Dean of Students and the angry looking DVC in charge of student discipline.

The former is always understaffed and cannot manage to solve even 10% of students’ complex problems that range from love affairs gone awry, poverty, drugs & alcohol, loneliness, criminality etc.

 The latter appears often enough, as Chairperson of the disciplinary committee of Senate, not to counsel or advice, but to try, convict and punish!

And so the average university graduate can be excused for his/her tribal outlook. With no mentors worth their salt from primary school through to university who can blame them?


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