The Politics of Education in Kenyan Universities: A Call for a Paradigm Shift

By Chege, Mwangi | African Studies Review, December 2009 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Education in Kenyan Universities: A Call for a Paradigm Shift


Chege, Mwangi, African Studies Review


Abstract:

The winds of political change have been sweeping across Kenya for the last two decades. However, as many sections of society-the media, the church, civil society, and even ordinary people-take advantage of the unprecedented democratic space in which to engage the political establishment, the country's intelligentsia has remained aloof. The aim of this article is to interrogate discourse patterns in the Kenyan university system. Adopting a historical lens, it argues that the curtailment of intellectual freedom in the postcolonial Kenyan university is a reproduction of the colonial suppression of discourses whose objective was to ensure the political survival of the ruling class. It also argues for the adoption of critical pedagogies that challenge the status quo.

Introduction

In Kenya's universities, intellectual freedom has always been under siege. The relationship between the state and higher education has been characterized by suppression, arrests, detention without trial, and even the deaths of antiestablishment academics and students. Evident in the persistent suppression of dissenting voices is the legacy of colonialism, especially in the use of government resources and the police system, in league with university administrations, to smother critical dialogue. Intriguingly, the kind of critical discourse and political activism that withstood these pressures in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s seems to have faded in the last two decades. The question then is: Why has the intelligentsia abandoned critical discourse following the return of political pluralism in Kenya, particularly after the defeat of KANU in 2002?

Besides theorizing why suppression of discourse has persisted in the Kenyan university system, this article seeks to explore how the university can reclaim its status as an agent of social change. I argue that all regimes, whether colonial or postcolonial, suppressed discourse to perpetuate their hegemony, and that the so-called banking education, which has been the predominant pedagogy, has facilitated this agenda by fostering a culture of silence. Thus, a pedagogical paradigm shift is imperative if higher education is to play its role as an agent of social transformation in the country; educators have to adopt critical pedagogies that allow critical discourses to thrive. The university must abandon its ivory tower attitude and work in concert with other sectors of society in offering a counterhegemonic discourse that challenges the status quo. This argument is premised on the proposition that it is impossible to divorce politics from education: that education is by all means a hegemonic enterprise.

Education as a Hegemonic Enterprise

That education is a hegemonic enterprise is a basic assumption of many scholars and social critics. According to Mouffe (1979), hegemony is "the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance but manages to win the active consensus of those over whom it rules" (10). In the pursuit of perpetuating its dominant position, the ruling class capitalizes on its position to design an educational system that advances its agenda. Thus, in reality, it is impossible to divorce education from politics. The school system represents "a major structural setting wherein those classes whose interests are already dominant have access to greater power by which to maintain their dominance at the expense of subordinate class interests" (Lankshear & Lawler 1989:25). In other words, educational systems embody the "struggle [for] the control of the whole process of social reproduction" (Mouffe 1979:5).

An understanding of the role of politics in Kenya's higher education is impossible without an investigation of the historical circumstances that have influenced and shaped the sociopolitical fabric of Kenyan society. Any history-making process cannot be divorced from one's material conditions; die present and the future are informed by what Freiré calls the "concrete conditions" inherited from the past (Freiré & Macedo 1987:60). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Politics of Education in Kenyan Universities: A Call for a Paradigm Shift
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.