The role of University Education

I am impressed that the title of this post has not put you off. It is pompous, but under it, I can promise you that you will not find what you thought you would!

Click to read on.

Seriously, I mean make a click sound because you are about to read a load of crap. In my country, making a clicking sound is a sign that one is disgusted. What was I writing about again?  Aah! university education.


Well, since you persevered this far, let me give you some boring background. I have worked in three Kenyan universities, where I must have interacted with over 1000 students. Through these interactions, I learnt a lot about what people hope to achieve with a degree, but it is only now that I have started to question why people should even have a degree in the first place.

I have two of my own, and now I am foolishly pursuing a third degree, where I often wonder what I could have otherwise achieved by now, had I put my energies to a different use. Would I be, say, an accomplished artist, if I started painting at 18 instead of enrolling for a degree in Design? Maybe, but then, I would not have known how pointless university education can be! It is only after years of working so hard to get good grades, that I can now categorically confirm the futility of higher education!

Having had this epiphany, I now plan to finish my PhD, because if I do not, then I will have to pay back all the money that has been spent on me so far through my scholarship. After that, I intend to return to my university in Nairobi because I have to work for a couple of years there to pay back for my continued remuneration during my current study leave.

So there you have it: university education plays the very important role of ruining lives! In this regard, I would term myself as a most miserable individual, burdened with the yoke of complex theories and academic rigours. What with all the jargon I have had to put up with, just to fit into disciplinary contexts! Read more of such trials in the New F word.

And all these, while giving up on what could have been a promising career as an artist! (Now it's my turn to click!)

I have however learnt so much from my experience in the university and I suppose that ought to count for something. It is through the university that I have had the privilege to interact with people from all continents of the world in the various academic programmes I have participated in. This active participation has in many ways opened up my mind to a world of possibilities, enriching my own engagement with academic work, in a space that can absorb the risk of experimentation and novelty, which is exactly what I see the university as.

Did I also mention that having the label of an academic inspires confidence? As soon as I tell people I am doing a PhD, it creates avenues for very rewarding conversation. In fact, I always resort to telling people about my research as an ice breaker and it works brilliantly every time. And those meaningful relationships I have formed with people from all over the world, more than makes up for my trials and tribulations as an academic. (I especially love those cocktails that have become very common at conference opening events!)

I could conclude then, that even though academic qualifications in and of themselves mean very little, perhaps the university is a worthwhile space for not only explicit academic knowledge-exchange but also nuanced social learning; attributes that I propose as useful drivers towards our collective search for better lives.

What a mouthful! I hope I am never inspired to write this much again! Your eyes must be sore from all that reading!

Addendum: Happy left-handers day! Don't worry. I will spare you the harangue over my woes as a leftie!