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21st of October 2018

Kenya News

ANGEYO KALAMBUKA: Degree is important but not necessary for leadership

More than 60 per cent of our MPs have at least a bachelor’s degree. You would think that is comforting.

Yet, compared to the 1960s when most MPs were modestly educated, the quality of debate lacks inspiration. It is mostly anti-intellectual rhetoric.

“Suppose you were an idiot,” Mark Twain wrote during the Golden Age. “And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

The degree is not to blame for the malignant stupidities in Parliament. Asking for a degree to get to Parliament is asking for a label. A degree is not equivalent to talent, honesty and knowledge.

The motive of proponents of this view is to reinvent the old and subtle methods of discrimination (by tribe, gender, faith), to now be by certification.

An MP does not represent a set of values but rather the choice of the majority. Do not mistake me. I am a firm believer in the value of higher education, both to the individual receiving it and the society.

There is a cost to not educating people; the evidence is all around us. Politicians who never tire of recounting how they ‘succeeded’ without a degree miss the point: The degree may not be important, but the learning and discipline it symbolises are.

University education also builds a greater sense of civic engagement, a curiosity about the world, and the ability to engage in some inquiry — all of which improves its graduates over time.

Just as sharpened analytical skills provide greater ability to think independently (the most important benefit of education) clear language engenders clear thought.

Needless to say, determined individuals can acquire these values without a university degree. Some of the most intelligent people I have met never earned a degree.

In politics, the great leader is the one who asks the most contrarian questions.

There are no guarantees that degree graduates make better lawmakers. We should be debating the moral and visionary qualities to look for in legislators.

To stand up for this nation, Dedan Kimathi and company needed what a degree never confers — courage and belief in something impersonal; not what ‘homeguards’ need to survive: coercion, cowardice, greed and, in most cases, degrees.

Kalambuka is a physics lecturer. A version of this article appeared in the Nation on Dec. 3, 2016.

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