Open letter to Prof Mbithi

Dear Sir,

Accept my belated congratulations on your appointment as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi. It is a position many crave and desire, but which will be occupied by only a few in history, and handled properly by even fewer.

Your predecessor, Prof George Magoha, had his virtues, of which I do not hold myself qualified to speak here. But I believe we agree that he was a towering colossus, a larger than life figure, presiding over his dominion with utter surety from unapproachable sanctums of power. And in his two terms, he did much good to the university that is now in your charge.

However, like all episodes in history, his tenure is a stepping stone, an era into whose errors we shouldn’t fall back, and on whose achievements we should build, while at the same time creating a legacy that will provide a similar circumstance for upcoming generations.

And this is where you come in, sir. You have in your hands a post whose importance in the country is only rivaled by the Presidency, and that’s saying a lot. You have in your hands the brightest 70,000 or so brains in this country, and if that isn’t important, then I don’t know what is.

Your task, dear sir, is to mould the persons to whom these brains belong into people who, after the four years most of them will spend under you, will be a million times more useful to the country than they are now. In a manner of speaking, you have the hogs. Rough, dirty, uncultured and unrestrained. The country needs the finest bacon. And that makes your post a most noble one.

A friend recently told me he knows many people who have sworn never to employ graduates from our university. Of course I dismissed his comments as troll. But I now whisper in your ear, they weren’t. You see, my pride at being a student of UoN doesn’t blind me to reality, and while I’ll be willing to slice a mouth off if it so much as dares utter negatives about it, I will equally willingly slice an ear off if it refuses to listen to what I know that mouth would have said if I had let it finish.

You have the task, at once hard and easy, of convincing the friends of my friend. You have to make them recant on their knees, and beg the Almighty to bless them with a graduate of UoN. You have to make every single firm in this country measure its progress by the number of UoN graduates it employs, not the number it has turned down or given a dishonourable discharge.

However, if things don’t change at THE university, the number of people swearing not to employ our graduates will increase, and we will continue nipping their mouths till we have too many to nip, and then word will get out and, heaven have mercy when it does.

What things are these, anyway, that need to change if we are to bring the number of to-be-nipped mouths to zero without nipping any more? Well, you probably know them, or rather it, so I will only mention it in passing, in way of a reminder: QUALITY, sir. And by quality, I don’t mean the quality of paper used to print examinations.

By quality, I mean the overall impression a person, with a cultured brain in his skull, will have when he visits THE university, meets one of its students, or engages with one of its graduates in any setting. By quality, I mean the number of flies around any washroom in THE university, and the number of stinky air molecules in the atmosphere of the same setting, not to mention the number of surfaces still clothed in their original tint or the number of times cleaning is done in a day, also in the same setting.

I mean the number of weeks it takes for classes to begin after opening day, and the number of classes actually held, without forgetting the number of days test results take to come out. I mean the number of stomachs that can handle food from the mess-halls without having to go through any preliminary toughening. I mean the number of your friends you can take through all the parts of the university without first having to ‘pimp’ any sections up.

I mean the number of students who will learn the eternal lesson that underwear isn’t for walking in along the corridors of the hostels, regardless of how dark the night is outside. I mean the number of times I will have to ‘ask nicely’ for the opening date from administrator of THE university’s Facebook page before getting a ‘well-worded’ reprimand and a begrudging reply, because my department hasn’t communicated the said date three months into my holiday.

Actually, forget all I’ve just said. I have just found two words to express it all: human dignity. Just make this your motto, and unite it to unitate et labore.

Make human beings out of the savages that land into your hands every year, and you will have many brightly shining lights illuminating many paths for many Kenyans, and finally, finally, we will cease basing our pride on faded glories. It is a task for which I do not envy you, but which is entirely within your power to perform with all possible excellence, and for which I now sign off by wishing you all possible luck.


Very Anonymous Comrade.

Feature image: Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.

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