Eyebrows raised as politicos breeze through degrees

Questions are being asked about the quality and integrity of an undergraduate degree being offered by a Kenyan Christian university, which is popular with politicians and adult learners and can apparently be completed in a couple of years.

The bachelor of arts degree in leadership and management offered by the Anglican St Paul’s University has come under scrutiny from education authorities and the general public, due to the short time – usually less than 30 months – it takes to complete and obtain the certificate.

The fact that it is also one of the most popular with Kenya’s political class, especially politicians without a university education but aspiring to an office where a degree is a mandatory requirement, doesn’t help matters.

The latest beneficiary of the course is Nairobi politician, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru.

Last month she was awarded a degree barely 18 months after being barred by the Commission for University Education, or CUE, and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission from running for the capital’s gubernatorial seat, for lack of papers from a recognised institution.

“I have now acquired this degree so that some people who rejected my earlier papers will not have an excuse for barring me from running for whatever seat I may desire in future,” she told reporters at her graduation.

In the March 2013 elections the two bodies turned down theology papers issued by a United States college which indicated that Wanjiru had acquired two degrees in religion, saying they were not recognised in America or Kenya.

In Kenya it normally takes up to four years in public universities and three in most private institutions to complete a degree course.

Questions are being asked about what the curriculum for the St Paul's BA course entails, in view of its popularity with people who don’t have much time to spend in lecture rooms, and that allegedly younger, regular students tend to avoid it.

Degrees for politicians

Wanjiru follows in the footsteps of Kenya’s cabinet secretary for land and housing, Charity Ngilu, who in 2012 graduated with the same degree after attending evening classes.

In 1997 Ngilu clashed with her party’s officials who at the time had asked her to enrol for a degree in economics and political science before running for the country’s presidency. They said her diploma in secretarial studies did not equip her to understand Kenya’s political economy.

On 30 October, in apparent response to public sentiment, CUE published a list of universities in local dailies that are authorised to operate in the country, and asked the public to refer to its website for accredited programmes.

Interestingly, the St Paul's BA in leadership and management is listed as an accredited course, which may alleviate some of the criticisms against it.